Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada: What You Need To Know

Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada: What You Need To Know

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated January 23, 2023

Canada is experiencing an increase in layoffs. Massive layoffs have recently been announced by even industry giants like Amazon. While getting laid off has an impact on one’s finances for everyone, expecting mothers may find it especially distressing.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to shield yourself from financial duress. In this article, we’ll discuss your rights as an expectant mother and some ways you can protect your financial situation until your maternity leave benefits kick in. 

Can You Be Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada?

Anyone can be let go from their job for a valid reason, regardless of whether or not maternity leave is on the horizon. For instance, you may be laid off from work due to misconduct or because your company is cutting jobs due to financial constraints. As long as your employer is within their rights to fire you, your maternity leave application has no bearing on the situation.

Can You Be Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada For Taking Maternity Leave?

No, your employer can’t lay you off just because you’re taking maternity leave. In fact, if your performance is suffering due to pregnancy-related issues, you have the right to request a job modification or accommodation, within reason.

If complications arise during pregnancy, employees are entitled to some level of accommodation at work, as long as it doesn’t overly compromise the employer. For instance, if you request more flexible hours at work for reasons such as morning sickness or medical appointments, your employer should accommodate you.

What Can You Do If You’re Unjustly Laid Off Before Maternity Leave Canada?

If you’ve been unjustly laid off before maternity leave in Canada, file a complaint through the labour standards, or human rights legislation Acts or Regulations.

You can also reach out to an employment lawyer to help you determine whether or not the reason your employer fired you is justified. Your lawyer can help you figure out the severance amount you’re entitled to and whether any additional human rights damages are owed to you.

Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada? Find Out Why Some Employers May Try To Fire You Before Maternity Leave?

To avoid covering part of your pay while you’re not at work, some employers may try to unjustly fire you before your maternity leave. Some may attempt to use alleged poor performance as a reason for termination.

But this is a violation of your human rights. Your employer can’t lay you off just because you’re taking maternity leave.

What Happens If You’re Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada Due To Misconduct?

While your employer cannot fire you for taking maternity leave, they can fire you for misconduct. If you’re laid off before maternity leave for misconduct, you won’t be eligible for EI regular benefits. However, you may still be entitled to maternity benefits as long as you’re eligible for them. 

Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada: Maternity Leave Vs. Unemployment Insurance

Maternity leave is specific to those who are off work due to pregnancy or childbirth. EI benefits, on the other hand, are paid out to a wider group of qualified individuals.

Employment Insurance (EI) 

Employment Insurance (EI) provides a temporary income to those who have lost their jobs (at no fault of their own). With this benefit, you can get up to 55% of your earnings (up to 650 per week) for up to 45 weeks.

To qualify for EI benefits, applicants must have at least 420 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period. You must also have paid premiums over the past year and meet eligibility and entitlement conditions to receive EI benefits. 

Maternity Leave 

If eligible, you can receive up to 16 weeks of maternity leave under the Employment Insurance Act (EI). This includes 15 weeks of benefits plus one week for which you will not be paid, known as the ‘waiting period’. Under Part III of the Canada Labour Code (CLC), you may be entitled to 17 weeks of maternity leave.

The benefit rate is up to 55% with a maximum weekly payment of $650.

When Do Maternity Leave Benefits Kick in? 

Maternity leave can start no sooner than 13 weeks before the expected birth date and can end no later than 16 weeks following childbirth under the EI Act, or 17 weeks under the CLC.  

What Is Maternity Leave In Canada? 

Maternity benefits are available only to women who are off work due to pregnancy or who have recently given birth. These benefits cannot be shared between parents.

Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada? Are You Still Entitled To Maternity Leave?

If you’ve been laid off before maternity leave in Canada, you may still be eligible for maternity benefits. To be eligible for maternity leave benefits, you must meet the requirements. To qualify, you must:

  • Be an employee who is pregnant or someone who has given birth.
  • Have accumulated 600 insured work hours within the qualifying period. 

Who Is Entitled To Parental Leave In Canada?

In the case of parental leave, both parents are entitled to a combined leave of up to 63 weeks. They can choose to take the leave at the same time or one after the other, as long as the total time off is not more than 63 weeks. 

How Much Time Off Do You Get During Maternity Leave By Province

The amount of time you’re entitled to and when your benefits kick in can vary depending on the province you live in. To illustrate how this may work, let’s see how maternity leave works in the province of Quebec:

Maternity Leave In Quebec

The leave can start 16 weeks before the expected delivery date at the earliest and must end no later than 20 weeks after the baby is born. The maximum maternity leave period is 18 weeks. 

Maternity leave benefits are 70% of the mother’s income over the 18-week period. The earliest payment can be the 16th week before delivery, and the latest payment can be 20 weeks after the birth of the baby.

Paternity Leave In Quebec

Biological fathers may be entitled to paternity leave, which can start the week the baby is born at the earliest, and end no later than 78 weeks after the birth. The maximum length of leave is 5 weeks.

Paternity leave benefits are 70% of the father’s income over the 5-week period. The earliest payment can be the week the baby is born, and the latest payment can be 78 weeks after the baby’s birth.

Parental Leave In Quebec

Both biological parents are entitled to parental leave for no more than 32 weeks. The benefit amount is equal to 70% of income for 7 weeks and 55% of income for 25 weeks for the total 32-week period. The earliest benefit date is the week the child is born, and the latest benefit date is 78 weeks after the birth. 

Maternity Leave By Province

Maternity Leave Ontario Learn More
Maternity Leave Ontario Learn More
Maternity Leave British ColumbiaLearn More
Maternity Leave ManitobaLearn More
Maternity Leave AlbertaLearn More
Maternity Leave SaskatchewanLearn More
Maternity Leave PEILearn More
Maternity Leave Newfoundland And LabradorLearn More
Maternity Leave Nova ScotiaLearn More
Maternity Leave New BrunswickLearn More

How To Protect Your Finances If You Are Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada

The cost of having a baby is high. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you’re being laid off before you take maternity leave, there are some things you can do to protect your finances:

Have An Emergency Fund 

Start an emergency fund as early as possible to pad your income while you’re off work caring for your baby. Put the extra funds away in a high-interest savings account to help your money grow faster, or open a tax-free savings account (TFSA) to hedge your money against taxes. If necessary, you can draw from your account while you’re on maternity leave.

Assess Your Debt

If you’re carrying debt, it will probably be harder to keep on top of your bills while you’re collecting less income on maternity leave. Before you leave work, consider putting as much money as you can towards paying down your debt while you’re still working to ease the burden when you’re on leave. 

Look Into Insurance

Consider buying an insurance policy to protect your baby and family in case the unthinkable happens. A life insurance policy will ensure that your children are financially provided for in the event of your death. If you already have a policy, consider increasing your coverage as your family expands.  

You may also want to consider purchasing critical illness or disability insurance. Critical illness insurance pays out a tax-free benefit if you can’t work due to a life-threatening medical condition. On the other hand, disability insurance replaces part of your income if you can’t work due to a serious illness or injury. 

Skip-A-Payment Or Lower Your Credit Card Rate

If you have a credit card in your wallet, reach out to the credit card provider and negotiate a lower interest rate. If you’ve been diligent with your credit card payments, your creditor may be more inclined to help you. 

Reducing your rate will help you save a lot of money in interest, especially if you carry a balance month to month. And if you need to use your credit card for a big purchase after the baby arrives, a lower rate will keep your interest payments to a minimum. 

You may also want to look into whether or not your credit card issuer offers the option to skip a payment. If so, this can help you regain some financial ground, especially when money is tight. 

Look For Freebies

Many companies offer all sorts of freebies that you may find useful for you and your baby. Companies including Huggies, Nestlé, Baby R Us, Cetaphil, and London Drugs currently offer programs that let you collect free samples, points, coupons, and other freebies to help you get a head start with your newborn.

Look Into A Maternity Leave Loan

A maternity leave loan allows you to borrow money using your maternity benefits. These loans in Canada are very flexible and can be used to pay for things like baby food, diapers, furniture, clothing, and anything else you need for you and your child. You can even use the borrowed funds to cover current bill payments if you think you can’t make them.   

With terms generally ranging from 3 months to 5 years, these loans are a great option for spreading out big purchases that you may need to make for your baby. The payments are also usually fixed, making them easier to fit within your budget. Just be sure to check your credit score before applying to see where you stand, as many lenders will want to verify your creditworthiness when you apply. 

Even If You Are Not Laid Off Before Maternity Leave, These Are Your Rights And The Rules About Taking The Time Off

Being laid off before you take maternity leave is distressing. But even if you’re not fired before you take time off work to care for your baby, you should still be fully aware of all your rights and what your employer can and cannot do.

Do You Have To Tell A New Employer That You Are Pregnant? 

You don’t have to tell your boss that you are pregnant, whether you’re already an employee or are being hired for a new position. There is no legal obligation on your part to inform your employer about your pregnancy. 

Further, employers do not have the right to ask you if you’re pregnant or have plans to get pregnant. And if you are pregnant, it’s illegal for an employer to turn you down for employment for this specific reason under human rights legislation. 

Can My Employer Lay Me Off Work Before Maternity Leave If I Ask For “Maternity-Related Reassignment” Or “Job Modification?

Sometimes it can be difficult to perform a specific job up to par due to physical limitations or pregnancy complications. In these cases, you can request to have your job modified (to a reasonable degree) in a way that will make it easier for you to function. You can also ask to be reassigned to another job if your current role poses any risk to you or your baby. 

If you do make this request, you’ll need to get a doctor’s note explaining your condition and how your current position at work may be a potential risk. 

When Do You Have To Notify Your Employer Of Your Maternity Leave?

You need to let your employer know about your pregnancy and your intention to take maternity leave at least 4 weeks before your leave starts. The notification must be in writing and should specify how long you will be off on maternity leave. 

Can Your Employer Replace You While You’re On Maternity Leave? 

Your role at work will likely need to be covered while you’re off on maternity leave to ensure the business continues as usual. As such, it’s understandable that your employer will want to fill your role temporarily while you’re on leave. 

Your employer is within their rights to hire a replacement for your job until your return. However, the employer cannot permanently transfer your job to the person replacing you while you’re on maternity leave. Once your leave ends, not only should you still have a job when you return to work, but your role should be the same as before. 

Stressed About Being Laid Off Before Maternity Leave? 

Pregnancy can already be a highly emotional time in a woman’s life, but the added burden of worrying about being laid off before maternity leave can be very stressful for moms-to-be.

Fortunately, the government offers a handful of programs to pregnant women who are experiencing anxiety over the prospect of losing their jobs before taking maternity leave: 

Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP)Learn More
Nobody’s PerfectLearn More
Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy Learn More

Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP)

The Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) offers financial assistance to groups that help pregnant women and new mothers. The goal of the CPNP is to improve the health of women and their babies while developing partnerships within communities for this specific purpose.

Nobody’s Perfect program

Nobody’s Perfect is a community-based parenting program designed for parents of children from 0 to 5 years of age. The program is focused on helping young, socially isolated, low-income parents.

Nobody’s Perfect sessions take place in a group setting and help to educate parents on various topics such as:

  • Positive parenting
  • Children’s health and safety
  • Parenting skills
  • Coping skills

Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy

Understandably, new parents have plenty of questions and uncertainties about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. The government of Canada offers a guide on how to keep yourself and your baby safe during and after pregnancy.

Final Thoughts On Being Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada

As an expecting mother, you have protections under the law in Canada when it comes to your job. It’s important to understand your rights and your employer’s obligations. If you’ve been laid off before maternity leave in Canada, file a complaint or find an employment lawyer. 

FAQs On Being Laid Off Before Maternity Leave In Canada

Can I be fired for taking maternity leave? 

No, your employer cannot legally fire you simply because you’re taking maternity leave. This would go against human rights laws. 

Can I be laid off while on maternity leave in Canada?

Your employer can lay you off during maternity leave if there is a legitimate reason to terminate you. However, your maternity leave itself cannot be used as grounds to lay you off while you’re on leave.  

Am I entitled to maternity pay if I have just started a new job?

You’re eligible for maternity leave pay only after you’ve accumulated 600 insured work hours within the qualifying period.

What happens if I get laid off before maternity leave in Canada?

If you’re laid off before maternity leave (through no fault of your own), you may still qualify for maternity leave and may be entitled to severance pay.

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Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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