Laid off on Mat Leave

It’s Mat Leave Monday! Sort of. Technically. You see, I’m talking about being laid off while you’re on maternity leave in Canada. And I’m talking about this now for rather personal reasons. (If you’re not familiar with how maternity leave works in Canada, you might want to read up on it first.)

I received news last Wednesday that my job had been eliminated. Which was disappointing, because I’ve worked with the company in some capacity or other for 11 years. I knew my co-workers, and I genuinely liked them and the company. I had negotiated a great part-time schedule, and it felt like a good balance. I was very happy to remain in that position while I have these little ones at home.

I was certainly not targeted. The team I was on was decimated, cut in half and then some. It was a decision made for economic reasons by a large company, probably by people who don’t even live and work in the same country. And they treated me fairly by letting me know now, so that I can have the maximum amount of time to plan.

But how can this happen, isn’t your job protected while you’re on maternity and parental leave? As it turns out, it is and it isn’t. You can’t actually be laid off while you’re on maternity leave. I haven’t received an official notice of termination, for example. I just received notice that I will likely (definitely) not have a job to come back to. So while you are on leave and receiving employment insurance (EI) benefits you will continue to be on leave and receiving EI benefits. My scheduled first day back will become my last day with the company, and on that day I will be officially laid off.

Also, you cannot be laid off just because you’re on maternity or parental leave. They can’t just decide they like your replacement better, or conclude that dealing with your baby-having-self is just too much work. But you can be laid off for completely unrelated reasons. In my case I certainly would have lost my job even if I weren’t on leave, for example. You can also be let go if your company closes, or moves, or re-structures.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to being laid off when you’re on maternity leave. The upside is that if you receive advanced notice, as I did, you have some extra time to plan that you wouldn’t otherwise receive. You will receive any severance pay, accrued vacation or benefits, and so on after your maternity leave is over. The downside, though, and this is a biggie, is that you are not eligible for EI benefits upon termination, since you will have used your entitlement while you were on maternity leave.

There is an exception if you haven’t exhausted your maternity or parental entitlements when you are laid off. In that case, you might be eligible to re-activate your claim. However, if you’re receiving severance pay you will have to claim that and so it might reduce or eliminate your benefits until your severance is paid out.

So, what about me, where am I going from here? I plan to continue on as if nothing happened until August, when my maternity leave ends. Then I will receive my severance package, which I plan to use to extend my maternity leave by an extra 6 months or so. During that 6 months I will take advantage of some career counseling and see what else is out there that I might enjoy. My hope is that this is an opportunity to discover what I really want to be when I grow up. And then, if I find myself in a position where I need to seek out full-time work, Jacob will be 18 months old and I will feel (very slightly) more comfortable being away from him for longer hours.

I’m going to be OK, I know that much for sure. But it’s a kick in the pants all the same. I imagine it was for the people who are remaining with the company, as well. Whatever happens, I wish all of my former co-workers the very best of luck. 🙂

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  1. It most definitely is a kick in the pants, especially when you’re out of the workplace, but with all these scenarios it can have a silver lining (which i’m sure you will make the most of). On a very slightly positive note, even though you’re dealing with this in relative isolation, at least you will be missing a lot of the negative and potentially unconstructive angst which can circulate around a workplace when lay-offs are in the pipeline. Your energy (well, what is left after the child-rearing!) can be spent more productively.
    Good luck!

  2. I’m sorry to hear that this door is closing for you, though as you’ve pointed out in this post, it seems that others will soon be opening for, and that may be more in line with what will be right for you then. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers,

    All best,


  3. It’s hard to change after 11 years, but I’m sure where you go next will be even better for you.
    It’s great that they gave you all this time to find something else.

    I wrote back in February that I was afraid for my job since I heard on the news that they cut 1000 positions. They haven’t told me anything yet, but I hope if they do decide to cut any positions, they give me the same courtesy that your job gave you.

    I didn’t know that EI cannot be collected. It makes sense but scary all the same. I think I’ll be keeping a close eye on my job when the time draws nearer.

  4. That is a sad thing for you to have to deal with now. I’m so sorry. I had to look over some of your older posts to understand the Canadian maternity leave. I am guessing that “EI” is employment insurance? I am very naive about all that. The laws in the USA are quite frankly atrocious by comparison. I felt lucky to get 5 full months ea with my last 2 children in ’85 and ’88. But that was using ALL accrued sick and vacation then adding 12 weeks unpaid. Every place is different. We have a union that would protect against lay-off on leave but not the fist day back..similar to your situation.. Sorry to ramble. I was just fascinated by the allotted time in Canada. I am really happy for all the Moms! You are a woman with positive energy like what was said above. Good things will come to you! Melissa

  5. I wasn’t so much as ‘laid off’ from my job as my company was bought out by a bigger company and the whole office was restructured. I am sure I could have gone back to work, but I don’t think I would have gone back to doing work I had come to love.

    It wasn’t how I would have planned things out for myself, but it did put me into a position of being able to home with the girls.

    Of course, money is tight with only have 1 salary to take care of 5 people. But, I figure, the kids won’t be little forever, and I have SOOOOO many more years to get back out of the house and bring and income in.

    Whatever you decide to do for work, I am sure you will do it with sucess – that is just who you are!

  6. I’m sorry to hear the job news. Best wishes figuring out what to do “when you grow up,” and enjoy the remaining months of leave and how amazingly the little ones grow up!

  7. Sorry to hear about this. What a bummer!

  8. It’s true it could be a great opportunity for a new start — but the timing could certainly be better. Best wishes. Your whole aura says ‘success’ to me, so I’m sure you’ll land on your feet.

  9. that just sucks. i’m sorry.

  10. Cheryl says:

    Sorry to hear about the news. But one door closing means another one is bound to open soon. And like Allison commented, your aura says “success” to me too!

    Don’t worry… I’m a fellow engineer as well (read on your twitter bio) and layoffs were happening when I was on mat leave (just finished end of April) and I decided to start something on my own just in case. Found a web consulting gig that I could do from home and decided not to return to work at all.

    All the best!

  11. I got laid off on the same day I had to attend the bank to sign mortgage documents for our first home. While everyone in the office was getting mad and ranting about how it was unfair I started laughing. The VP asked what was so funny, so I told him about my appointment at the bank and said, “one day this is going to make a great story”.

    And when the banker asked me work was I said, “I think it’s going to be slow for a while”

  12. Naghmeh says:

    Same thing happen to me ,it is really sucks ,in my company the mostly laid off people on mat leave and pregnant!!

  13. Hi, I’m in Canada as well, and one month from returning from maternity after having twins, I found out that they were eliminating my job. Mine was not a massive layoff, it was just me in my department. I wholeheartedly believe my job was targeted because I was off on maternity and they figured it was easy to do. They didn’t hire someone to replace me, but reassigned my work to someone else who basically did the same work as me.(web/graphic) I’d been there 3 years, and I filed a claim with Labour Board middle of July, and hope that they get to it soon.

    Have you heard of anyone winning against the company in these cases?

    • Hi, my situation is exactly as same as yours, I received call from my employer that my job was eliminated when my Mat leave was ended. How was your claim with Labour Board?

      Hope you may share with me. Thanks a lot.

      • I am in the same situation and and if i fight the severance package i will loose my EI claim…? DId you win or loose..this will help me decide to fight the secerance package..?

    • Hello Alex..
      Did you win or loose? I am in the same situation….just returning after a MAT leave…and now if i fight the severance package i will loose my EI hours so i will not be able to collect after 11 years?

  14. Oh, I wasn’t a reader yet when you posted this. I came to your blog through the ending posts of the Carnival of Maternity Leave, which the description saying until the end of your leave, so I had assumed you were going back! When you spoke of being a SAHM, I thought it wad your own decision… I hope I didn’t offend you with my “good for you!” comments..!! ^_^;

  15. Hey!

    I know this post is almost a year old, but I stumbled upon it tonight. I am experiencing something similar now…I was told I was to be laid off, so I went looking for a new job, found one and when I went to collect a severance package all they would give me were some holiday hours. The HR rep told me I wasn’t entitled to severance benefits because I had found a job. I have taken it up with the Labour Board. At times I feel sad about it, I liked working there and am sad that they have chosen to treat me like this…

  16. Hello, I got a call this morning from my employer of 6 years. My job has been eliminated. They are restructuring. I hope I can find a job after my MAT leave is over at the end of July. Anyone need an experienced (10 years)
    Industrial Engineer/consultant?

  17. Sorry to hear about that. I hope things are looking better for you and hope you found a new job now.

    I’m going through a very similar situation and wanted to research how severance pay and being laid off works while on mat leave. So I came across your posting. I am on mat leave right now, and the company I work for is relocating to a different province (they told us last year that they plan to move- so I had a rough idea that it will happen one day). I cannot move unfortunately and I just found out today that they have officially set a date to shut down and move next month 🙁 . They’ve to laid off all the employees (I haven’t received any notification yet though). So….since I haven’t yet been “terminated”….is it by law that benefits coverage would continue until mat leave is over? And I guess according to what you are saying… a severance package should be given at the end of the maternity leave?

    • I’m doing great, thanks. 🙂

      As I understand it, yes, the severance package is given at the end. In fact, they had to pay me for 1 days’ work, because they couldn’t lay me off before my return-to-work date. As far as I understand it, this is how things usually happen, since you can’t actually be laid off while you’re on leave.

  18. do you need to be physically back to work before the employer can give you the severance pay? My employer told me 6 months ago that my position has been eliminated and that I’ll be getting my severance package after my leave has ended.

    • As I understand it, you have to be physically back at work before you can be officially laid off. I never actually went back in to the office, but I got paid for one days’ work, because my employer had to do that. That was officially my first day back / last day of work. Then your severance pay will come when your lay-off is official.

      This works in your favour, in any case, because any pay you receive while you’re on EI may be deducted from your benefits. This way you receive all of your maternity and parental benefits in full, then when they run out you get your severance.

  19. Hi:

    My wife is in same situation. She cannot go back to EI as she has finished her allowance. Understand the employer is following ESA in Ontario however she is in disadvanatge compared to her collaegues as she has to find job in less time. Can she ask the employer on Common Law ground to increase her severance package?

    Thanks to advise.

  20. Got laid off today with 4 months left of maternity leave. Thanks for your post. It was both informative and encouraging.

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