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Maternity and parental leave

Eligible employees can take maternity and/or parental leave after a birth or adoption.

Basic rules

  • Employees are eligible for maternity and parental leave if they have been employed at least 90 days with the same employer.
  • Eligible employees can take time off work without pay for maternity or parental leave without risk of losing their job.
  • Employers must grant maternity or parental leave to eligible employees and give them their same, or equivalent, job back when they return to work.
  • Employers aren’t required to pay wages or benefits during leave, unless stated in an employment contract or collective agreement.
  • Employees on maternity or parental leave are considered to be continuously employed, for the purposes of calculating years of service.

The length of maternity leave is 16 weeks and the maximum length of parental leave is 62 weeks.

Employee eligibility

Employees are eligible for maternity or parental leave if they’ve been employed at least 90 days with the same employer.

Employees with less than 90 days of employment may still be granted leave. However, their employers aren’t required under employment standards legislation to grant them leave.

Employers can’t discriminate against, lay off or terminate an employee, or require them to resign, because of pregnancy or childbirth.

For more information, contact Alberta Human Rights Commission

If both parents work for the same employer, the employer isn’t required to grant parental leave to both employees at the same time.

Length of leave

Maternity leave

Birth mothers can take up to 16 consecutive weeks of unpaid maternity leave. The number of weeks of leave exceeds the Employment Insurance benefit length by one week in recognition of the waiting period. Employees should be aware of this before taking their leave.

Leave can start any time within the 13 weeks leading up to the estimated due date and no later than the date of birth.

If pregnancy interferes with the employee’s job performance during the 12 weeks before their due date, employers can require that the employee start maternity leave earlier by notifying the employee in writing.

Birth mothers must take at least 6 weeks after birth for health reasons, unless:

  • the employer agrees to an early return to duties, and
  • the employee provides a medical certificate stating the return will not endanger her health

Pregnancy loss

A pregnancy loss is any situation where a pregnancy ends other than in a live birth.

If pregnancy loss occurs within 16 weeks of the estimated due date, the employee is still entitled to maternity leave but is not entitled to parental leave. The leave will end 16 weeks after it begins.

Bereaved employees impacted by pregnancy loss may also be entitled to bereavement leave.

Parental leave

Birth and adoptive parents can take up to 62 weeks of unpaid parental leave. The number of weeks of leave exceeds the Employment Insurance benefit length by one week in recognition of the waiting period. Employees should be aware of this before taking their leave.

Parental leave can be taken by:

  • the birth mother, immediately following maternity leave,
  • the other parent,
  • adoptive parents, or
  • both parents, shared between them

Leave can start any time after the birth or adoption of a child, but must be completed within 78 weeks of the date the baby is born or placed with the parents.

Giving notice

Medical certificate

Employers can require employees to submit a medical certificate, confirming pregnancy and estimated delivery date. A medical certificate may be issued by a nurse practitioner or physician.

Starting leave

Employees must give employers written notice at least 6 weeks before starting maternity or parental leave. Employees aren’t required to specify a return date at that time, but may wish to do so.

If they fail to give notice for medical reasons or a situation related to the birth or adoption, parents are still eligible for leave:

  • Maternity leave: provide written notice and a medical certificate to the employer within 2 weeks of mother’s last day at work, or as soon as possible
  • Parental leave: provide written notice to the employer as soon as possible

A birth mother on maternity leave isn’t required to give her employer notice before taking parental leave, unless she originally arranged to only take 16 weeks of maternity leave.

Parents who intend to share parental leave must advise their respective employers of their intention to do so. Two employees working for the same employer may combine parental leave for a maximum of 62 weeks.

Ending leave

Employees must give their employer's written notice at least 4 weeks before they:

  • return to work
  • will not be returning to work after their leave ends

Employers aren’t required to reinstate employees who fail to give notice or report to work the day after their leave ends, unless the failure is due to unforeseen or unpreventable circumstances.

If an unexpected circumstance occurs, employers can approve an extension of leave, but aren’t obligated to do so.

Vacation days and pay

Annual vacation earned prior to leave must be taken within 12 months after it was earned. If this time falls while the employee is on leave, the employee must:

  • take the remaining vacation time at the end of their leave, or
  • get approval from the employer to take the vacation time at a later date

Termination of employment

No employer may terminate the employment of, or lay off an employee when the employee is entitled to or has started maternity or parental leave unless the employer suspends or discontinues the business. In this case, employees can be terminated or laid off. The employer must reinstate the employee if the business starts up again within 52 weeks after their leave ends.

Employers can’t discriminate against, lay off, terminate or require an employee to resign because of pregnancy or childbirth.

For more information, contact Alberta Human Rights Commission.

An employee who feels they have been improperly terminated can file an employment standards complaint.

Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits

Employees may be eligible for maternity or parental benefits under the federal EI program.

It is important to be aware that the eligibility requirements for Employment Insurance benefits and eligibility to take a job-protected leave in Alberta may be different.  For more information on Employment Insurance, contact Government of Canada.

How the law applies

Part 2, Division 7 of the Employment Standards Code sets out the rules for maternity and parental leave. The legislation entitles eligible employees to a period of leave without pay, at the end of which they must be reinstated in their same, or an equivalent, job.

Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta Employment Standards legislation, the legislation is considered correct.