November 28, 2013

A host of legal issues can arise when an employee is expecting a child, making it important for workplace parties to know their duties and obligations. How far must an employer go in accommodating the preferred alternative work schedules of pregnant employees? Can parental leave be split into multiple absences from work, or must it be taken as one continuous period of leave? Is an employer required to continue to contribute to an employee’s benefit plan while he or she is on pregnancy or parental leave? Join Lancaster’s panel of experts who will discuss the evolving law in relation to pregnancy and parental leave, as well as the following issues:

    • Accommodation and performance: Should pregnant employees be accommodated in the same manner as those with an illness or injury? Are there certain accommodations that employers should simply assume pregnant employees will need? Is it unreasonable for employers to request medical information for certain types of accommodations that an average person would expect a pregnant woman to need? For what types of accommodations should employers ask for medical information? If an employer is unable to find reasonable accommodation for a pregnant employee, is the employee entitled to paid leave? Can an employer discipline an employee for poor performance that may be due, in part, to her pregnancy? Will the denial of an extended parental leave to parents who are unable to make suitable childcare arrangements amount to discrimination? Is it discriminatory for an employer to fail to consider an employee for promotion opportunities that arise while the employee is on parental leave?
    • Benefits and leave: How much pregnancy and parental leave are employees entitled to take under employment standards legislation in the various jurisdictions across Canada? How do these laws intersect with leave provisions in a collective agreement? Can an employee unilaterally advance the end of a planned parental leave? What about splitting the allotted leave into multiple absences? Can contract employees request pregnancy leaves? To what extent is an employee entitled to continued participation in benefits programs during maternity, pregnancy or parental leave? Does an employee continue to accrue seniority during this time? Can sick leave be used during or immediately following birth? Can a benefit plan that provides for parental leave make distinctions in entitlement between adoptive and biological parents? What can workplace parties do to ease an employee’s return to work after a lengthy maternity leave? What role do such programs play in retaining women in the workforce?
    • Can a pregnant employee be fired? Is it always discriminatory for an employer to fire an employee it knows is pregnant? Can an employer dismiss or fail to recall an employee on pregnancy or parental leave if it prefers the employee who was filling-in for the employee on leave? What if the employer decides to eliminate the position the employee on leave occupied? What does the case law say about situations where employees have been fired immediately upon return from parental leave? If an employee is told while on parental leave that her position is being terminated, will the period of time left in the employee’s parental leave count towards the reasonable notice period? Can an employer terminate the employment of a fixed-term contract employee prior to the end of his or her maternity/parental leave if the contract has expired? Is the legal protection for men taking parental leave the same as it is for women?