WIN: Parental leave top-up coming even sooner

Today the federal government announced an expedited five additional weeks of parental leave, available as a “use it or lose it” benefit top-up when both parents agree to share time off to care for a newborn.

The benefit will be available to eligible two-parent families, including adoptive and same-sex couples. It will provide greater flexibility — especially for moms — to return to work sooner if they so choose, and will incentivize the second parent’s participation in leave, which we think is a great idea for dads!

The new top-up will only be available to parents of a child born or adopted on or after March 17, 2019 — three months earlier than originally announced, making 24,000 more parents eligible.


For years we've been pushing for a New Deal for Families, which has three key planks:

  1. Expanding parental leave

  2. Building $10aDay child care

  3. Enabling more flex time at work

Today’s news confirms an announcement from the 2018 federal budget, and then accelerates it, making it more affordable to spend more time at home with a newborn.

The current way parental leave works in Canada is parents can share up to 35 weeks of parental care, on top of 15 weeks of maternal care, and there are a couple options to do this.

You can take it over the standard 35 weeks, or, families can opt for an extended leave by taking that same amount of money and stretching it over a period of 61 weeks.

One of the critiques we had when the extended program was announced was for a lot of families across Canada, it’s not actually affordable to take that same amount of money and just stretch it way further.

What we need is additional funding into the parental leave program to make spending time with a newborn more affordable. The five week, “use it or lose it” top-up is a good step in that direction.

Intended outcome

Jurisdictions like Quebec and other countries that have implemented similar benefits have found they make a real impact on the way families share the responsibility and joy of raising a newborn:

This type of benefit has been proven to encourage a more balanced sharing of child care responsibilities that goes well beyond the five-week period.

For example, in 2016 Stats Can reported 80 per cent of new fathers in Quebec claimed or intended to claim parental benefits, in part because of leave that was specifically reserved for them. In the rest of Canada, which does not provide second parent leave, this same figure was only 12 per cent.


The fine print

This benefit would increase the duration of EI parental leave by up to five weeks in cases where the second parent agrees to take a minimum of five weeks using the standard parental option of 55 per cent of earnings for 12 months. Alternatively, where families have opted for extended parental leave at 33 per cent of earnings for 18 months, the second parent would be able to take up to eight weeks of additional parental leave.

The maximum period that any one parent can take of parental leave is limited to 35 weeks under the standard option. To access the additional five weeks of benefits, any combination of sharing will be eligible. For example, this could include 20 weeks for one parent and 20 weeks for the other, or 35 weeks for one and five weeks for the other. Equivalent conditions will exist for parents who choose the extended parental leave option.

Read the full government backgrounder here.


Let’s do more

Compared to a generation ago, starting a family today is much more difficult. Our flagship family policy proposal, the New Deal for Families, pinpoints three policies to reduce the time, income, and service squeeze for those who want or have young kids — but we need your support if we're going to see more progress:



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