Parental leave can be a touchy subject and is treated differently in many countries. There are many ways in which Canada is leading the way for workers’ rights and many areas in which we fail to do enough. Let’s look at laws around parental leave and see how Canada compares to other countries around the world.
Parental leave in Canada
Maternity and parental leave refer to a time where an employee can take time off work without any risk of losing their job. Currently, in Alberta, parents can take up to 37 weeks of unpaid parental leave. This time can be shared between both parents or used entirely by one parent. These 37 weeks are offered in addition to the 15 weeks of unpaid maternity leave offered to birth mothers. Employees are only eligible for maternity leave if they have worked at least 52 weeks with the same employer.
Although parental leave is unpaid, many employees will qualify for employment insurance under the federal EI program. Those that qualify for these benefits receive 55% of average earnings up to a maximum payout of $543/week. Please note, as of January 1, 2018, maternity leave in Alberta will be extended from 15 weeks to 16 weeks.
Parental leave around the world
So how does Canada compare to other countries? Well, things could definitely be worse for us. For example, the United States has one of the worst parental leave policies in the world. Employees in the US are entitled to only 12 weeks of unpaid leave with no federal parental leave rights. Although different states have passed laws for paid leave, as a country, the US has failed to offer sufficient support for new parents.
Although Canada is ahead of some countries when it comes to parental leave, we could most certainly be doing better. Finland, for example, offers a great deal of flexibility for mothers with regards to when they start their maternity leave; the government offers a payout for 105 working days regardless of whether the mother is unemployed, self-employed or a student. In addition, fathers receive paid paternity leave for up to 54 working days. And that’s not all, the government in Finland continues to look after parents long after the child is born by offering parents flexible working options and additional funding.
As a province, Alberta is beginning to take steps in the right direction to better support parents. Having said this, we could certainly be doing better. There are many countries that have set the bar high when it comes to parental leave, and although Canada is far from where these countries are, we look forward to how our country will continue to progress towards better support of working parents.