As of January 1, 2020, Bermuda employees are entitled to increased paid and unpaid maternity leave, and, for the first time, paid and unpaid paternity leave. Bermuda’s Parliament included the provisions in the Employment (Maternity Leave Extension and Paternity Leave) Amendment Act 2019, which amended the Employment Act 2000 (EA 2000). The act received royal assent on October 8, 2020.

Paid maternity leave has been extended to 13 weeks for employee mothers who have completed at least 1 year of continuous employment or who will have done so by the expected date of delivery. This is increased from the previous entitlement of 8 weeks paid and 4 weeks unpaid leave. If continuous employment is less than 1 year, the maternity benefit has been increased from 8 weeks unpaid leave to 13 weeks unpaid leave.

The amended EA 2000 also introduced paternity leave, granting 5 consecutive days of paid paternity leave for employee fathers who have completed at least one year of continuous employment or who will have done so by the date of the child’s birth. If the employee has been employed for less than 1 year, he is entitled to 5 consecutive days of unpaid paternity leave. The employee must be the father of the child and submit to his employer a medical certificate verifying the pregnancy and the estimated date of the child’s birth. Both parents must apply for leave at least 4 weeks before the day they intend to begin leave. Paternity leave may only be taken once during the 12-month period following the date of the child’s birth and must be taken within a period not exceeding 14 weeks from that date (intended to cover the first week of the mother’s expected return to work).

It is hoped that by allowing both parents time to bond with their newborn child, the changes in leave entitlements will not only begin to address gender inequality in the workplace, but also acknowledge and place value on each parent’s contribution to the family unit.

Also effective January 1, 2020, employees may take up to 5 days of paid vacation leave after 6 months’ continuous employment. Previously, under the EA 2000, an employee could only take 10 days paid vacation leave per year after completing 1 year of continuous employment. Under the amended EA 2000, such leave is an advance on (and credit towards) the annual entitlement of 10 days, which is triggered after 1 year of continuous service. The effect is that, as before, during the first 2 years of continuous employment, an employee is still only entitled to a total of 10 days paid vacation leave.

Employees on maternity, paternity, or vacation leave cannot lawfully be given notice of termination during leave periods, and their employment is deemed to be continuous during any period of such leave from work. Thus, time on leave counts towards total length of service when calculating redundancy pay and considering accrued entitlements. If the contractual or some other statutory leave benefit is more generous than the minimum statutory leave benefit requirements set out in the EA 2000, the more generous benefit prevails. Parties cannot lawfully contract out of leave entitlements in the EA 2000.

Written by Juliana M. Snelling and Gambrill Robinson of Canterbury Law Limited and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins

© 2020 Canterbury Law Limited and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, P.C.