Last December, the federal government implemented major changes to parental leave. As of December 3, 2017, eligible new parents planning to take parental leave can spread 12 months of employment insurance (EI) benefits over 18 months following the birth of a child. The changes are intended to provide parents with more flexibility for family responsibilities.

These changes currently apply to federally regulated employees only (i.e. those in banking, the federal public service, telecommunications, transportation, etc.). Similar changes applying to provincial employees are not yet in force, but the Ontario government has committed to making similar changes.

Since the introduction of these changes, the federal Liberals have begun to investigate options for creating a new paternal leave policy (i.e. one that applies to new fathers).

Global News reports that discussions around work-life balance and making family life easier for Canadians continue at the federal level. Federal Liberals have been working with experts in recent weeks on how a dedicated leave for new dads can be created, and have been exploring options, costs, and possible timelines for implementation.

The Law Right Now

Quebec is currently the only Canadian province that has dedicated paternal leave for new fathers. Fathers of newborns are entitled to five consecutive weeks of paternity leave at up to up to 70 percent of their income (provided via the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, QPIP). The leave cannot be taken until the week of the child’s birth. Once the five weeks of dedicated leave runs out, the father can split parental leave with the mother.

In all other provinces, fathers or non-birthing parents can only split parental leave with a new mother. There is no dedicated leave meant solely for fathers.

Research into Quebec’s paternity leave plan shows that the number of fathers who take advantage of it has steadily increased since it was introduced in 2006. Prior to the changes, Quebec had already been the province where the most fathers had been using at least some split parental leave time.

Proposals for Paternity Leave

Sources suggest that ideas that have been floated so far include creating an entirely new leave similar to the leave that exists in Quebec, and setting aside a portion of the newly expanded parental leave for new fathers, or a non-birthing parent.

An expert on parental leave policies has noted:

There is a good model in Quebec that we can emulate quite easily in terms of eligibility criteria, in terms of a targeted use-it-or-lose-it leave, and it has really significant uptake.

The “use-it-or-lose-it” paternity leave option has been discussed as an option, meaning that if a father does not use his allotted paternal leave time, it cannot be added onto parental leave for the mother.

Other experts have noted that a dedicated paternal leave policy will close the gender gap that continues to view mothers as primary caregivers.

A joint-Canada U.S. women in business council formed this week by Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump released its first set of recommendations this week, highlighting the need to increase men’s involvement in childcare.

The Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders called on both governments to review their respective maternity leave policies and related tax incentives and to “level the playing field between caregivers- for example, paternity leave policies”.

We will continue to follow developments as federal discussions around a dedicated leave for new fathers move forward. In the meantime, if you have questions about your rights as a parent, or any other family law related issue, contact us.

At Gelman & Associates our team of family lawyers regularly follows developments in both family law, as well as other areas of the law that may impact family life, so that we may better advise our clients. Our goal is to empower you to make informed decisions. In order to be accessible to clients and prospective clients, our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM. Call us at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-736-0200 or contact us online for an initial consultation.