New moms or dads in Alberta are now entitled to take up to a full year of parental leave.

The provincial government unveiled its new employment leave regulations Wednesday.

Until now, the government provided for the shortest maternity leave in the country -- just 18 weeks. Adoptive parents got just two months to care for their new children when most provinces provided for eight months and fathers weren't eligible for any leave. But Clint Dunford, the minister of human resources and employment, says that has all changed, effective immediately.

"Today's announcement, gives Alberta parents the opportunity to spend up to one year with a new baby or an adopted child, secure in the knowledge that their jobs will be protected," he says.

Dunford says Alberta was forced to make the changes when the federal government extended employment insurance benefits for new parents. He says the new rules bring Alberta in line with the rest of the country.

"Birth mothers will be able to take 52 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave from their jobs when they have a baby, 15 weeks of maternity leave and 37 weeks of parental leave," he says. "Fathers and or adopted parents will also be eligible for 37 weeks of parental leave."

Dunford also says he understands many businesses don't like the idea of losing an employee for a whole year.

"These changes will have an impact on Alberta businesses," he admits, "but we are balancing the extended leave provisions with the strictest notice requirements and eligibility provisions in this country."

To be eligible for extended parental leave, the employee must have worked for the company for 52 continuous weeks. Employees must also give six weeks written notice before going on leave and four weeks notice before coming back.