The Alberta Employment Standards Code (Section 52) prohibits the termination of an employee who is on maternity or parental leave. This means that a woman on maternity leave cannot be terminated. The single exception to this rule is when the business is shut down or suspended.
If an employer deems it necessary to terminate a woman on maternity leave, they must provide her with payment in lieu of notice (termination pay) along with any severance she is entitled to during the leave and termination notice period.
The length of your termination notice period is dependant on several factors, including:
- The length of your employment
- The position you held
- The current market to find a new job in the same field
- Your salary or wage
The Employment Standards Code defines reasonable termination notice periods as follows:
- 1 week – if you were employed for less than 2 years (but more than 90 days)
- 2 weeks – if you were employed for less than 4 years (but a minimum of 2)
- 4 weeks – if you were employed for less than 6 years (but a minimum of 4)
- 5 weeks, if you were employed for less than 8 years (but a minimum of 6)
- 6 weeks – if you were employed for less than 10 years (but a minimum of 8)
- 8 weeks – if you were employed for 10 years or more
So, if a woman is given payment in lieu of termination notice, she must receive her salary or wages for at least the minimum notice period as well as any severance she would receive during that notice period in addition to the length of her maternity leave.
This is the minimum entitlement according to the law. Because the length of termination notice is dependent on so many variables, it is highly recommended that employers seek legal counsel before terminating a woman on maternity leave to avoid wrongful dismissal charges.
Likewise, if you have been terminated during maternity leave or while you were pregnant, be sure to consult with an employment lawyer to ensure you receive everything you’re entitled to.