7 Po­ten­tial parental leave prob­lem

Van­cou­ver Prof: In­creas­ing leave with­out in­creas­ing ben­e­fits is risky Tues­day, November 14, 2017

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - VANCOUVER - Jen St. De­nis

The way a change to parental leave has been de­signed by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could fur­ther en­trench the al­ready wide gap be­tween what men and women earn and the kinds of jobs they hold, a UBC pro­fes­sor is warn­ing.

“When we’re talk­ing about parental leave and ef­fec­tively length­en­ing parental leave from 12 to 18 months, from the view­point of gen­der equal­ity — which this fed­eral gov­ern­ment talks a lot about — is re­ally risky,” said Paul Ker­shaw, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia’s School of Pop­u­la­tion and Pub­lic Health.

Ker­shaw is also the founder of Gen­er­a­tion Squeeze, a lobby group for peo­ple in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Gen­er­a­tion Squeeze has for many years pro­posed ex­tend­ing parental leave to 18 months, but with an im­por­tant ad­di­tion: the group’s pol­icy in­cluded dou­bling the em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ben­e­fits new par­ents are en­ti­tled to.

That would mean fa­thers, who tend to be the higher-earn­ing part­ner, would be more likely to take leave, Ker­shaw said.

In con­trast, the new fed­eral pol­icy re­quires fam­i­lies who want to take 18 months to do so on the same 12 monthsworth of em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ben­e­fits.

That’s led some crit­ics to point out the change will most likely ben­e­fit Cana­dian par­ents who al­ready have high in­comes.

The pol­icy comes into ef­fect on Dec. 3 and will ap­ply to fed­er­ally-reg­u­lated work­places, but prov­inces will have to pass their own leg­is­la­tion.

With women al­ready earn­ing just $0.87 to ev­ery $1 earned by men, with much of that gap at­trib­uted to women spend­ing time out of the work­force to raise chil­dren, Ker­shaw said the pol­icy as it stands could re­in­force gen­der im­bal­ance in some pro­fes­sions.

Stud­ies show that longer parental leave, es­pe­cially for longer than one year, “cor­re­sponds with re­in­forc­ing oc­cu­pa­tional seg­re­ga­tion and ul­ti­mately a gen­der earn­ings gap for women,” Ker­shaw said.

Along with length­en­ing parental leave and in­creas­ing ben­e­fits, Gen­er­a­tion Squeeze also rec­om­mended a $10 a day child­care pro­gram and in­cen­tives to en­cour­age em­ploy­ers to of­fer more flex­i­ble work sched­ules.

Ker­shaw ac­knowl­edged that ex­tend­ing leave to 18 months could ease the child­care squeeze many fam­i­lies ex­pe­ri­ence, be­cause there are few child­care spa­ces for chil­dren un­der 18 months and the cost is higher.

In fact, women who live in Canada’s most ex­pen­sive cities for child­care are less likely to work, ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics Canada.

Nor­mal­iz­ing fa­thers’ de­ci­sion to take pa­ter­nity leave would also be an im­por­tant step for­ward for Cana­dian so­ci­ety, Ker­shaw said, just as work­places adapted to women tak­ing oneyear ma­ter­nity leaves.

“All the data shows that get­ting dads in­volved early on with their in­fants, it’s good for kids, it’s good for spousal re­la­tion­ships and it’s good for gen­der equal­ity,” he said.

Wave­break­me­dia/iStock

Parental leave should be de­signed to en­cour­age fa­thers to take time off to care for their chil­dren, says ubC pro­fes­sor Paul Ker­shaw.

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