Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Tout Expanded Parental Leave, New Caregiver Benefit as Questions Remain

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Tout Expanded Parental Leave, New Caregiver Benefit as Questions Remain

Article excerpt

Parental leave expansion hits Dec. 3: Duclos

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OTTAWA - New parents planning to begin parental leave on or after Dec. 3 will be able to spread their federal benefits over more months, but many will have to wait on provinces and their employers before they can actually get the extra time off.

When the federal government's long-promised changes to parental leave rules go into effect, eligible new parents will be able to spread 12 months of employment insurance benefits over 18 months after the birth of a child.

Other changes for family caregiver benefits and the option to take maternity benefits 12 weeks before the baby is due will also come into effect on the same date.

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the changes, first outlined in this year's federal budget, combined with the new child benefit and other changes to the EI system are all designed to give families more flexibility and help the economy as well.

"Anything that makes it easier for families to balance work and life is good for our economy, is good for our businesses," he said at an event at an Ottawa hospital.

The change in rules will automatically give workers in federally regulated workplaces like banks, transport companies, the public service and telecoms, the option of taking time off.

Provincial changes are still needed for the other 92 per cent of Canadian workers to access similar leave. So far, Ontario has publicly said it will adjust its legislation.

Affected workplaces will also have to decide how to amend existing leave policies and collective agreements that spell out issues like salary top-ups.

"It's only certain companies that will do that, but certainly they'll have to fit it over the framework," said employment lawyer Natalie MacDonald of MacDonald & Associates.

The measures the Liberals first promised in the election have been problematic for employers and child care advocates, who asked the government to boost the value of parental leave benefits over 12 months and make it easier for workers to qualify. …

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