Under section 50 of the British Columbia Employment Standards Act, the law that protects workers in BC, all new parents are authorized to take time off work when having a baby or adopting a child.

Before taking this time off, you must understand what type of leave you qualify to take, how long you’re allowed to be off from work and the benefits available to you while you’re on leave.

Here’s what you need to know.

Available Types of Maternity Leave in BC

Under the BC Employment Standards Act, there are two kinds of leave you can take, namely:

  • maternity leave; and
  • parental leave.

Maternity Leave BC

As per the Employment Standards Act, pregnant employees qualify to take 17 weeks leave from work to have their baby.

Pregnant workers are entitled to begin their maternity leave up to 13 weeks before they have their baby – leaving 4 weeks of leave after the baby is born.

In any event, where the pregnancy ends or is terminated, employees are allowed to take up to 6 weeks. In these circumstances, your employer could request a doctor’s note indicating the date that the pregnancy ended.

Parental Leave BC

Once the baby is born or the child has been adopted, the Employment Standards Act allows parents to take additional leave known as parental leave.

Once taking maternity leave, an employee is entitled to take up 61 weeks of parental leave immediately following the period of maternity leave.

In cases where the child has a special condition requiring extra care, BC employees are empowered to ask their employer to take an additional 5 weeks of leave.

Getting Paid While On Maternity Leave in BC

While some employers may offer their employees paid maternity leave under the terms of their employment contract, maternity leave (also referred to as pregnancy leave) is generally without pay.

The law in BC does not require employers to pay any employee while they are taking maternity leave.

Accordingly, there are various employment insurance benefits available to pregnant workers that they can utilize during the time that they are away from work.

These are known as Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits.

If you’re on maternity leave due to being pregnant or having a baby, the following EI benefits can be collected:

  • up to 55% of your earnings;
  • for a period of up to 15 weeks.

There is typically a weekly maximum cap to ensure that the benefits are spread across the period that you are away from work.

What Are Your Rights Under Maternity Leave in BC?

1. Your Years Of Service Continue

Taking maternity leave (or parental leave) does not affect your years of service to the employer.

In other words, the time that you’ve worked for the employer will continue while you are away from work due to pregnancy and giving birth.

This means that you’ll still be entitled to claim your vacation leave. Your vacation leave will also continue to accumulate while you’re away on maternity leave.

2. You Cannot Be Fired For Being Pregnant

Employers are also prohibited from changing the terms of employment, while the worker is on maternity leave, without their written consent.

Under BC’s human rights laws, your employer is also prohibited from treating you differently as a result of your pregnancy.

Make sure to read through our guidance on discrimination in the workplace here.

3. Returning To Work After Maternity Leave in BC

Provided that your employer doesn’t terminate their operations prior to you returning back from maternity leave, the Employment Standard Acts requires that you are returned to the same employment position you held before you took the time off.

The entire purpose of maternity leave is to allow you to have your baby while knowing that your job remains secure.

Key Takeaways

All employees covered by the BC Employment Standards Act are entitled to take maternity leave while pregnant and after having a baby.

Employees are also entitled to take parental leave following the period of maternity leave and if they’ve adopted a child.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • you’re entitled to take up to 17 weeks of maternity leave;
  • maternity leave is generally unpaid;
  • you may qualify to claim employment insurance benefits while on maternity leave; and
  • you hold various rights while on maternity leave, including the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds that you’re pregnant.

If you’re unsure about your maternity leave rights or if you believe you’re not receiving the rights you’re entitled to under the BC Employment Standards Act, contact us today.