With a new Federal Budget announced in March, Liberals included with it a new benefit to encourage men, and other non-birthing parents, to take paid parental leave. The Employment Insurance Parental Sharing Benefit will allow non-birthing parents to take up to eight weeks off work under a “use-it-or-lose-it” program.
The Canadian government already allows federally-regulated workers (those who work in banks, telecommunications, transportation and the public service sector) the option to spread parental benefits over an 18-month period, in which a father (or non-birthing parent) can collect shared EI benefits when taking at least 5 weeks off work. While these changes are not yet enforceable on a provincial level, and this benefit is not yet available to all workers, Ontario has committed to amending its employment laws to match federal policy.
With changes to the parental leave coming soon to Ontario workplaces, a father (or adoptive or same-sex parent) will be able to take up to 8 weeks off work to help care for a new child. Workers who opt to take a parental leave, will need to be accommodated by their employers. Employers will also need to provide job protection to employees on parental leave.
Eligible parents, who decide to take a maternity or parental leave, will have the right to return to the same job (same responsibilities, title and remuneration), regardless of gender. If a worker on leave returns and the job is no longer available (i.e., it was eliminated due to corporate restructuring) the employer must offer the worker a comparable position (again with comparable responsibilities, title and remuneration). Employers will need to take an active approach and review and amend their policies on maternity and parental leave to account for the potentiality of change.