How the new Canadian parental benefits measure up to other countries
Starting next month, some workers will have the option to stretch out their paid leave benefits over 18 months.
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Bringing home a bouncing new baby comes with a lot of benefits: Sleepless nights, spit-up, cuddles and, for most, 12 months of partially paid leave. Starting next month, some workers will have the option to stretch out their benefits over 18 months. It's popular with parents; less so with businesses. And it puts Canada near the top of the pack when it comes to family leave. Here's how we compare.
Under the current Employment Insurance (EI) system, birth mothers get 15 weeks of maternity leave, plus an additional 35 weeks of parental leave to split between parents however they like. In both cases, parents can get 55 per cent of their usual earnings, up to a maximum of $543 per week — but only if they qualify for EI. Many people who haven't worked enough hours or who have opted out of EI because they're self-employed and can't access the benefit.
Right now, these benefits can be collected up to one year after baby's birth. Starting Dec. 3, some parents will have the option to spread them out over 18 months instead.
The changes only apply to employees in federally regulated sectors such as public service, telecommunications and banking. Ontario plans to offer the extension to all workers. Other provinces have yet to follow suit.
Quebec has its own system, with up to 55 weeks of partially paid leave, as well as three to five weeks of "use it or lose it," non-transferable paternity leave for fathers.
Across the pond, parents have it pretty good. There are different maternity and parental programs for parents in different situations (working, self-employed or recently unemployed), but all together benefits for both parents usually add up to 52 weeks and are paid at 90 per cent of previous earnings, up to a max of $235 CDN per week.
The first six weeks of maternity leave are paid out at 90 per cent of previous earnings to moms who worked on salary before their pregnancy, no matter how much they were making. Unlike Canadian parents, moms and dads in the UK can take parental leave, go back to work for a while, then go back on leave up to three times.
The United States catches a lot of flack worldwide for being the only economically developed country with no national paid maternity or parental leave at all. There are twelve weeks of unpaid maternity leave for public servants and workers at larger companies. Some states offer six weeks of disability pay to mothers during late pregnancy, birth and recovery. A few states step in with paid family leave after the disability payments run out, but even the best, California and New Jersey, offer just six weeks. Some employers are generous. But other than that, moms and dads are on their own.
There's a reason this Scandinavian nation has a reputation as a parents' paradise. It offers 480 days of parental leave. For 390 of those days, parents get 80 per cent of their previous pay, up to a maximum of about $4,500 CDN per month. Of the total, 90 days are specifically reserved for mothers and 90 days for fathers. They can split the rest as they see fit.
Sweden's policy for parents may seem sweet, but Estonia's is downright utopian. Moms get 140 days of maternity leave at 100 per cent of their previous pay (if they weren't working before, they get minimum wage). Thanks to changes that are taking effect between 2018-2020, dads get 30 days (recently increased from 10) at the same rate, and then one parent gets to take leave and collect a childcare allowance until their child turns three. It's also worth 100 per cent of their previous average earnings, up to a generous cap of $4,319 CDN per month.
PARENTING BY THE NUMBERS
12 per cent
The portion of Canadian dads outside Quebec who claim at least some paid parental leave
83 per cent
Portion of Quebec dads who take at least some of the dedicated paternity leave
The time it takes most women to physically and emotionally recover after birth (a C-section or complicated delivery may take longer), according to the journal Birth
By this age, about half of babies sleep through the night, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics
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