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Long Overdue – New 18 Month Parental Leave Has Arrived

This post was co-authored by Michelle Quinn and Nicole Mangan

The Trudeau government made good on its promise to extend parental leave from 12 to 18 months. Initially, this promise only applied to workers in federally regulated workplaces. However, on April 6, 2018, the BC Government introduced Bill 6, Employment Standards Amendment Act 2018 which will amend the BC Employment tandards Act (the “ESA”). Some of the proposed changes relate to maternity and parental leave. On May 17, 2018, Bill 6 came into force by Royal Assent. My colleague, Nicole Mangan, and I sum up these key legislative changes.

Expanded parental leave was announced as part of the 2017-2018 federal budget and news agencies are widely reporting on the changes. The BC’s NDP government followed suit and introduced Bill 6 which contains many amendments dealing with the ESA. The proposed legislative changes are now a reality. So, employers and employees in BC need to know the current state of the law.

The Law on Pregnancy and Parental Leave in BC

Pregnancy and parental leaves for provincially regulated employees in British Columbia are governed by the ESA. The ESA provides two different leaves that can be combined to create what people sometimes consider to be “one year” of “maternity leave”.

Pregnancy leave” is one ESA provision that allows for up to 17 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave to an employee giving birth to a child. Previously, this leave had to commence no more than 11 weeks before the expected birth date and could not start any later than the actual birth date of the child. The amendment will now permit expecting mothers an entitlement to 13 weeks of leave before the expected birth.

Under the ESA, an employee is expected to provide a request in writing to their employer for this leave and that request should be made at least 4 weeks prior to the beginning of the proposed leave. Leave cannot, however, be denied simply because a written request was not made. Employers may also choose to request a certificate, from a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner, documenting the expected or actual birth date.

Parental leave” is a second ESA provision which allows for leaves of different durations depending on parents’ circumstances and whether “pregnancy leave” has been used in relation to the birth of the same child. Previously, a birth mother could take up to 35 weeks of parental leave if she used the “pregnancy leave”. If she didn’t, the available parental leave was 37 weeks. Birth fathers and adoptive parents could also take 37 weeks of parental leave that had to commence within 52 weeks of the child’s birth or placement. The new amendment permits new mothers to begin up to 61 additional consecutive weeks of parental leave immediately after their 17 week pregnancy leave. This will provide new mothers with a total possible leave of 78 weeks (18 months).

Changes to the ESA also affect nonbirth partners or adopting parents who are entitled up to 62 consecutive weeks of parental leave, within 78 weeks of the child’s birth or adoption.

If you have any questions about these legislative changes please contact either myself or Nicole Mangan at nmangan@rbs.ca.