Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave

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A law called the Act respecting labour standards lets you take a leave for the arrival of a child. This article explains the different types of leave, their length, how to notify your employer, payments you are entitled to receive during your leave, and your rights when you return to work.

What are my rights and my employer's rights during my pregnancy, while I'm still at work?

You can be absent from work without pay as often as necessary for medical examinations related to the pregnancy. You must advise your employer as soon as possible.

If your job puts you or your unborn child in physical danger, your employer must assign other duties to you are not dangerous. This will not decrease the length of your maternity leave.

Beginning six weeks before your expected delivery date, your employer can ask you to provide a written medical certificate confirming that you are able to work. If you do not provide this certificate within eight days, your employer can require you to take your maternity leave immediately by giving you a written notice.

What is the difference between a maternity or paternity leave and a parental leave?

Maternity leave is for biological mothers only. You take it while you are pregnant and after the baby is born. You can take a parental leave after your maternity leave.

Paternity leave is for biological fathers only. You take it after the baby is born. You can take a parental leave after your paternity leave.

Parental leave is for both parents, whether they are biological or adoptive. This time is dedicated to settling the new child into the family. Both parents can take a parental leave, at the same time or at different times, even if they have the same employer.

Another type of leave is available for family and personal reasons. It is separate from the three types of leave explained above. 

Note: For couples made up of two women, the partner of the biological mother has a right to paternity and parental leave. However, the child must have been born in the context of what the law calls a parental project and the name of the partner must appear on the act of birth.

Who can take a leave?

Employees, construction workers and senior managers specifically mentioned in the Act respecting labour standards can take maternity leave, paternity leave or parental leave. They are allowed to take leave even if they work part time or occasionally. 

This article does not apply to employees of the federal government or federal organizations, such as bank employees. To learn more about maternity leave or parental leave in this case, please refer to the Canada Labour Code.

Self-employed workers make their own arrangements to take leave.

When can I take my leave, and for how long?

Your maternity leave can begin at the earliest 16 weeks before your expected delivery date, and it must end at the latest 18 weeks after the child is born. The maximum length of a maternity leave is 18 weeks, and it can start either before or after your child is born - that's up to you.

Your paternity leave can begin the week your child is born, and it must end at the latest 52 weeks after delivery. It's up to you when to take your paternity leave during this time. The maximum length of a paternity leave is five consecutive weeks.

If you are a biological parent, your parental leave can begin the week the child is born and must end at the latest 70 weeks after the child is born. If you are an adoptive parent, your parental leave can begin the week you receive the child or the week you leave Quebec to pick her up. The maximum length of a parental leave is 52 continuous weeks.

Usually, these leaves are taken on a continuous basis, that is, without interruption, unless you make different arrangements with your employer. There are some exceptions where you can divide your leave without making arrangements with your employer. Finally, you don't have to take all of the days you are allowed to if you don't want to.

The following table summarizes the lengths of the different leaves and when you can take them. You can always agree with your employer to increase the length of your maternity leave, but he isn't required to.

Parental leave can be added to maternity or paternity leave. In other words, you take parental leave in addition to your maternity or paternity leave, and you don't have to choose between the two. However, it is important to respect the maximum number of weeks the law allows.

Dates and Length of Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave

I am a (an) I can take a The leave can begin at the earliest The leave must end at the latest The length of the leave is
biological mother maternity leave 16 weeks before the expected delivery date. 18 weeks after the child is born.2 a maximum of 18 continuous weeks.
parental leave the week the child is born. 70 weeks after the child is born. a maximum of 52 continuous weeks.
biological father¹ paternity leave the week the child is born. 52 weeks after the child is born. a maximum of 5 continuous weeks.
parental leave the week the child is born. 70 weeks after the child is born. a maximum of 52 continuous weeks.
adoptive parent (mother or father) ²
parental leave the week you receive the child or the week you leave Quebec to pick the child up. 70 weeks after you receive the child. a maximum of 52 continuous weeks.

1.  For couples made up of two women, the partner of the biological mother can, in some cases, benefit from paternity and parental leave.

2. You are also in this category if you adopt your spouse's child.

3. If you begin your leave the week the child is born, that week is not included in the calculation.

High-Risk Pregnancy

If there is a risk of miscarriage or a danger to your health or to the child's health and you have to stop working, you can take a special maternity leave. Your doctor must also issue a medical certificate describing the danger and the expected date of delivery, instead of the usual notice. Your 18-week maternity leave would then begin four weeks before your expected delivery date.

I had a miscarriage or abortion. Am I allowed to a maternity leave?

Miscarriage or Abortion

If you had a miscarriage or abortion, you can take a special maternity leave. You can refer to our article for more details on this topic.

Hospitalization or Illness

If you or your child is hospitalized, you can divide your leave into weeks instead of taking it all at once. You can also temporarily suspend your leave and return to work while your child is hospitalized.

If there is a problem with your child's health or your health (in the case of maternity leave), you can extend your leave by producing a medical certificate.

This applies to maternity leave, paternity leave and parental leave.

How do I advise my employer that I want to take a leave?

You have to advise your employer in writing at least three weeks before you stop working. The notice period can be less than three weeks for medical reasons. The notice must include

  • the date your leave will begin, and
  • the date you expect to return to work.

Pregnant women who want to take a maternity leave must also provide

  • a medical certificate or midwife's report confirming the pregnancy, and
  • your expected delivery date.

For a maternity leave, paternity leave or parental leave, if you decide to return to work before the date indicated in the notice, you must send your employer another notice three weeks before your return to work.

Will I be paid during my leave?

Maternity leave, paternity leave and parental leave are all without pay. This means the law does not require your employer to pay you. However, you can receive payments from the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) if you apply.

Each parent must file his or her own application for benefits. You can contact the customer service centre of the ministère de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale (ministry of employment and social solidarity) or you can apply over the Internet (the form is available on the Emploi et Solidarité sociale Québec website).

Conditions for Receiving Parental Benefits

You are allowed to receive benefits if

  • you live in Quebec,
  • your salary decreased by at least 40%,
  • you earned at least $2,000 in the last year,
  • you contributed to the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), and
  • a child is born or you adopt a child.

Therefore, every worker, whether salaried or self-employed, can qualify to receive benefits during her leave if she meets the above conditions.

To learn more, visit the website of the Québec Parental Insurance Plan.

Length and Amount of Benefits

The following table shows the number of weeks you receive benefits and what percentage of your salary is paid based on the type of plan you choose (basic plan or special plan). Your income is calculated according to your gross weekly income.

Maternity and Paternity Benefits

  Maternity Leave Paternity Leave¹
Length and Amount of Basic Plan 18 weeks at 70% of income 5 weeks at 70% of income
Length and Amount of Special Plan 15 weeks at 75% of income 3 weeks at 75% of income
Earliest Payment Date the 16th week before delivery the week the child is born
Latest Payment Date 18 weeks after the child is born 52 weeks after the child is born

Parental Benefits

  Parental Leave: Biological Parents¹ Parental Leave: Adoptive Parents
Length and Amount of Basic Plan 32 weeks, with 7 weeks at 70% of income and 25 weeks at 55% of income 37 weeks, with 12 weeks at 70% of income and 25 weeks at 55% of income
Length and Amount of Special Plan 25 weeks at 75% of income 28 weeks at 75% of income
Earliest Payment Date the week the child is born

Adoption in Quebec: the week the child arrives

Adoption outside Quebec: two weeks after one of the parents receives the child

Latest Payment Date 52 weeks after the child is born 52 weeks after the child arrives

1.  For couples made up of two women, the partner of the biological mother can, in some cases, benefit from paternity and parental leave.

Should I choose the basic plan or the special plan?

It's up to you to choose which plan is best for you. The basic plan gives you a longer leave, while the special plan pays higher benefits.

Once you choose a plan, you can't change your mind. Both parents must take the decision together. Also, if you take a parental leave after your maternity or paternity leave, the parental leave will be covered by the same type of plan you chose for your first leave.

Only the mother receives maternity benefits, and only the father receives paternity benefits. Therefore, they can't be transferred to the other parent. However, parental benefits can be shared between the two parents. For example, when a child is born, the father takes the five weeks of paternity benefits he is allowed to, while the mother takes the 18 weeks of maternity benefits she is allowed to. Then, the mother takes eight weeks of parental benefits before going back to work. In this case, the father would be allowed to 24 weeks of parental benefits (32 weeks minus 8 weeks = 24 weeks).

You can choose when to receive your benefits. This means you can interrupt payment and continue to receive your benefits later. But you must respect the period during which you are allowed to receive QPIP payments.

You are allowed to work part time or off and on during your parental leave if your employer agrees. However, a certain amount can then be subtracted from your benefits. If you decide to work during your maternity leave, the income you earn at work can be completely deducted from your benefits.

What if I come from a low-income family?

If your net family income is below a certain amount, one parent can apply to receive higher benefits. Visit the website of the Québec Parental Insurance Plan to know if you're admissible.

What are my rights and my employer's rights when I go back to work?

When you go back to work, you are allowed to return to your regular job and receive the same salary and benefits as if you had never stopped working. If your position is eliminated, you have the same rights and privileges as if you had been at work until your position was abolished.

Maternity leave and paternity leave do not decrease an employee's vacation days. However, an employee on parental leave does not accumulate vacation and is not allowed to any additional advantages.

If you gave birth less than two weeks before you return to work, the employer can ask you for a medical certificate confirming that you are able to work.

Make sure you remember the date you indicated in the notice to your employer that you would be returning to work. If you return after this date, your employer is allowed to assume you have resigned.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.