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Federal Changes to Maternity Benefits

On December 3, 2017, the Federal Government implemented changes to parental leave benefits, allowing parents to choose to receive employment insurance benefits over an extended period of up to 18 months at a lower benefit rate of 33% of average weekly earnings. Parental leave benefits still continue to be available at the existing benefit rate of 55% over a period of up to 12 months. These changes relate to federal EI rules only. BC legislation relating to parental leaves has not changed at this time. As a result, members should continue to look to their Collective Agreements and the Employment Standards Act (the ESA) for guidance on parental leaves and associated benefits.

Under Article 21.1 of the Collective Agreements and s. 50 and 51 of the ESA, an employee who provides notice that they will be taking 18 months of parental leave must still be granted maternity leave for a period of up to 17 weeks; in addition, the employee will be granted parental leave for up to 37 weeks following the birth her child. The aggregate leave for one employee taking both maternity leave and parental leave does not exceed 52 weeks, absent complications (there are other possible limited periods of leave).  During this time, the employer bears the cost of benefits. Once the first 12 months of the leave are exhausted under Articles 21.1 and 21.2, the additional 6 months of leave is already covered under Article 21.9, which provides for up to one additional year of unpaid leave of absence. The cost of benefits during this period are to be paid by the employee.


When Can an Employee Commence Maternity Leave?

According to the new EI rules, employees may commence their leave up to 12 weeks before their due date. However, as the BC ESA has not changed, employers are advised to continue to comply with their Collective Agreement and ESA requirements, which allow an employee to begin their leave up to 11 weeks before their due date. 

How to Post Parental Leave Positions

When an employer receives notice from the employee indicating the length of leave intended to be taken, the position should be posted as a Temporary Vacancy under Article 24.11. The vacancy should indicate that it is open “until the return of the incumbent,” in order to address unforeseen circumstances that may extend the length of the parental leave or extended child care leave, and consequently the length of the temporary vacancy. If you have already posted a temporary vacancy indicating a specified end date but the employee on leave elects to take an extended child care leave, you will be required to repost the temporary vacancy pursuant to Article 24.11. Regardless of the length of parental leave, however, the employee will be placed in her former position upon return to work.

Calculating Seniority and Vacation

According to the Collective Agreements, an employee continues to accrue seniority while on leave. In addition, time spent on leave will be used to calculate an employee’s continuous service for annual vacation entitlement. If an employee elects to extend the leave for the additional 6 months under Article 21.9, the extended portion of the leave is treated as an unpaid leave of absence, and that time will not be taken into consideration for accrual of annual vacation entitlement calculations. 

Non-Unionized Staff

As is the case with unionized staff, maternity leave under s. 50 of the ESA is for a period of up to 17 weeks; parental leave under s. 51 is for a period up to 37 weeks; and there are other possible limited periods of leave where there are complications associated with childbirth.

The aggregate leave for one employee taking both maternity leave and parental leave will not exceed 52 weeks, absent complications.  

Continuation of health and welfare benefits is limited to these approved leave periods under the ESA. If employees wish to continue their health and welfare benefits beyond 52 weeks, they are solely responsible for all benefit premiums. Application of continuous service for vacation entitlement also remains restricted to the approved leave periods as set out in the ESA.

If the government enacts changes to the ESA leave periods, CSSEA will alert employers to the changes and their impact on current practices.   

If you have additional questions about the upcoming changes, please contact your HRLR Consultant.  

Communications Contact

Doris Sun
Director of Communications
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