Government should bring meaningful reform to EI maternity and parental benefits, not extend leave by lowering pay

The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC) is calling on the federal government for much-needed improvements to Canada’s Employment Insurance parental and maternity benefits to bring them in line with the much better benefits already provided to parents in Quebec.

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos recently opened up an on-line consultation of Canadians but the options the government has put forward for consideration don’t speak to the real needs of parents of newborns, says the CCAAC.

“We know that the biggest problems with the current EI system is it leaves out many workers, and the benefit levels are much too low, causing economic hardship at a time when family needs are high,” said Morna Ballantyne, CCAAC Executive Director.

“It is a big mistake for the government to be asking only whether parents would prefer the same amount of EI money they get now but spread over 18 consecutive months, or the same amount taken in smaller chunks over 18 months,” Ballantyne said.

In a position paper on maternity and parental EI benefit reform, the CCAAC points out that the shortage of child care for children under 18 months is making parents desperate for solutions but that a longer leave period at a lower weekly benefit is not the answer.  The CCAAC says the federal government must instead show federal leadership to build a system of early childhood education and care for all, while also making meaningful improvements to the EI maternity and parental leave.

The CCAAC is urging the federal government to consider the following recommendations for reform, in line with what Quebec parents are already entitled to under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan:

  • Reduce the eligibility requirement to the lesser of 300 hours of insurable earnings prior to taking leave, or adopt the same $2,000 minimum earnings rule that exists in Quebec
  • Raise the EI benefit level for maternity/parental leave from 55 per cent of previous earnings to a minimum of 70 per cent, similar to Quebec benefits
  • Introduce an additional benefit (modelled on Quebec’s paternity leave) for the exclusive use of the “second” parent regardless of gender.

Have your say

The CCAAC urges Canadians to participate in the federal government’s review of EI maternity and parental benefits by completing the government’s on-line survey by November 4, 2016.  Given that the government’s on-line tools do not provide the opportunity to register a wide range of concerns, Canadians are also encouraged to write to  the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Family, Children and Social Development, and by communicate with Members of Parliament.