As of December 3rd 2017 the federal government announced the following:
- New mothers and fathers planning to take parental leave will be eligible for employment insurance benefits over a longer period of time (18 months).
- A caregiver benefit – 35 weeks to care for a critically ill or injured child and 15-week leave to care for a critically ill or injured adult
- Soon-to-be-mothers will also be able to claim maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before the baby is due.
However, the government will not be increasing the value of the employment insurance benefit, it only spreads the amount over the period of up to 18 months at a lower benefit rate off 33% of their average weekly pay. The current parental benefits will not change and continue to be available at the existing benefit rate of 55% over a period of up to 12 months. This news brings options to Canadian families who will as of December 3rd, 2017 be able to choose an extended parental leave of 18-months. The Liberals have budgeted $886 million over the next five years for theses new measures, and $204.8 million a year after that.
But some advocates warn that not every family will benefit from these changes.
What are the concerns:
- In offering the extended parental leave this choice comes with the same amount of money stretched over a longer period of time.
- Employment insurance benefits cover 55% of a parent’s salary over 12 months. That same amount will be stretched out over 18 months for those who choose the extended leave at 33% of a parent’s salary.
- Some families will not be able to actually take advantage of the changes.
- To qualify, parents must have accumulated 600 hours of insurable employment in the previous year – a criterion that remains unchanged in the latest budget, leaving some moms-to-be not eligible to receive the EI benefits. That is a great concern to women who work part-time or freelance, or have low paying jobs.
- The budget doesn’t include dedicated leave for the second parent. Nor does it increase parental leave benefits to make it easier for low-income earners to be able to afford to take leave.
- self-employed workers who have opted in to the EI system will need to have earned at least $6,888 in the last year.
At the end of the day, the 18-month leave option might not provide more money for
Canadian families, but it does offer more time and flexibility for some!