Expanded parental leave to come into effect by end of year

The federal government will unveil the details of its long-promised changes to parental leave rules

New mothers and fathers who are poised to go on parental leave before the end of the year will be able to spread federal benefits over a longer period of more time starting next month.

The federal government will today unveil the details of its long-promised changes to parental leave rules that will allow eligible new parents to take up to 18 months of employment insurance benefits after the birth of a child.

Sources say the new rules will take effect next month, but the exact date will be disclosed later today by Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

On that date, a new family caregiver benefit will also kick in, and eligible soon-to-be-mothers will be allowed to claim maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before the baby is due.

However, the government isn’t expected to increase the actual value of employment insurance benefits for anyone who takes the extended parental leave. Instead, the Liberals will stick with their 2015 election promise: spreading 12 months’ worth of benefits over 18 months.

The change in leave rules will automatically give more the option of more time off for federally regulated workplaces, which include banks, transport companies, the public service and telecoms, and are likely to spur calls for changes to provincial labour laws to allow the other 92 per cent of Canadian workers access to similar leave.

Related: Minister Hajdu says longer leave not for all, but higher-paid moms need help too

Affected workplaces will have to decide how — or even if — to amend existing leave policies and collective agreements that spell out issues like salary top-ups.

As is, the federal parental leave program pays out benefits for up to 17 weeks for new mothers and allows parents to split an additional 35 weeks.

Under the changes first outlined in this year’s budget, new parents will decide when they apply for employment insurance benefits whether to take additional weeks off, which can be split between parents. Once either receives the first dollar of parental leave benefits, the choice is locked in.

Anyone on the 35 weeks of parental leave before the new measures officially come into effect won’t be able to switch and take off the extra time.

The Liberals budgeted $886 million over the next five years for the new measures, and $204.8 million a year after that.

All the parental leave changes won’t affect Quebec, which has its own parental leave program.

Related: Affordable daycare left out of BC NDP budget disappoints advocate

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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