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Maternity And Parental Leave in BC | An Update for 2024

Richard B. Johnson

Co-Founder + Partner
December 27, 2023

Navigating the world of parental leave in BC can be a bit of a maze, especially for new and expecting parents. The good news? British Columbia (and Canadian) legislation has allowed parents and guardians to enjoy a more seamless transition between work and time off without having to worry about job security.

Whether you’re cradling your newborn for the first time or welcoming a child through adoption, the rules here are crafted to make sure that nobody has to miss out on those irreplaceable early moments. You probably have a ton of questions on this topic. So we’ll do our best to answer the most common questions surrounding parental and maternity leave in British Columbia.

Can Both Parents Take Parental Leave in BC?

Yes, they can! In BC, both parents have the opportunity to take a leave of absence from work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. This isn’t just a one-person show; it’s a tag-team effort. Whether you’ve carried your child or are welcoming them through adoption, both parents are eligible for parental leave—ensuring that no one misses out on those precious first months.

How Does Parental Leave Work in BC?

Parental leave can be thought of as a seamless transition from maternity leave. Once the birth parent (different from non-birth parent) concludes their maternity leave, they can embark on parental leave for up to 52 weeks of standard leave or stretch it to 78 weeks of extended leave. It’s all about choice and flexibility here in BC. And remember, if you’re planning to change the duration of your leave, just give your employer a heads-up four weeks in advance.

How Long is Maternity and Parental Leave in BC?

Maternity leave is designed to give birth mothers up to 17 uninterrupted weeks off work. This period can commence any time within the 13 weeks leading up to the due date and no later than the birth itself and ends 17 weeks after the leave has started.

When it comes to BC public service employees, parental leave is quite generous. Parents can opt for a standard leave of 52 weeks or an extended leave of 78 weeks. This time allows you to establish a deep connection with your child, adapt to your new role, and savor these fleeting moments.

How to Apply for Parental Leave in BC?

Applying for parental leave is fairly simple in BC. Write a letter to your employer stating your intention to take parental leave, and submit it at least four weeks before you plan to start the leave. If there are any unique circumstances or if your employer requests it, you might need a medical practitioner’s certificate to support your application.

Can You Work While on Maternity Leave in BC?

Should you feel the urge to return to the workforce sooner than six weeks after childbirth, your employer may request a medical certificate confirming your ability to work. It’s all about ensuring your health and readiness to return.

Do You Accrue Vacation While on Maternity Leave in BC?

It will depend on whether your contract provides for leave to accrue during periods of leave or not. That is something you will want to clarify or discuss with us.

Is Maternity Leave Paid in BC?

In BC, if your employer’s vacation policy aligns with the minimum standards set by employment legislation, you won’t accumulate vacation pay while on maternity leave. Once you’re back at work, you’re entitled to the same amount of vacation time you’d normally have, but the pay for that vacation will be based on what you earned before your leave. 

So, if you were on maternity or parental leave for a full year, you’d get the vacation days without the pay the following year. It’s like having the time banked, but not the paycheck that would usually come with it.

Planning Financially for Leave

Budgeting for a baby isn’t just about diapers and onesies—it’s also planning for a reduced income during your leave. Start by looking into EI benefits, setting aside savings, and perhaps considering a leave-sharing arrangement with your partner to maximize your time with the baby and financial inflow.

Understanding Your Rights

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your rights as an employee in BC. Familiarize yourself with the Employment Standards Act, and don’t hesitate to seek guidance if you’re unsure about your leave entitlements. Knowing your rights is the first step in advocating for yourself and your family.

Navigating Childcare Services

A good rule of thumb is to start planning for daycare services when you find out you’re pregnant (or shortly after). BC offers various options, from daycares to family care providers. It’s wise to explore these well in advance, as spots can fill up quickly

Maintaining Your Health Benefits

While on leave, maintaining your health benefits is essential. Check with your employer about the continuation of your benefits and pension contributions, especially if you’re considering extended childcare leave.

Parenthood is one of life’s most exhilarating experiences. From applying for leave to planning your return to work, the province’s policies are designed to provide you with the time and space you need to welcome your new child into your family.

Unionized vs. Non-Unionized Employees in BC: Parental and Maternity Leave Differences

Unionized employees in BC may have different terms for parental and maternity leave based on their collective agreements. These agreements can offer benefits beyond the provincial standards, such as longer leave durations or even paid leave options. 

Non-unionized employees are entitled to the provincial standards as outlined in the Employment Standards Act, which generally includes unpaid leave. For the specifics, one would need to refer to the collective agreement or consult with their union representative.

The Federal Government’s Role in Maternity and Parental Leave

The Canadian federal government offers financial assistance through Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits. These benefits are available to individuals who are away from work because they’re pregnant or have recently given birth, or to parents who are away from work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. You could receive 55% of your earnings, up to a maximum of $650 a week​​. Maternity benefits are specifically for the person who has given birth and can be followed by parental benefits, which can be shared between parents​​​​.

Distinctions Between Birth Giver and Guardian

The distinction between the birth giver and the guardian in terms of leave is clear. The birth giver is eligible for maternity benefits, which are exclusively for the individual who has given birth and cannot be shared. These benefits are up to 15 weeks at 55% of earnings, up to $650 per week​​. On the other hand, guardians, including non-birthing parents and partners, are entitled to parental benefits, which are available to both parents and can be taken consecutively or simultaneously, with the same conditions applying​​.

We want to ensure that you know your rights and have peace of mind at this special time. Contact us to discuss your personal situation; we want to help!