Quebec's paternity and parental leave regime for fathers is the most generous of its kind in Canada. In 2006, the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan replaced the federal Employment Insurance Parental Benefits Program. Fathers in Quebec are taking advantage of these leaves in growing numbers, and we have recently become aware that employers are being affected more and more by this. In order to coordinate such leaves, it is important that employers with employees or operations in Quebec keep themselves well informed of both their obligations and their employees' rights.

Employee Entitlements to Paternity Leave

The employer's obligations with regards to paternity and parental leaves are contained in the Act Respecting Labour Standards. These provisions apply to all employees, including senior managerial personnel. Partners of lesbian mothers can also avail themselves of leaves that are designated for fathers. Fathers are entitled to up to five weeks of paternity leave without pay by providing three weeks' written notice to their employers prior to the beginning of the leave, indicating the expected leave date and date of return to work.

Employee Entitlements to Parental Leave

In addition to paternity leave, fathers are also entitled to the same parental leave of fifty-two consecutive weeks without pay as mothers. Three weeks' notice must be sent to both employers and governmental benefits must be divided between both parents. Employers should be aware that the law does not require written notice. However, employers should request their employees record their return dates in writing, since an employee who does not return to work on the indicated date is presumed to have resigned.

Québec Parental Insurance Plan's Benefit Structure

As stated above, paternity and parental leaves are granted without pay by the employer. Benefits are governed by the Québec Parental Insurance Plan, which provides two schemes (the basic plan and the particular plan), and fathers can choose which plan suits them better. It should be noted that paternity leave is exclusive to fathers while parental leave is shared between the parents.

Employer Obligations When Employee Returns to Work

Upon return from paternity or parental leaves, the employer must reinstate the employee in his former position with the same benefits, including the wages to which he would have been entitled to had he remained at work. If the employee's position no longer exists upon his return, the employer must recognize all the rights and privileges to which the employee would have been entitled, had he been at work at the time the position ceased to exist. For example, in an unionized work environment, an employer confronted with such a situation needs to make sure the collective agreement is respected. Furthermore, the employee's participation in any group insurance or pension plan should not be affected during his leave and respective contributions from the employer and employee should be continued.

Managing the paternity and parental leaves of several employees during the same period can be difficult for employers but, ultimately, the employer must comply with the law's requirements. However, certain arrangements can be entered into jointly by the employer and the employee to help make the coordination and transition involved with such leaves easier for the business, on the condition that the employee agrees to such arrangements.

Some examples of options that may be available to the employee include:

  • Temporarily suspending benefits in order to return to work for a certain period of time, after which the employee can use the remainder of the leave entitlement;
  • Returning to work on a part-time basis; and
  • Working an amount that is up to 25% of the value of the benefits' weekly payment during the leave, without any reduction in such benefits. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.