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The Goods on Parental Leave

parental leave

Parental leave has been around for more than 50 years but honestly, it’s not the easiest concept to grasp. That’s why we asked Allison Vendetti, an HR expert and founder of Moms at Work, to explain how it works. Tip: Know your rights before you go on leave. 

ParentsCanada: Why is maternity and parental leave so darn confusing?

Allison Vendetti: It’s confusing because maternity leave can look different for each person or family. We created a free resource called, which walks parents who feel overwhelmed or confused through their options. 

ParentsCanada: Who’s entitled and how long do we get? 

AV: There are lots of options for how you structure your leave. In 2019, the federal government introduced a new parental leave sharing benefit. A portion was named “use it or lose it” and it was meant to provide an extra five to eight weeks of leave for partners to encourage men to take time with their babies. This means parents can now share up to 40 weeks of parental benefits with the standard option, and up to 69 weeks of parental benefits with the extended option. That said, one parent cannot get more than 35 weeks of standard or 61 weeks of extended parental benefits, requiring the other parent(s) to take some time off to receive the extra weeks.

ParentsCanada: What’s the deal with the “one week wait” everyone talks about? 

AV: EI is a form of insurance, so the waiting period is like the deductible you pay for other types of insurance. Having a wait period allows for the payment claim to be processed, approved and started, which can sometimes take a few days.

ParentsCanada: What rights do employees have when they’re on maternity or parental leave? 

AV: Your job is protected when you’re on leave. This means you’re entitled to return to work in a similar position, seniority and wage as when you left. If for whatever reason your job is no longer available, or your division was closed, for example, your employer is required to offer you severance pay. You are entitled to either your job back or compensation.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination are very real. A recent survey conducted by Moms at Work found 33% of respondents reported being discriminated against due to becoming or being a mother in the workplace. Sometimes you will return and be treated differently, given less responsibility or even openly discriminated against. This is illegal, and you can file a human rights complaint against a person or employer.

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