Maternity leave - IPG-017
Effective date: September 1, 1993
Revised date: January 9, 2023
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This Interpretation, Policy and Guideline (IPG) intends to clarify and provide guidance on the application of section 206 of Part III of the Canada Labour Code dealing with maternity leave.
There is a need to clarify that female employees are entitled to 17 weeks of leave under section 206 if they are:
- undergoing a miscarriage
- undergoing abortion, or
- delivering a stillborn child
If “confinement” under section 206 includes a miscarriage, abortion or stillbirth
This leave is for the woman’s health-related needs surrounding childbirth. Section 206 grants a pregnant woman up to 17 weeks of leave. This starts no earlier than 13 weeks before the estimated date of confinement. It ends no later than 17 weeks after the actual day of confinement.
Given the developments made in the field of obstetrics, it is now possible that a woman could give birth prior to the third trimester (final 3 months) of her pregnancy. Essentially, her actual confinement could precede “13 weeks prior to the estimated date of her confinement”.
However, for the leave to apply, the actual day of confinement overrides an estimated date of confinement. In other words, an employee is entitled to 17 weeks of leave after the actual date of confinement. This applies regardless of when the confinement occurs (assuming, of course, that she meets the other conditions for the leave).
One must, therefore, define “confinement” (and "accouchement" in the French text). The usual medical meaning of “accouchement” is the end of a pregnancy during the third trimester. This is regardless of whether it is a live birth or stillbirth. The term “confinement” is less precise, but generally encompasses the concepts of delivery or childbirth.
The Labour Program's policy is to consider any end of a pregnancy after the 19th week of pregnancy to be a confinement. This ensures that all appropriate cases are eligible for 17 weeks of leave. This eligibility period can normally be calculated on the basis of the “estimated date of confinement” provided on the certificate issued by a health care practitioner required under subsection 206(1).
This period is selected for 2 reasons:
- it reflects women's actual experience that any termination after 19 weeks generally amounts to the same process as childbirth at term. She thus incurs the same health-related needs, and
- it is consistent with the eligibility period for maternity benefits under the Employment Insurance Act
Note (1): For any earlier end of pregnancy, she may take advantage of the Medical Leave provisions under Division XIII.
Note (2): Parental Leave under subsection 206.1(1) would not apply after a miscarriage, abortion or stillbirth. This is because the employee must have actual care and custody of a newborn child.
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