Fired or Laid Off While Pregnant in Ontario? You Have Rights

Samantha Kompa
Employment Law

Becoming a parent is one of life's most significant transitions, filled with a healthy mix of anticipation, planning, stress, and joy. That said, for many working parents in Ontario, this period can be overshadowed by challenges at work – sometimes related to accommodations, and in more extreme scenarios, being fired or laid off while pregnant or on maternity leave.

As a mom myself, and with experience representing working mothers, this topic is close to my heart.

If you're pregnant or on maternity leave in Ontario, and you've been laid off or fired, this post will outline some of your rights in an effort to help you successfully navigate this challenging situation.

If you've been laid off or fired while pregnant in Ontario, here's a list of some of your protections

Did you know that pregnancy is a protected ground as per the Ontario Human Rights Code? That means that an employer cannot terminate you for any reason related to your pregnancy. Ontario's legal system is designed with protections for pregnant employees and those on maternity or parental leave. These protections are grounded in several key principles and are important to know, especially if you've been wrongfully terminated:

Non-discrimination based on pregnancy or maternity leave:

  • Employers cannot make unfavourable employment decisions based on an employee's pregnancy, maternity, or parental leave status
    • This doesn't only include decisions like termination or demotion, but also being passed over for a promotion, transfer, etc.
  • Employers cannot alter the terms and conditions of employment without your consent
  • Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 even specifies that employees on maternity or parental leave must have their positions protected, ensuring that their roles cannot be eliminated solely due to their absence while on leave

Right to return following maternity or parental leave:

  • Employees are guaranteed the right to return to their role (or a comparable role) with the same compensation and employment conditions as they had before taking leave

Continuation of benefits while on maternity or parental leave:

  • Employees are entitled to continue receiving benefits, such as health and dental insurance, throughout the duration of their maternity or parental leave

Equal treatment for employees that are pregnant or on maternity leave:

  • The Ontario Human Rights Code requires equal treatment in employment without discrimination based on sex, which encompasses pregnancy and childbirth
    • If you're laid off or terminated as a result of your pregnancy, maternity, or parental leave, you may be entitled to additional damages

Duty to accommodate for pregnant employees or those returning after maternity leave:

  • Employers are required to accommodate the needs of pregnant employees and new parents to the point of undue hardship
    • This may include accommodations such as flexible working hours, leaves for medical appointments, and temporary changes to job duties

Notice of termination while pregnant or on maternity leave:

  • If an employee is terminated for reasons unrelated to their pregnancy or leave (corporate restructuring as an example), they're entitled to appropriate notice or compensation in lieu of notice

Contact an employment lawyer if you've been fired while pregnant or on maternity leave in Ontario

Because of Ontario’s many protections for employees during pregnancy, maternity or parental leave, it’s imperative to consult with an experienced employment lawyer after being laid off or terminated. They can evaluate your unique circumstance, assess whether your employer has adhered to their legal requirements, and help you navigate your next steps while acting as your advocate. 

It’s also important to remember not to sign any termination papers or agreements before consulting with a lawyer. Remember, your rights during pregnancy, maternity or parental leave are protected, and legal recourse is available to ensure these rights are upheld.

If you’ve been terminated while pregnant or on maternity leave in Ontario, Kompa Law can help. We’re a boutique employment and human rights law firm with the expertise to help you navigate this challenging situation. Request a callback to learn more.