An employee of ours finished her maternity leave, and is now on parental leave. The child was born with very complicated physical problems. She is asking for an extension of her leave period. Can the parental leave and EI benefits be extended? If so, for how long?


The period allowed for unpaid parental leave is established by employment standards legislation of the province or territory of employment, and varies between 35 to 52 weeks. Federally regulated employers, provincial and territorial jurisdictions like Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon are silent in regards to the extension of unpaid parental leave period beyond the weeks allowed. In Alberta the law specifies that there is no extension of the leave period.

However, in British Columbia and Nunavut, an employee is allowed to request from the employer an extension of the unpaid parental leave period up to 5 weeks.

EI benefits, which are governed by the Federal government Employment Insurance Act, can be extended beyond the 35 weeks when the child suffers from a physical, psychological or emotional condition that requires extended care. The employee must request such an extension from their local Human Resources and Development Canada office (HRDC). If your business is located in a province or territory that has no specified legislation regarding the extension of the parental leave period, you may have to negotiate such an extension with the employee, and think of having a policy that outlines the right to such a benefit.

Any change in the date of an employee's return requires such employee to give written notice to the employer of about two to four weeks (depending on the province or territory), with a doctor's letter before the end of the original parental leave period.

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Please Note: Any information provided in response to an HR or payroll question is not legal advice or a legal opinion. To obtain legal advice or a legal opinion, consult a lawyer.