Parental leave and adoption


Siobhan Rowe
Focus on Adoption magazine

If you are adopting a child, check out your employment rights and the rules around paid Employment Insurence leave (if you qualify).

Employment rights

  • Under BC's Employment Standards Act, an adoptive parent can take up to 37 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave beginning withing 52 weeks after the child is placed.
  • New parents--biological and adoptive--are entitled to leaves of absence without pay to care for newborn or newly-adopted children. The right to parental leave is available to all eligible employees regardless of how long they have been employed.
  • One period of parental leave is available for each parent. Both parents are entitled to take the full leave. All leaves must be commenced withing 52 weeks of the child's birth or adoption. IN the case of multiple births, or children being placed with adoptive parents at the same time, only one leave is allowed.
  • If the child has a physical, physiological, or emotional condition requiring an additional period of parental care, an employee may apply for an additional five consecutive weeks of unpaid leave, beginning immediately after the end of the 37 week leave.
  • During maternity and parental leave, an employer cannot fire you. And, once you return to work, the employer must give you your old job back, or offer an equivalent one (which might not have the same working hours) with at least the same wages and benefits. You're also entitled to any wage and benefit increases that took effect while you were on leave. You will also accrue vacation hours while you are away but these are not paid hours (depend on your employment contract).
  • It is not always possible to know exactly when an adoption placement will happen, and the BC Employment Standards Act does not state a set amount of notice that adoptive parents must give. Obviously, it's important to give as much notice as possible; but, if you have to leave at very short notice, you are entitled to do so.
  • You do not have to tell your employer when you will be returning to work. Your employer should assume that you are going to take the leave you are entitled to. It is always a good idea to say you are coming back in order to keep your options open. If you decided later not to return, you can resign from your job in the normal way.

EI and adoption

  • If you qualify for Employment Insurance, you can take up to 35 weeks parental leave withing 52 weeks of your child's placement. Biological parents can also claim 17 weeks maternity leave. Birth mothers can also qualify for maternity leave.
  • As of January 2011, self-employed workers can opt into paying EI, which will mean they can apply for maternity and parental leave benefits.
  • Some employers top-up maternity and parental leave pay, though some only top-up the maternity leave portion for which adoptive parents are not eligible.
  • If you qualify for EI leave and you adopt a sibling group, you still only qualify for one period of parental leave.
  • If your child is hospitalized, you can choose to claim parental benefits immediately following the child's placement, or when he or she comes home from the hospital. Each week your child is hospitalized extend the period in which you can claim parental benefits, up to a maximum of 104 weeks. You must provide a proof of the child's hospitalization.

For more information, check out Service Canada.