Employment Insurance Act and Canada Labour Code Change in Favour of New Parents
Effective December 3rd, 2017, the Employment Insurance (EI) Act and the Canada Labour Code were amended to allow parents of a newborn or newly adopted child, born or placed into the family on or after December 3rd, 2017, the option to receive extended parental benefits. The amendments to the Act allow qualifying parents the option to claim EI parental benefits for a longer period of time, at a reduced rate, for a maximum of 61 weeks; these 61 weeks of extended parental benefits can be shared by both parents. The benefits must be claimed within a 78 week period (18 months) from the week the child was born or placed into the family.
While employees now have the option to receive parental benefits for an extended period of time, that time must not coincide with the length of maternity and parental leave that they are entitled to under employment standards legislation, be it federal or provincial. Lengths of leave for federally regulated employers are outlined in the Canada Labour Code, while the lengths for provincially regulated employers are governed by the applicable provincial employment standards legislation.
CHANGES TO THE CANADA LABOUR CODE
The Canada Labour Code was amended to extend the length of parental leave that can be taken by employees working for a federally regulated employer. These employees are now entitled to up to 63 weeks of unpaid parental leave. While the Code allows for up to 17 weeks of maternity leave, subject to certain exceptions, the total length of maternity and parental leave that may be taken cannot exceed 78 weeks.
CHANGES TO ONTARIO’S EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ACT
Ontario’s Employment Standards Act was amended, effective December 3, 2017, to extend the length of parental leave that can be taken by an employee working for a provincially regulated employer in Ontario.
The parental leave entitlement has nearly doubled, increasing from 35 weeks to 61 weeks for birth mothers who take pregnancy leave, bringing the total length of pregnancy and parental leave that may be taken to 78 weeks. For all other new parents, parental leave has increased from 37 weeks to 63 weeks.