Ask Jean

To qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, a parent must have accumulated at least 600 insured hours during the last year or since your last claim. Under EI, there are two types of benefits: maternity benefits and parental benefits. Maternity benefits are payable for up to 15 weeks, and can only be taken by someone who has actually carried a child around inside their body. There is a two-week waiting period before your benefits start. They can start any time from fifteen weeks before the due date up to the actual day of birth. Parental leave consists of 35 weeks of benefits that can be divided up between parents. Adoptive parents are eligible for this leave. Parental leave must be taken within 52 weeks of the child’s birth. Maternity and parental leave are both paid at the regular EI rate of 55% of your insured earnings, capped at $447 per week. Our Collective Agreements provide a wide range of enhanced monetary benefits and additional time off, with and without pay. Check your individual Collective Agreement for details. It’s a good idea to do this early on in your planning so that you know your entitlements and any rules around accessing them.

What are my rights as a person in a same-sex or queer relationship?
New parents of any gender, including adoptive parents, are eligible for parental leave under EI, and your Collective Agreement rights flow from there. Only pregnant parents are entitled to maternity leave.

What can I expect coming back to work?
Legally you are entitled to come back into the same position or a similar one to the position that you occupied when you left. You should not see a decrease in opportunities to take on challenging assignments, and it should not be assumed that you are uninterested in overtime or assignments involving travel. In practice, there have been instances at some of our employers where members, usually women, return from taking time off to start a family and feel their opportunities dry up or find themselves doing work of a lower classification. If this happens to you, please contact the Guild right away. Gender-based discrimination, which can occur during pregnancy and breast-feeding, and discrimination based on family status are both prohibited by the Ontario Human Rights Act (covering members at TVO and tfo) and the Canada Human Rights Act. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has a good summary of what Family Status covers.

Can I come back to work part-time?
Nearly all of our Collective Agreements provide arrangements for reduced work weeks either temporarily or permanently. If you decide to do this, you and your employer should lay out your mutual expectations in writing. A Guild rep will be happy to help you negotiate this.

Can I be laid off while on maternity leave or parental leave?
The short answer is no. You have seniority rights under the Collective Agreement that have to be exercised before you can be laid off. Those rights should be exercised when you return to work. If you find yourself in this situation, get in touch with the Guild.

Jean Broughton is the Guild’s union services co-ordinator. You can get in touch with her at or by calling 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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