In addition to having the right to refuse dangerous work under Part II of the Code, a worker who is pregnant or nursing can cease, for a very short period, to perform her job with full pay and benefits if she believes that continuing any of her current job functions could pose a risk to her health or that of the foetus or child (s.132(1)).
The worker must consult with a qualified medical practitioner of her choice as soon as possible to establish whether there is a risk (s.132(2)).
When a decision is made, the worker must go back to work (s.132(3)) unless they are re-assigned under Part III of the Canada Labour Code or Treasury Board Policy, Chapter 13.
The employer can, in consultation with the worker, reassign her to another job that would not pose a risk to her health or to that of the foetus or child (s.132(4)).
During the period she ceases to perform her job under these provisions, the worker is considered to continue to hold the job and continues to receive the same wages and benefits, whether or not she has been reassigned to another job (s.132(5)).
This section is only designed to cover a very short period extending from the moment when a pregnant or nursing worker believes she could be exposed to a dangerous workplace hazard and stops as soon as a medical certificate is issued by a qualified medical practitioner of her choice.
Coverage is then provided under sections 204,205, 205.1 and 205.2 of the Canada Labour Code, Part III or the Treasury Board Policy, Chapter 13, Maternity-related Reassignment or Leave.
The coverage provided under Part III of the Code and the Treasury Board Policy is limited to a right to job modification or reassignment to a safer job.
If it is impossible to modify the job or reassign the pregnant or nursing worker, leave without pay is available.
The PSAC continues to pressure for improved protection for pregnant and nursing workers. There is still no commitment from the federal government in establishing a complete maternity protection regime similar to the one in Québec.