As I was preparing myself for my maternity leave, all I could focus on was bringing this new life into the world. I did not want to think about all the changes that were happening at my workplace and did not want to overthink why my position was not filled by anyone but instead pieces of my job were given to different staff members. Why would I invest that extra energy elsewhere when I needed it for my baby? Besides I was going on maternity leave so I had to come back, right?!
Well, wrong. There are many situations that can occur that can change your opportunities in the workplace. Here is my story of how I lost my job before returning from my maternity leave.
During Maternity Leave
As I cared for my little one, I stayed in contact with my colleagues to keep myself in the loop and knew that changes were still being made. The landscape of the organization was changing rapidly and I knew changes were coming soon for me. I did not want to focus on the possibility of losing my job as I wanted to make sure that my baby had my full attention.
A month prior to my return date, I got "that" call that many dread; the layoff call. I was informed that due to cuts in the organization, my position and department have been eliminated. Went in for a meeting, where my options were given to me which were: take another position that fit my skills with a lower pay and further travel time; or take the severance package. Before making a decision I had to look at the law, my rights and my options. To some this decision would be easy to make but I had to think of my new family.
The Law in Ontario
We always need to educate ourselves on what our rights are in the workplace and the laws. Here is what I learned that I did not know before:
"Employees on leave have the right to continue participation in certain benefit plans and continue to earn credit for length of employment, length of service, and seniority. In most cases, employees must be given their old job back at the end of their pregnancy or parental leave."
"Employees on pregnancy or parental leave have several rights. In most cases, an employee who takes a pregnancy or parental leave is entitled to:
the same job the employee had before the leave began; or
a comparable job, if the employee's old job no longer exists."
"If an employer has dismissed an employee for legitimate reasons that are totally unrelated to the fact that the employee took a leave, the employer does not have to reinstate the employee."
From reading our laws and discussing with a couple of labour lawyers, the employer in my case did everything legally. My position being eliminated had nothing to do with me being on leave and therefore, they are able to lay me off. In addition, the employer and the union in my case, did provide me with options to review and consider. Please note that if your workplace has a union, the collective agreement should always be better than the law in protecting employees. Therefore, it is important to know your collective agreement.
My Family Decision
It was now time to sit with my husband and discuss it all. We decided the best option for our family was for me to take the severance package. It did not make sense for me to travel further and earn less as I would be spending more this way. I would also be away from my daughter so much longer and that would not be beneficial for my family. Not to mention how expensive daycare or even a sitter would be. We decided for me to stay home to care for our daughter for another year until my mom retires. Of course financially it is hard on one income but with a savings mind set and positivity, anything is possible.
My Advice for Others
This is not the best situation for any mom to be in as it is a stressful one for any family. My advice to new moms is as follows:
- Educate yourself on the laws and your rights in your province and country
- If your workplace has an union, know your collective agreement
- Find out about severance packages and your entitlement in your specific workplace. This can be different in different countries and provinces.
- In Ontario, you are entitled to receive Maternity Leave benefits while you are home for 52 weeks. If you do get laid off before you start working again, then you do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI). For more info on EI, click here.
- Stay work-savvy while you are on maternity leave
- Before going on maternity leave, save work you have accomplished for your professional portfolio, performance evaluations and professional contacts.
- Update your resume while the details of your position are still fresh on your mind. It is always great to keep your resume updated even if you are not going on maternity leave.
- While on leave, stay connected with your manager and colleagues. This is a great way to be kept up to date with the latest.
- Be active on social media networking sites as it helps make new connections and steward your current connections.
Above all, stay positive and know it's not the end. I am thankful for the opportunities that I had with this employer for the last ten years. I am grateful for the experiences, knowledge, confidence and the friendships that I gained. I know that something better is on the horizon for me and this is only the beginning. In the meantime, I will continue to do the most important job in the world, being a mother to my daughter and spend this precious time with her.
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