Backgrounder: Parental sharing benefit

Backgrounder

Parental sharing benefit

Employment Insurance (EI) parental benefits are available to EI-eligible parents, allowing them to take time off work to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. The most common scenario in Canada, however, is a mother taking on the primary caregiving responsibilities. Child care duties continue to fall disproportionately to mothers, both in the short term following the arrival of a child and over the longer term.

Budget 2018 announced the EI parental sharing benefit, which provides additional weeks of benefits to families when the parents of a newborn or newly adopted child share parental benefits. 

With the sharing benefit, parents selecting the standard duration of parental benefits could receive up to 40 weeks of parental benefits, an increase from the current 35 weeks. No parent could access more than 35 weeks in total, requiring more than one parent to take some time off in order to access some or all of the additional weeks.

Parents selecting the extended duration of parental benefits could receive up to 69 weeks of parental benefits, an increase from the current 61 weeks. No parent could access more than 61 weeks in total, requiring parents to share the leave in order to access some or all of the additional weeks.

The new measure is available to parents who make a claim for parental benefits for children born or placed for adoption on or after March 17, 2019.

Parents who share parental benefits must choose the same parental benefits option (standard or extended) when they apply for benefits. The standard parental benefit weeks are paid at a rate of 55 percent of average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $562. The extended parental benefit weeks are paid at a rate of 33 percent of average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $337. Parental benefits can be accessed at the same time or separately.

The choice of the first parent who completes the application is binding on any other parents of the child. Once parental benefits start being paid on the claim of either parent, parents cannot change their duration option (standard or extended) but may change how they share the weeks of benefits.

Corresponding changes to the Canada Labour Code have also been made to ensure that employees working in the federally regulated private sector have job protection while receiving the parental sharing benefit. 

Specifically, the amendments to the Code will increase the maximum aggregate amount of parental leave that may be taken by more than one employee for the same birth or adoption from the current 63 weeks to 71 weeks, while the maximum amount of leave taken by one employee will remain at 63 weeks. The amendments will also increase the maximum aggregate amount of maternity and parental leave taken by more than one employee from the current 78 weeks to 86 weeks, while one employee cannot take more than the current 78 weeks of maternity and parental leave.

The extended duration of the leave will also provide these employees with greater flexibility to meet their unique family and work situations. The leave provisions under the Canada Labour Code would only apply to federally regulated private-sector employees, and not to provincially or territorially regulated employees. Employees should validate with their employer or provincial/territorial authority the leave provisions that apply to their situation.


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