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Maternity and Parental Leave


 Maternity and Parental Leave Checklist - March 2014

  1. When can I choose to cease performing call or overnight shifts?
  2. How much time can I take for maternity leave?
  3. When can I begin my maternity leave?
  4. What happens if I can't work prior to the onset of maternity leave?
  5. When should I let my program know?
  6. If I don't receive a Maternity Package from Benefits three months before my expected due date, what should I do?
  1. Am I eligible for Employment Insurance Maternity/ Parental Benefits?
  2. When should I apply for EI Benefits?
  3. How can I obtain a Record of Employment from Alberta Health Services?
  4. Can I cancel my CMPA coverage during my maternity leave?
  5. What is the PARA maternity top-up benefit?
  6. When would I apply for my PARA maternity top-up benefit and when should I expect to receive this payment?
  7. Do my health and dental benefits continue during my maternity leave?
  8. Does my life and long-term disability coverage continue during my maternity leave?
  9. Can I make claims from my flexible spending account during my maternity leave?
  10. Are there any considerations that I need to take into account when applying for a waiver of training at the end of my training because of my time away for maternity leave?
  11. What is the PARA Parental Leave Benefit?
  12. Where can I find good resources on taking maternity or parental leave in Alberta?
  13. Information on breastfeeding during residency.

 

1.     When can I choose to stop performing call or overnight shifts?

Unless PARA members choose otherwise, a pregnant resident physician is not required to perform call or overnight shifts after 27 weeks gestation.

Article 9.03 (d):

Unless the Resident Physician otherwise chooses after consideration, she will not be required to perform on-call duties nor scheduled shifts in excess of twelve (12) hours in a day or between 2400 hours and 0600 hours once she has completed twenty-seven (27) weeks of gestation, or earlier if a valid medical reason is provided pursuant to the Letter of Understanding re: Accommodation in Training Due to Medical Limitations. This will not in itself necessarily incur any reduction in remuneration.

When you are planning for your maternity leave, keep in mind the research and recommendations around pregnancy. The Alberta Perinatal Health Program's consensus is that heavy lifting and prolonged standing are associated with "increased risk of preterm labour, preterm birth, low birth weight, or a small for gestational (SGA) infant." Heavy lifting is defined as repetitive lifting or carrying or lifting greater than 23 kg and excessive standing or walking is defined as standing for greater than three to four hours a day. Furthermore, the Program insists that "eliminating heavy lifting by the 20th week of pregnancy, and eliminating excessive standing by the 24th week of pregnancy restores the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes to those of unexposed women"1. Based on these factors, pregnant resident physicians should consider meeting with their programs as soon as possible to discuss how these risks can be mitigated and what their leave requirements may be.

For more information, read the Alberta Perinatal Program's Health Related Maternity Leave in the Uncomplicated Pregnancy and Birth: Reference Guide for Healthcare Providers.

2.     How much time can I take for maternity leave?

Birth mothers may take up to 52 consecutive weeks of job-protected leave in combination with their partner. However, it is important to realize that not all of this leave is considered maternity leave.

Maternity leave is for up to 17 weeks of the total leave time.  It is this time that is eligible for the "top-up" payment to ensure that the resident physician receives 90% of her salary when combined with the EI benefits paid during this time.

After 17 weeks, the mother is eligible to take up to another 35 weeks of unpaid parental leave during the first 52 weeks following the birth of a child.

3.     When can I begin my maternity leave?

You may begin maternity leave at any time up to 8 weeks before your estimated due date once you give your employer the required written notice which indicates the date your leave will begin. The latest that you may begin your maternity leave is the date of the birth of your child. Resident physicians have the option of going on special leave prior to the start of their maternity leave at the recommendation of their physician. For more information on having a healthy pregnancy, please see the Alberta Perinatal Program's Health Related Maternity Leave in the Uncomplicated Pregnancy and Birth: Reference Guide for Healthcare Providers.

4.     What happens if I can't work prior to the onset of maternity leave?

You may be eligible for paid Sick or Special Leave prior to your maternity leave. In such cases, be prepared to provide a doctor's note and advise your Program Director that you require paid sick time. Please ask your program to provide written notification to AHS Human Resources confirming the date on which your medical leave started.

Article 9.03 (c):

If the Resident Physician has a valid health-related reason for being absent from work in excess of seventeen (17) weeks, and is eligible for paid Sick or Special Leave as per Article 11, the Resident Physician may access the paid Sick or Special Leave.

5.     When should I let my program know?

Resident physicians are strongly encouraged to let their programs know as soon as they feel comfortable sharing family planning information. Good communication will help to minimize training disruptions for you and service disruptions for your program. Additional notice also helps ensure that the necessary administrative work that allows for a smooth transition to maternity leave is in place within your program, the Postgraduate Medical Education office, and AHS Benefits and Payroll.

6.     If I don't receive a Maternity Package from Benefits three months before my expected due date, what should I do?

University of Alberta resident physicians should contact Lacey Hewitt in the Medical Affairs Office at (780)735-0712. University of Calgary resident physicians should contact Wendy Mitchell in the Medical Education Office at (403)943-1253. Make sure your program has informed PGME of your maternity leave.

7.     Am I eligible for Employment Insurance Maternity/ Parental Benefits?

You must be a birth mother and have accumulated 600 insured hours within the last 52 weeks or since your last claim before you can receive EI maternity benefits. To be eligible for EI parental benefits, you must be a birth mother or father or adoptive parent and have accumulated 600 insured hours within the last 52 weeks or since your last claim.

If you are in your first year of residency and have not yet accumulated 600 hours, you may be able to include medical school hours if they fall within the last 52 weeks and if you received a stipend or honouraria for this work; in these circumstances, you will need to check with Service Canada to see if you are eligible.

8.     When should I apply for EI Benefits?

You can apply for EI as early as the eighth week before your due date. If you don't apply prior to giving birth, you must apply for EI maternity/parental benefits as soon as soon as you go on maternity leave even if you do not have your Record(s) of Employment yet. Delaying your application beyond four weeks after your last day of work may cause a loss of benefits. The date that you submit is very important, since it affects the amount of maternity benefits that your are entitled to receive. In most cases, there is a two-week waiting period before EI benefits start being paid.
You must contact the Government of Alberta to apply for EI:

9.     How can I obtain a Record of Employment from Alberta Health Services?

Ensure that your program has submitted a Leave of Absence letter to the Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) office. The AHS Benefits Service Centre, upon receiving this information from PGME, will process your LOA during your final week of earnings. A Record of Employment (ROE) will then be issued by the AHS Payroll department following the payment of your final earnings. Your ROE will be sent electronically to Service Canada with a copy mailed to your home address for your records.

If you are on sick leave prior to the birth of your baby, please call the Benefits Service Centre to advise them of the date you delivered your baby and when your last day of paid sick time is. Your ROE will then be processed as described above.

If you do not have your ROE one week after the start of your maternity leave, University of Alberta resident physicians should contact Ariana Townsend in the Medical Affairs Office at (780)735-0712. University of Calgary resident physicians should contact Wendy Mitchell in the Medical Education Office at (403)943-1253.

10. Can I cancel my CMPA coverage during my maternity leave?

You should contact the CMPA to cancel your membership for the period of time that you are not working. Call 1(800)267-6522 between 0830 and 1630 EST or check out www.cmpa-acpm.ca.

11. What is the PARA maternity top-up benefit?

The PARA maternity top-up benefit tops up your employment insurance maternity benefits for 17 weeks (2 weeks at 90% of salary to represent the EI waiting period and 15 weeks at a rate that when added to your EI payments equals 90%). You are required to fill in a Supplementary (Un)Employment Benefit form in order to be eligible for this benefit. Keep in mind that income tax and CPP will be deducted from this amount.

Article 9.03 (b):

The Resident Physician shall receive up to seventeen (17) weeks of sufficient pay inclusive of the Employment Insurance two (2) week waiting period to match ninety percent (90%) of her salary when combined with Employment Insurance benefits for maternity leave. 

12. When would I apply for my PARA maternity top-up benefit and when should I expect to receive this payment?

You can apply for your PARA maternity top-up benefit by completing the Supplementary (Un)Employment Benefit form (or PARA SUB-Plan application form) and obtaining your first EI maternity benefit confirmation; send both to the Benefits Service Centre. Provided that all the correct documentation is received in a timely manner, resident physicians will receive a lump sum cheque approximately 4.5 - 5 months after the start of their maternity leave.

IMPORTANT:  The SUB Plan Application form must be submitted within six months of a resident physician going on maternity leave.  If this deadline is not met, the top-up payment will not be processed by AHS.

13. Do my health and dental benefits continue during my maternity leave?

No, cost sharing of your health and dental coverage does not continue during your maternity leave. A resident physician has the option of purchasing continued benefits coverage by submitting the "Benefits Coverage During Leaves of Absence" form that is included in the Maternity Package you receive from AHS Benefits three months before your expected due date. This form must be submitted to Benefits prior to the start of your maternity leave. If you do opt into your health and dental benefits, you will be responsible for 100% of the health and dental benefit premiums.

14. Does my life and long-term disability coverage continue during my maternity leave?

Yes, PARA ensures that your life and long-term disability coverage continues while you are on maternity leave by covering the cost of your benefit in full. No additional paperwork is required from PARA members.

15. Can I make claims from my flexible spending account during my maternity leave?

Yes, PARA members can access their flexible spending account while on maternity leave. This benefit is not contingent on  a resident physician opting in to their health and dental coverage.

16. Are there any considerations that I need to take into account when applying for a waiver of training at the end of my training because of my time away for maternity leave?

Each university has their own waiver of training policy which can be found on its Postgraduate Medical Education website. When considering your waiver of training applications, keep in mind that the criteria for writing certification exams in Canada and the United States are different; if you are planning to write the American exam, you will need to ensure that, with your waiver of training, your length of training still meets the eligibility requirements for writing the exam.

17. What is the PARA Parental Leave benefit?

Where a resident physician has or adopts a child, but is not eligible for maternity leave, he/she is eligible for two weeks paid leave; he/she is also potentially eligible for additional unpaid leave in conjunction with Alberta maternity/parental employment benefits.

Article 9.04 (a):

In the event of the birth or adoption of a child, where a Resident Physician has not been granted maternity leave, a Resident Physician shall be granted a maximum of two (2) weeks leave of absence with full pay and benefits.

Article 9.04 (b):

In addition, a Resident Physician shall receive at his/her request additional leave without pay or benefits totalling up to fifty-two (52) weeks, inclusive of any leave taken under Articles 9.03 or 9.04 in the first fifty-two (52) weeks following the birth or adoption of a child. The Resident Physician shall be required to give appropriate notice to his/her Program Director of his/her intention regarding the timing of such leave in order to ensure that professional and patient-care responsibilities are met.

18. Where can I find good resources on taking maternity or parental leave in Alberta?

Other Resources:

Breastfeeding During Residency

Resident Physicians facing challenges with breastfeeding during residency should contact PARA.