Work and pregnancy

Most women today work during their pregnancy, and many even maintain a busy workload up to a few days before the baby’s born. However, safety should always be your number one priority.

A pregnant or nursing worker can stop performing her duties if she considers that the continuation of her current tasks may pose a risk to her, the fetus’ or the child’s health.

In Quebec, this right applies to workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Plan. Unfortunately, this law does not apply to persons working in enterprises under federal jurisdiction; in these companies, the Canada Labour Code applies.

The Canada Labour Code, part II, does not provide the same rights as Quebec’s Occupational Health and Safety Plan in terms of preventive withdrawal; it is a lot more restrictive.

Pregnant and nursing employees may remove themselves from possible danger until a medical certificate has been obtained. This provision applies in the case of a risk to the health of the employee, the foetus or the nursing child. An employee may cease to perform her job if, by reason of the pregnancy or nursing, she believes that some or all of her duties constitute a risk.

When can I exercise this right ?

From the beginning of the pregnancy until you are no longer nursing.

How can I exercise this right?

By informing your employer and consulting with a medical practitioner of your choice to establish that there is a risk.

Who must I notify?

With your consent, your employer will notify the work place health and safety committee or the health and safety representative.

Can my employer assign me to another job?

Yes. In consultation with you, your employer may assign you to another job that does not pose a risk to your or to your foetus or child.

During the assignment to another job, do I receive the same wages and benefits?

You must not suffer any financial or other loss as a result of exercising this right regarding the protection of your health and that of your foetus or child. Your duties and work schedule may change, but your wages and benefits do not.

When must I establish that there is a risk?

As soon as possible, you must have a qualified medical practitioner establish that there is a risk. The medical practitioner will determine whether there is a risk and provide a medical certificate.

What happens after the medical practitioner has made a decision?

Once the medical practitioner has made a decision as to whether or not there is a risk, you may no longer cease to perform your job under the special provision.

What must I do if the medical practitioner confirms that there is a risk?

You must refer to the current collective agreement or to Part III of the Canada Labour Code. If your employer cannot assign you to another job, you are entitled to leave without pay. You could receive some compensation under the current collective agreement, the Employment Insurance Act or your employer’s private insurance plan.

If there is no risk, may I still cease to perform my job?

If you are pregnant or nursing, you can no longer cease to perform your duties after a medical practitioner has established that there is not reasonably any risk.

Source: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

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