There has been lots of news, opinion, and commentary on the 2018 Canadian federal budget and the new parental leave benefits. We generally support the idea. We also believe that more can be done to support families through options and opportunities for flexible work. The topic of balancing work and families is complex, personal and worthy of more conversation.
EI Parental Sharing Benefit
The new EI Parental Sharing Benefit allows for more weeks of parental leave when both parents take time off work to help care for an unborn child. (Source)
- Current rule: Under the standard year-long parental leave, parents can share 35 weeks of paid leave whichever way they want. Benefit is 55% of eligible earnings.
- Update: Families can take up to 40 weeks as long as the second parent claims at least 5 weeks of it.
- Current rule: Under the extended 18-month parental leave, parents can share 61 weeks of paid leave whichever way they want. Benefit is 33% of eligible earnings.
- Update: Additional 8 weeks as long as the second parent claims it.
The benefit is expected to be available in June 2019.
The new EI Parental Sharing Benefit “is meant to encourage parents to share the responsibilities of raising a child and to provide greater flexibility for mothers so they can return to the work force sooner.” (Source)
Men & Parental Leave
In our view, new parental leave benefits are a good start toward providing flexibility for mothers, but are not enough. Here’s why:
First, we made an anecdotal observation that few men in Canada take parental leave today. A quick glance at the make-up of a group for new parents, a daytime library program or a playground during school hours would suggest that men are in the strong minority.
Next, we looked for data to support or refute the observation in the 2016 Employment Insurance Coverage Survey:
- In 2016, 88.8% of all recent mothers with insurable employment received maternity or parental benefits.
- In 2016, 12.9% of all recent fathers claimed or intended to claim parental benefits.
(Note: These numbers exclude Quebec, which provides maternity and parental benefits through QPIP.)
Third, we investigated why eligible fathers typically don’t take parental leave. Economists, sociologists, and others have been asking this question in different ways for years:
- Choi (2017) finds that lower home productivity in the presence of an infant, higher rental rates of human capital, and higher wage penalties for not working for fathers are the main contributors to the low take-up of fathers. (Source)
- Marshall (2008) finds that fathers are more likely to use parental leave if their wives have the same or higher earnings and if their wives do not claim parental leave. (Source)
- Beaupre and Cloutier (2007) document that financial reasons and working conditions are important factors affecting parents’ take-up decisions. (Source)
- Payne (2004) finds that the largest determinants of men’s leave-taking behaviour are: family economics, men’s adherence to traditional gender role assignments, and their experiences with work. (Source)
Money, finances, wages, and economics seem to be the common theme.
The Missing Piece – Workplace Flexibility
At Work Evolution, we like that the government is offering additional parental leave benefits. We are also hopeful that progress will continue toward wage equality so that household finances become less of a factor. We also believe that there is a missing puzzle piece: workplace flexibility.
Men and women’s needs and priorities change when they become parents. These changes challenge the traditional structures of work, driving the need for more workplace flexibility.
Flexible work allows parents (men and women) to work in a way that supports their family and lifestyle requirements. At Work Evolution, we define flexible work as based on time (e.g. flextime, part-time), location (e.g., from home), duration (E.g., contract or seasonal). In this way, flexible work could be a new mother working from home 2 hours/day while her baby naps (part time). It could also be a new father taking two months off every year after tax season (seasonal). (Read more)
At Work Evolution, we are proud to work with organizations to define and implement flexible work programs. (Learn more)