Five Maternity Leave Rights That Are Totally Sketchy
There are so many misconceptions and stories about maternity leave requirements out there that it's hard to keep it straight. When it comes to what the employer can and can't do, sometimes it's a mystery.
Here are 5 mysterious legal requirements the employer must meet surrounding pregnancy and maternity leave and how they might actually impact you.
1] The Employer Can’t Fire You
This is sort of true but mostly not really… There are most definitely ways for employers to get around this. For example, if your position is eliminated based on a business decision your employer might not be liable as they’ll argue the decision was based on a business target – not your pregnancy. So don’t fall into a false sense of job security because you think you can’t be fired. If your employer really wants to terminate you, they will likely find a way! Sorryyyyy...
Throughout my career as a Human Resources Professional I've seen multiple cases where an employee's position was eliminated while she was on maternity leave. The employer dealt with this by offering a fair severance package or providing the employee the option to secure an another position within the company - while on maternity leave. This is basically a nightmare situation for a new mom. On top of all the other changes you're going through, you're faced with the prospect of looking for a new job while the baby sleeps (IF the baby sleeps).
2] The Employer Can’t Mistreat You
Subjective enough for you? Of course your employer can mistreat you. It’s not like you’d really be able to prove mistreatment, right? I always found this requirement very vague. As a result, I think it does very little to protect the employee. But hell, I’m not a lawyer. Does serving wine you can't have at a work event count as mistreatment? What about a broken air conditioner during your third-trimester of pregnancy. In July?
3] The Employer Can’t Refuse to Hire a Woman Because She’s Pregnant
Been to many job interviews while pregnant lately? Ummmm… no. While this is really nice to have written down, this is so idealistic it’s really almost laughable. How would an employer ever be held accountable to this? Go ahead and interview for your dream job. You never know, depending on the timing requirements and values of the employer, it could work out. The employer should be basing their hiring decision on your skills and not your growing belly. I've had hiring managers explicitly make decisions not to hire based on the fact they thought the candidate could be pregnant. I am completely serious.
Pro Tip: Don’t disclose pregnancy in an interview. Everrrr. Everrrr. It’s no one’s business and should not be an input to the hiring decision. Even if your pregnancy is physically obvious, this should not be discussed in the interview. If you are eight months pregnant. Ignore it. If the hiring manager mentions your pregnancy, you say "I'm really looking forward to sharing the details of my skills and qualifications, you asshole." Maybe skip the asshole part but it's optional.
4] The Employer has to Accommodate Your Pregnancy
Your employer has to remove any threats to your pregnancy by making the necessary changes in your job duties or work area. In some cases, your employer may give you another position within your organization or, if the organization can't adjust your work to create a safe working environment, you should be offered special leave. Whether or not you're compensated by your employer while on this leave depends on your benefits program.
Accommodation ideas to consider include: temporary reassignment of some physical duties, reserved parking, stools, ergonomic chairs, reassignment to less physically demanding jobs and alternate workstations.
You can consider scheduling pre-natal and other related appointments outside of work hours; however, when this isn't possible, accommodation for pregnancy-related appointments can't be withheld. This could be with or without pay, depending on the flexibility of your employer and your benefits. Peeing in a bottle once a month is critical for your health and the health of the baby.
5] The Employer has to Allow Sick Leave
Some employers may not offer compensation for sick leave, in which case you may have to access medical Employment Insurance (Canadian Program, aka EI) benefits. By law, your employer can insist that you apply for Employment Insurance if the benefits they provide would be approximately the same amount.
The EI process for sick leave was really simple for me, except the pain in the butt reporting. When sick benefits were done, the maternity leave benefits started with very little action required on my end. I simply provided proof of birth to Employment Insurance. (The EI part, not the birth part = painless).
I know, I know, this seems like bad news all around. There are ways you can cope with these challenges and still have a kickass career. The first step is to acknowledge that managing your career is totally your job, even through maternity leave.