Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to fulfil his promise to extend parental leave to 18 months, but many Canadians are already thinking about how the federal government could fill the gaps in the current system.
Under the Liberal plan, parents would have a year and a half to take unpaid parental leave but they wouldn’t see an overall increase in any benefits from employment insurance. Instead, they could opt to receive the same benefits in smaller blocks of time during the 18-month period or be absent for the whole duration and receive benefits at a lower level.
That presents a number of challenges for parents, but it will also require cooperation and understanding from employers reports Jann Lee in a recent article for Benefits Canada.
Companies can start by being open to their employees’ needs, says Karen Duncan, an associate professor in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba. An obvious way to show support is for employers to top up parental leave benefits, she notes.
But accommodation can be as simple as planning a smooth return to work for new parents, says Nora Spinks, chief executive officer of the Vanier Institute of the Family.
Recognizing diverse needs in the workplace is key, according to Duncan. For some employees, a gradual return to work may ease the transition because it allows parents to “find other care arrangements for their children.”
As well, it allows them to stay in touch with the workplace, says Fulshtinsky. “You don’t lose as much in information and relationships with co-workers and clients.”