As released on February 27, 2018, the new federal budget has a lot of incentives designed to help women, children, and families, and in particular, it has special provisions to give dads or second parents more time with their newborns. As of June 2019, second parents can take an extra five weeks of leave through the Employment Insurance parental sharing benefits program. The initiative extends extra benefits to all parents including same-sex couples and adoptive parents.
The Current Benefits
Under the current EI parental sharing benefits, parents can take a total of 35 weeks of leave during the first 12 months of having a new child. This applies to both birth and adoptive parents, and they receive 55% of their pay up to the program maximum of $547. Alternatively, parents can claim 33% of their usual pay up to the EI maximum for 61 weeks over an 18-month period.
The New Benefits
The budget proposes to add five weeks of parental leave to the 12-month program, bringing the total shared leave to 40 weeks. For instance, if the second parent takes five weeks, the primary parent can take up to 35 weeks. Alternatively, both parents can take 20 weeks each. Or, if they’re willing to collect smaller benefit cheques, second parents can take an extra eight weeks during the first 18 months for a total of 69 combined weeks off.
The Impact on Employers
How are the changes going to affect you as a small business owner? Luckily, you don’t have to worry about paying wages for the leave. Payments for parental leave are paid through the EI program — you just pay EI premiums as usual. Although EI premiums are slightly higher in 2018 than they were in 2017, they are still lower than they were from 2013 to 2016, and the maximum amount you have to pay for any single employee is only $1,201.51 per year.
That said, you have to figure out how to get by without some of your employees for a five- to eight-week period. Some employers are worried about that length of time. They claim that it’s harder to find replacement staff for a short second parent’s leave than it is for a 12- to 18-month maternity leave. Other employers, however, say the new leave period is no different than sending an employee on a long vacation. Regardless of where your opinion falls on that spectrum, you can simplify the process by planning ahead. If you know an employee is likely to take leave soon, you may want to do the following:
- Identify tasks that can be delegated to other employees
- Cross train other employees so they’re ready to cover the employee on leave
- Build connections with freelancers who can handle some of the work load
- Consider contacting a temp agency
- Reduce the employee’s unessential workload before the leave so they can work ahead on essential tasks
You can’t prevent an employee from taking legally granted leave, but you can offer alternatives. For instance, you may want to offer flex time, half days, or work-from-home opportunities. All of those options can give the employee extra time to devote to their family without having to take an extended leave.
Parental leave is good for everyone involved. It allows babies the care they need at the beginning of their lives, and second parent leave, in particular, gives the primary parent extra help and support. While you may face challenges dealing with leave, you may also get to experience happier, more productive employees overall thanks to this proposal.