Pregnant or breastfeeding workers may be entitled to preventive withdrawal if reassignment to another position or other duties is not possible. This measure allows them to stop working and receive an income replacement indemnity. Preventive withdrawal may be granted during pregnancy but also while breastfeeding.
Conditions for preventive withdrawal
Preventive withdrawal may be granted when it is impossible for the employer to:
- eliminate at source the hazards present in the workplace and described in the certificate
- adapt the worker’s position or modify some of her duties
- offer the worker a reassignment to other duties that she is capable of performing (immediately or later)
In cases where the pregnancy endangers the health of the worker or that of the unborn child, special maternity leave rather than preventive withdrawal applies.
Wages and indemnities paid by the employer
During preventive withdrawal, the worker is entitled to an income replacement indemnity. First, the date the worker stops working must be determined to know when to pay her the indemnity. This date is:
- the day she gives her employer her “Certificat visant le retrait préventif et l'affectation de la travailleuse enceinte ou qui allaite”, in the case of immediate withdrawal
- the day after she gave the employer the certificate, if she was working that day or
- the day after the last day worked, if withdrawal is not immediate
First 5 working days
For the first 5 working days the worker is on preventive withdrawal, her employer must pay her 100% of her regular wages. These are the wages paid to her for the days normally worked as stipulated in her employment contract and according to the schedule of main activities of the establishment where the worker is employed. The CNESST does not reimburse the employer for this amount.
If the employer refuses to pay the worker her wages for the first 5 working days of preventive withdrawal, she may file a complaint with the CNESST or file a grievance.
Next 14 days
After the first 5 working days and for the next 14 full days, the employer must pay the worker an indemnity equivalent to 90% of her net income. This is equal to her annual gross income less deductions for federal and provincial income tax, the Québec Pension Plan, the Québec Parental Insurance Plan and employment insurance for the days she would normally have worked. The indemnity may not exceed the current maximum annual insurable earnings. The CNESST will reimburse the employer this amount.
If the employer refuses to pay the worker her income replacement indemnity, she may file a complaint with the CNESST or file a grievance.
Indemnity paid by the CNESST
At the end of the 14 days, we pay the income replacement indemnity to the worker. The indemnity is paid every 2 weeks and is equivalent to 90% of the net income. The income replacement indemnity is not taxable. The gross annual income used to calculate the income replacement indemnity may not exceed the current maximum annual insurable earnings.
Change in the expected date of delivery
If the expected date of delivery changes, the date the indemnity ends will be adjusted. In this case, the worker's physician must inform us of this change or the worker must send us a document signed by her physician attesting to the change. We must receive it no later than 4 weeks (28 calendar days) before the expected date of delivery indicated on the certificate.
End of payment
The worker is eligible for the CNESST income replacement indemnity until 4 weeks before the week of the expected date of delivery. At that time, she may begin to receive benefits under the Québec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). If the worker is not eligible for the QPIP, she may receive the CNESST indemnity until the date of delivery. In this case, she must send us the decision letter from the Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale indicating that she cannot receive parental insurance benefits.
Payment of the indemnity ends on a Saturday to harmonize with the payment of QPIP benefits which begins on a Sunday.
In the case of preventive withdrawal while breastfeeding, the worker is entitled to this for as long as she is breastfeeding.
In some circumstances, payment of the indemnity may be reduced or interrupted.
Reduction or interruption of payment of the income replacement indemnity
During preventive withdrawal, the income replacement indemnity may be reduced if the worker has another job for which she receives wages.
We can also permanently stop payment of the indemnity when there is no longer any hazard for the worker or her child. For example:
- the worker has been reassigned
- the employment contract ends
- the company shuts down
- the worker is laid off or resigns
- the worker gives birth or the pregnancy is terminated
- the worker stops breastfeeding
Payment may also be temporarily suspended if the worker is no longer exposed to the hazard for a period of more than 7 consecutive days. For example, a teacher who stops working during the summer.
The worker and the employer must inform the CNESST of any changes that could affect the duration or payment of the income replacement indemnity by completing the “Avis de changement de situation” form enclosed with the letter of eligibility.
Maintenance of employment benefits
The worker retains all the benefits of the job she held before her preventive withdrawal, including her regular wages. After her preventive withdrawal, the employer must reinstate the worker in her job.