Employment Law

Parental Leave in Alberta: Essential Guide

A mother holding her child's hand while on parental leave in Alberta.

What is Parental Leave in Alberta?

Parental leave in Alberta is a job-protected leave of absence that allows eligible employees to take time off work to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. Both parents are entitled to parental leave under the Employment Standards Code (ESC), which can be taken separately or simultaneously.

Who is Eligible?

In Alberta, employees are eligible for parental leave if they have been employed with the same employer for at least 90 days and:

  • Are the biological or adoptive parents of the child, or
  • Are in a relationship of some permanence with the child’s parent and are primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child.

Both parents are entitled to parental leave, and the leave can be shared between them. Employees must provide their employer with written notice at least 6 weeks before the intended start date of the leave.

How long is Alberta Parental Leave?

In Alberta, parental leave can be up to 62 weeks. This includes both maternity and parental leave. Maternity leave can start as early as 16 weeks before the expected birth date, and parental leave must be completed within 78 weeks after the birth or placement of the child.

Is Parental Leave Paid?

No, parental leave itself is unpaid, however eligible employees may receive Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during their leave. These benefits provide partial income replacement.

Employment Insurance and Parental Leave

While parental leave in Alberta is unpaid, eligible employees can apply for EI maternity and parental benefits in the province. These benefits provide partial income replacement while the employee is away from work to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.

Parental Leave Top Up

Parental leave top-up is a benefit some Alberta employers offer to enhance EI benefits during maternity and parental leave. It’s optional and varies by employer.

When Does Parental Leave Start?

Parental leave in Alberta typically starts when the pregnancy leave ends for a birth mother. However, the start date of parental leave can vary depending on the circumstances.

  • Example: If a baby has not yet come into the parent’s care when the pregnancy leave ends, the parent can choose to start parental leave when the pregnancy leave ends or return to work and start the parental leave later.

In general, parental leave must begin no later than 78 weeks after the date the baby is born or comes into the care of the parent.

When Should You Apply for Parental Leave in Alberta?

In Alberta, employees should apply for parental leave as soon as possible after the birth or adoption of a child.

Employees should also provide their employer with written notice of their intention to take parental leave and the dates the leave will begin and end. This notice should be provided at least 6 weeks before the leave is set to begin, unless this is not possible due to circumstances beyond the employee’s control.

Is Parental Leave Part of Maternity Leave?

No. In Alberta, parental leave and maternity leave are distinct types of leave.

Maternity leave is specifically for birth mothers and can start as early as 16 weeks before the expected birth date. Parental leave, on the other hand, can be taken by either parent and must be completed within 78 weeks after the birth or placement of the child.

A birth mother can take both pregnancy and parental leave. A birth father can take parental leave while the birth mother is on either pregnancy or parental leave.

How Does Paternity Leave Factor In?

Paternity leave is part of parental leave in Alberta. It allows fathers to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child.

Can You Change Your Parental Leave End Date?

Yes, you can change the start or end date of your parental leave. However, you must give your employer written notice at least four weeks before the original end date, and the total leave can’t exceed 62 weeks. Your employer may agree to the change, but they are not obligated to do so.

Can You Be Forced to Take Parental Leave?

In Alberta, employees can’t be forced to take parental leave. The decision to take parental leave is voluntary and is made by the employee.

Employee Benefits During Parental Leave

Employees on parental leave in Alberta have the right to continue participating in benefit plans offered by their employer, such as pension plans, life insurance plans, and health and dental plans.

The specifics of benefit continuation during parental leave can vary depending on the employer’s policies and the terms of the benefit plans.

What Happens to Your Seniority During Parental Leave?

In Alberta, employees on parental leave are entitled to maintain their seniority status with their employer. This means that the time spent on parental leave is generally counted towards their length of service for the purposes of calculating benefits such as vacation entitlement, pension contributions, and other similar benefits based on length of service.

This rule ensures that employees do not lose their seniority rights while they are on leave to care for their newborn or newly adopted child.

Parental leave is not considered a break in your employment. This means that if you are terminated or lose your job, your severance pay in Alberta will be calculated based on your total years of service, including any time spent on maternity or parental leave.

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Can You Be Penalized for Taking Parental Leave?

No, you can’t be penalized for taking parental leave in Alberta. The ESC protects your right to take parental leave without fear of negative consequences. This means your employer can’t demote you, reduce your pay, or take any other punitive actions against you simply because you are taking parental leave.

Such treatment is considered a human rights violation. If you believe you have been penalized for taking parental leave, contact the team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP for a consultation.

Returning to Your Job After Parental Leave Ends

When you return to work from parental leave in Alberta, you have the right to the same job and position you held before taking leave. You must also receive the same pay, hours of work, benefits and responsibilities.

If your original job no longer exists, your employer must give you a comparable position with the same wages, work location, and benefits.

Changes to Your Job

In Alberta, it’s illegal for an employer to make significant changes to an employee’s job without their consent. These changes may include:

If the terms of your employment are impacted negatively in a serious way, you may be able to claim constructive dismissal through an experienced employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. We can help you navigate your rights and pursue a full severance package – as much as 24 months’ pay.

Termination and Parental Leave

In Alberta, it is illegal for an employer to terminate or fire an employee because they are on parental leave. For more information about your rights and when you might have grounds for a wrongful dismissal claim, read our detailed resource on being fired during maternity or parental leave in Alberta.

Your Rights

If you’ve been fired without cause or allegedly for cause, it’s crucial to understand your rights through a consultation with an Alberta employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP immediately.

Do not accept any severance offer, termination papers, or exit agreement from your employer, even if they come with a deadline. These deadlines are pressure tactics used to push you into accepting inadequate compensation. Once you sign and return these documents, you forfeit your ability to negotiate a fair and proper severance package.

Calculating Severance

Calculating a severance package in Alberta involves multiple factors, including:

  • Age
  • Length of service
  • Position at the company
  • Commission
  • Benefits
  • Ability to find similar work

To figure out how much compensation you should receive, use our firm’s free Severance Pay Calculator. It has helped millions of Canadians determine their entitlements.

If your company’s offer falls short of what our Severance Pay Calculator says you are owed, it’s very likely that you have been wrongfully dismissed and should take legal action. In Alberta, your severance package can be as much as 24 months’ pay.

Talk To an Employment Lawyer

The knowledgeable employment law team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP has helped tens of thousands of non-unionized individuals across the country.

In addition to severance package negotiations, we have experience securing solutions for the following employment matters:

Our lawyers in Alberta, B.C., and Ontario stand ready to help you solve your workplace issues.

If you are a non-unionized employee who needs help with an employment issue, contact us or call 1-855-821-5900 to get the advice you need, and the compensation you deserve.

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