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What to Expect When You're Expecting Part 2– The Checklist
So much to do and so little time. Expecting parents are, in a very real sense “on the clock”, with so many concerns to address in a finite and quickly shrinking window of time. In hopes of easing some of the pressure, this article will provide a simple checklist of things employees can do to prepare for the big day.1 - Find out the Due DateThis is, not surprisingly, the most important piece of information for expecting parents and employers. Though rarely exact, a due date provides a rough idea for everyone as to when maternity leave or parental leave may begin.2 - Know the LawYou don’t have to be an expert in employment law, you simply need to know the basics.First, familiarize yourself the with law as it relates to taking an unpaid job protected leave of absence under Federal or Provincial law (discussed elsewhere).Second, look into what benefits may be available to you as an expecting parent. Benefits available may include Maternity Benefits and Parental Benefits under the Employment Insurance Act, as well as any benefits available through a private or employer funded benefits plan.If you are covered under a group health benefits plan or contribute to a pension plan, it is important to remember that while your employer is obliged to keep this plan in place, you may be required to continue your monthly contributions or premium payments during your leave if you want the employer to match them and maintain coverage or participation in the plan while you are on leave. This is why it’s important to gather information from your employer.3 - Obtain Copies of All Relevant Policies and Insurance Plans from your EmployerEven before advising your employer of the due date, it would be wise to ask your employer for some information:
If the employer has any written policies regarding parental leave, request a copy in advance;
If you are covered under a group benefits plan that provides for health benefits or disability benefits, obtain a copy of the plans and policies and understand your entitlements. Are you, for instance, entitled to a supplemental benefit that will top up EI Benefits during your leave? Do you have disability insurance? etc.;
Find out whether you are required to pay insurance premiums during your leave (if you contributed through deductions to your pay while working, you may be required to make payments during your leave of absence);
Ask your employer for a copy of any policies regarding accommodating pregnant employees or persons with disabilities. It would be good to know, for instance, whether the employer has a policy regarding medical visits leading up to delivery or a policy regarding accommodating parents returning to work;
Out of an abundance of caution, it would also be wise to familiarize yourself with policies regarding employees’ obligations regarding unpaid leaves of absence, just in case you find yourself disabled from returning to work on the agreed upon date.
Once you have obtained and reviewed all of the above information, you may want to discuss any concerns with your employer or a lawyer if you believe the policies are discriminatory (or if there are no policies at all).4 - Plan Your Leave and Provide NoticeWith all of the above information you should be in a good position to provide your employer with written notice as to the start of your maternity or parental leave as required under the employer’s policies or under the Federal or Provincial law.Remember, if you are covered by private insurance policies, it may be beneficial to push back the beginning of your maternity leave. If you otherwise find yourself disabled from working in the days leading up to the start of maternity leave, short term disability benefits may be payable from the date of disability to the agreed upon start of the maternity leave. Of course, this will all depend on the policy of insurance, which you have already asked for, above.As the due date arrives, it you may wish to make arrangements with your employer to pay premiums to continue your health benefits.When providing written notice to your employer as to the day your maternity or parental leave may start, it is also important that you make it clear – in writing – that you would like to be apprised of any internal job postings or opportunities and provided with an opportunity to compete for them while on leave. You should also request that you be made aware of any changes to your job and given an opportunity to participate in any work-related discussions or training provided to employees still at the work place.Of course, it’s important that your employer has up to date contact information as well if you hope to receive any communication from your employer.The list of matters to canvass and issues that arise prior to the birth of a child is endless, consequently, legal advice should be sought from a lawyer prior to you embarking on any search for the truth insofar as to what your rights are. The comments in this article are not be taken as legal advice, rather, legal advice should always be sought prior to engaging in actions which have the potential to harm your employer-employee relationship notwithstanding your rights. My recommendation is that if you have a question or concern, simply send an email to Aaron Waxman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 416-661-4878/1844-583-4878 (or #LTD on your cell phone). One more thing, before you call you should always remember that there are no bad questions!