While the thought of sharing your mat leave with your partner may not be ideal for some, the idea of splitting time off with your baby now comes with an added perk: five extra weeks with your little one. Canada’s newest parental sharing benefit, announced in the 2018 budget, came into play on March 17, 2019 with the hope of improving gender equality when it comes to raising children.
The Employment Insurance parental sharing benefit applies to both the 12-month and 18-month leaves for adoptive, same sex and opposite-sex parents. The standard 35-week option will increase to 40 weeks, with neither parent taking more than 35 weeks, while the extended 61-week option will stretch to a maximum of 69 weeks, with a 61-week cap for either parent.
In order to get the benefit, the parents must both be on the same parental benefit option (standard or extended) and the claim must be for children born or put up for adoption on or after March 17.
Of course, the parents also have to be eligible for parental leave, which means having insurable employment (losing a chunk of your paycheques to EI premiums each month) and enough work hours to qualify—that’s at least 600 hours of insurable employment either 52 weeks prior to the start of benefits (or the period since the start of your last EI benefit if they’re in the same year). Parental leave follows 15 weeks of maternity leave offered to biological and surrogate mothers.
With 85 percent of claims for parental Employment Insurance made by women, the goal of this new benefit is to incentivize more couples to put less weight on the mothers or primary caregivers, who sometimes face obstacles in re-entering the workforce.
“Providing women with equal economic opportunities will drive innovation and support middle class families. The new parental sharing benefit will give parents extra flexibility and encourage Canadians to share the work of raising their children more equally,” said The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, of the new plan.