Employers: How to support new parents and ensure compliance

Supporting employees before, during and after parental leave is essential not only for fostering a positive workplace culture but for legal compliance. Understanding eligibility, duration, benefits, return-to-work policies, and employee rights regarding parental leaves can help employers meet their obligations. 

Eligibility for Parental Leave

In Ontario, employees are eligible for parental leave if they have been employed with the same employer for at least 13 weeks before the expected date of the child’s arrival. Parental leave is available to both parents following the birth or adoption of a child, providing flexibility in managing their time off work.

Duration of Parental Leave

The duration of parental leave in Ontario allows for up to 63 weeks of job-protected leave. Under the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program, parents can choose between standard parental benefits (up to 40 weeks, with one parent taking a maximum of 35 weeks) and extended parental benefits (up to 69 weeks, with one parent taking a maximum of 61 weeks).

Parental Leave Benefits

During parental leave, employees may be eligible for EI parental benefits, which provide financial support based on a percentage of their average weekly earnings. Employers can guide employees on how to apply for EI benefits, and should issue the Record of Employment when an employee’s salary falls below 60% of regular weekly earnings. Additionally, some employers offer top-up benefits to supplement EI payments, demonstrating a commitment to employee well-being and aiding in retention.

Return-to-Work Policies

Clear return-to-work policies are essential. Employees should be able to return to their previous position with the same wages and benefits, or a comparable position if theirs no longer exists. Employers can consider implementing phased return-to-work plans, which might include flexible working arrangements such as part-time hours or remote work, to help employees transition back smoothly.

Employee Rights During Parental Leave

Employees on parental leave have rights, including job protection, accrual of seniority, and continued participation in benefit plans. Employers cannot penalize employees for taking parental leave or make their return conditional on changes to their employment status. It’s also important to recognize that employees may face unique challenges during and after parental leave, such as securing childcare or postpartum depression. Providing access to resources, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), can help employees navigate these challenges effectively. Employers should also be mindful of the duty to accommodate employees on the basis of protected grounds, such as family status or disability. 

Best Practices 

  1. Develop Clear Policies: Ensure your parental leave policies are well-documented and accessible. Include information on eligibility, duration, benefits, and return-to-work procedures.
  2. Communicate Transparently: Maintain open communication with employees before, during, and after their leave. Provide necessary information and address any questions or concerns promptly.
  3. Offer Flexibility: Be flexible with return-to-work arrangements, considering options such as part-time hours or remote work to help employees balance their new responsibilities. Employers also need to ensure they are meeting their duty to accommodate the needs of employees on the basis of protected grounds such as family status or disability. 
  4. Provide Support Resources: Offer access to EAPs or other support services to assist employees with the transition to parenthood and their return to work.

 

By understanding and supporting the parental leave process, employers can create a more positive and productive work environment. Prioritizing parental leave support is not just about legal compliance; it’s about building a workplace where all employees feel valued and supported during one of the most important times in their lives. Have questions or need assistance? Reach out to us today to ensure you’re fully equipped to support your employees’ parental leave needs!

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