The bat­tle for baby ben­e­fits

Leave for some new par­ents to be bumped to 18 months

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page - Genna Buck

Bring­ing home a new bun­dle of joy comes with a lot of ben­e­fits: Sleep­less nights, spit-up, baby cud­dles and, for most, 12 months of par­tially paid leave.

Start­ing next month, some work­ers will have the op­tion to stretch out their ben­e­fits over 18 months. It’s pop­u­lar with par­ents; less so with busi­nesses. And it puts Canada near the top of the pack when it comes to fam­ily leave.

Here’s how we com­pare.

Canada

Un­der the cur­rent Em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance (EI) sys­tem, birth moth­ers get 15 weeks of ma­ter­nity leave, plus an ad­di­tional 35 weeks of parental leave to split be­tween par­ents how­ever they like. In both cases, par­ents can get 55 per cent of their usual earn­ings, up to a max­i­mum of $543 per week — but only if they qual­ify for EI. Many peo­ple who haven’t worked enough hours or who have opted out of EI be­cause they’re self-em­ployed can’t ac­cess the ben­e­fit. Right now, these ben­e­fits can be col­lected up to one year af­ter baby’s birth. Start­ing Dec. 3, some par­ents will have the op­tion to spread them out over 18 months in­stead. The changes only ap­ply to em­ploy­ees in fed­er­ally reg­u­lated sec­tors such as pub­lic ser­vice, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and bank­ing. On­tario plans to of­fer the ex­ten­sion to all work­ers. Other prov­inces have yet to fol­low suit. Que­bec has its own sys­tem, with up to 55 weeks of par­tially paid leave, as well as three to five weeks of “use it or lose it,” non­trans­fer­able pa­ter­nity leave for fa­thers.

United States

The U.S. catches a lot of flack for be­ing the only eco­nom­i­cally de­vel­oped coun­try with no na­tion­ally paid ma­ter­nity or parental leave. There are 12 weeks of un­paid ma­ter­nity leave for pub­lic ser­vants and work­ers at larger com­pa­nies. Some states of­fer six weeks of dis­abil­ity pay to moth­ers dur­ing late preg­nancy, birth and re­cov­ery. A few states step in with paid fam­ily leave af­ter the dis­abil­ity pay­ments run out, but even the best, Cal­i­for­nia and New Jer­sey, of­fer just six weeks.

Swe­den

There’s a rea­son this Scan­di­na­vian na­tion has a rep­u­ta­tion as a par­ents’ par­adise. It of­fers 480 days of parental leave. For 390 of those days, par­ents get 80 per cent of their pre­vi­ous pay, up to about $4,500 CDN per month. Of the to­tal, 90 days are specif­i­cally re­served for moth­ers and 90 days for fa­thers. They can split the rest as they see fit.

Es­to­nia

Swe­den’s pol­icy for par­ents may seem sweet, but Es­to­nia’s is down­right utopian. Moms get 140 days of ma­ter­nity leave at 100 per cent of their pre­vi­ous pay (if they weren’t work­ing be­fore, they get min­i­mum wage). Dads get 10 days at the same rate, and then one par­ent gets to take leave and col­lect a child­care al­lowance un­til their child turns three. It’s also worth 100 per cent of their pre­vi­ous av­er­age earn­ings, up to a gen­er­ous cap of $4,319 CDN per month.

Is­tock

twelve per cent of Cana­dian dads out­side Que­bec claim at least some paid parental leave, as per Statis­tics Canada.

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