We have come a long way in terms of employee rights. Back in 1872, we had our first annual Labour Day parade. During those days it was a crime to be a part of a union in Canada, under the law of criminal conspiracy. This parade called for the release of 24 imprisoned leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who had been arrested for going on strike to reduce their work week to a mere 58 hours. Today, the standard workweek is between 40 to 48 hours.
Many employees do not know their rights and obligations thoroughly. This article will be divided in two parts:
- one addressing the basic rights women are entitled to (apart from the gender neutral rights) in a workplace and
- the second part will include what can be done if any employee feels her rights have been violated.
Basic rights of women employees
- Pregnant employees have the right to take pregnancy leave of up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off work. In some cases, the leave may be longer.
- Similarly, new parents have the right to take parental leave – unpaid time off work when a child is born or first comes into their care. Birth mothers who took pregnancy leave are entitled to up to 35 weeks’ leave. Those who do not take pregnancy leave and all other new parents are entitled to up to 37 weeks’ parental leave.
Note: In both the above cases, the employee needs to be working for an employer covered under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. Further, their employment needs to start 13 weeks before the baby is expected to be born. (‘due-date’ of the baby)
- An employee who has a miscarriage or stillbirth more than 17 weeks before her due date is not entitled to a pregnancy leave. However, if an employee has a miscarriage or stillbirth within the 17- week period preceding the due date, she is eligible for pregnancy leave.
- Pregnancy leave of an employee who has a miscarriage/stillbirth ends 17 weeks (maximum duration) after miscarriage or 6 weeks (minimum duration) after stillbirth.
- Also, as an employee of an employer covered under the Employee Standards Act, 2000 one is entitled to the following rights when one decides to opt for a pregnancy leave:
- Right to reinstatement: The same job or a comparable job if the previous job does not exist.
- Right to be free from penalty.
- Right to continue to participate in benefit plans that the respective employer offers.
- Right to earn credits for length of employment, length of service and seniority.
When basic rights are violated
The aggrieved employee can contact the Human Resources department of the respective company or firm regarding the problem or situation. Apart from that, there are various ways in which one can address violations at workplace. Below are a few of the many organizations that help employees:
- Workers’ Action Centre is a non-profit organization providing information, referral and support to workers.
- Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has a mandate to resolve claims of discrimination and any type of harassment brought under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
- Canadian Human Rights Commission provides dispute resolution services in cases of alleged discrimination by federally regulated organizations (e.g. banks, airlines).
Have you been or do you know a colleague who has been subjected to discrimination in the workplace because of gender bias? Help yourself and do not hesitate to help a fellow colleague in distress.
Prowse Chowne can help you with further information regarding women’s rights in the workplace and things that can be looked into to make the best of the provisions made.