No maternity leave for adoptive mothers, court rules

Court says the physical needs of biological mothers after giving birth entitles them to extra 15 weeks of leave
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

The issue of maternity leave and the rights of adoptive families has come to the forefront recently with the saga of British Columbia mother Patti Tomasson. Tomasson adopted infants in 1999 and 2003 and in each case requested and was denied maternity leave benefits in addition to the parental leave benefits adoptive parents are normally entitled to.

Tomasson took the matter to the Employment Insurance Commission, claiming the denial of the extra 15 weeks of maternity leave benefits given to birth mothers discriminated against adoptive mothers and their need to bond with their babies. Her complaint and subsequent appeals were dismissed, most recently by the Federal Court of Appeal. The court ruled maternity leave benefits, as defined in the Employment Insurance Act, are for the sole purpose of recovering from child birth and thus denying them to adoptive mothers is not discrimination.