School Board Must Pay Maternity Benefit Top-up to Laid-off Workers

As a result of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Greater Essex Country District School Board v. OSSTF, District 9, an Ontario school board will be required to pay approximately $60,000 in back pay of pregnancy leave top-up benefits.

Educational support staff employed by the school board are paid hourly, and are laid off during the summer months. Their collective agreement provides that, when an employee is on pregnancy leave, a six-week top-up of the employee’s employment insurance entitlement will be provided. However, the school board did not pay this top up to employees who went on pregnancy leave during the summer lay-off period.

In 2007, the matter was referred to arbitration. The arbitrator found that the fact that an employee was not working and receiving wages at the time of her child’s birth did not limit her entitlement to the top-up. The school board successfully appealed this decision, while the union was successful on appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court ultimately denied the school board’s application for leave to appeal, thereby affirming the arbitrator’s decision and requiring the employer to pay the pregnancy leave top-ups retroactively.