The Trudeau government has been consulting on whether to allow combined maternity and parental benefits and unpaid leaves to be extended to up to 18 months at a lower EI benefit rate.
This proposal is misguided. It ignores the fact that many new parents cannot access or afford extended leaves under current EI benefits. It runs counter to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) trends of higher benefit levels, more accessibility and the introduction of dedicated paternity/second parent leaves. The Trudeau government’s proposal ignores the importance of a publicly-funded, affordable and quality child care program in supporting parents and families.
The current Employment Insurance maternity and parental leave regime is limited and excludes many due to the 600 required hours in the previous year and the low wage replacement of 55% up to maximum insurable earnings of $50,800. Compare this with Quebec’s Parental Insurance Plan where parents only need $2000 in insurable earnings in the previous year and receive 70% wage replacement under the basic plan. These changes have increased access to leave benefits for all women but particularly low-income women.
CUPE has also called on the federal government to introduce a dedicated second parent leave. The introduction of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) in 2006 with a five-week ‘use it or lose it’ paternity/second parent leave has significantly increased the number of fathers taking leave, which helps promote gender equity in caregiving responsibilities.
You can read CUPE’s submission to the government here.