Cue a collective fist pump from parents-to-be across the country: you’re about to get the option for a lot more parental leave.
While the 2017 Liberal budget contained few surprises, it did contain one very refreshing piece of news: Canadian parents will soon have the option to extend their parental leave to 18 months. The parental leave changes are ostensibly intended to lessen the burden of high childcare costs for babies aged 12-18 months – to which we say, it’s about time.
Not surprisingly, the new option for 18 months of leave doesn’t provide additional funding to parents who choose to make use of that extra time (yeah, we’re not shocked, either). Rather, the 18-month leave period will simply stretch parents’ current overall Employment Insurance (EI) benefits over a longer period, resulting in smaller paycheques for moms and dads taking the longer period of time off work. For those of you crunching the numbers, that means that parents who choose to stay home longer will receive a lower EI benefit rate of 33 per cent of their average weekly earnings, rather than the current rate of 55 per cent. Translation? More time with the littles: amazing. No extra funding to support it: not so much.
And of course, this isn’t an entirely equitable proposal. Critics point out that providing an option for additional months of leave doesn’t exactly help lower income families, self-employed parents and freelancers who can’t access EI benefits, don’t get employer top-ups and often have to return to work earlier out of financial necessity. But overall (and despite the fact that we’re a little bummed we only got 12 months for our own mat leaves), we’re pretty thrilled for the future moms, dads and babies who will be the lucky beneficiaries of this not-insignificant change to federal policy.
Baby steps in the right direction, right?