More and more parents are taking advantage of increased maternity and parental leave in the wake of changes that allow one year off work to care for newborn children.
Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada, said about 216,000 Canadians accessed parental benefits in 2001 — the first year of the program — up 24.3 per cent from the 174,000 who did the year before.
The number of claims by men jumped almost 80 per cent from 12,010 in 2000 to 21,530 in 2001.
“Through the extension of EI (employment insurance) maternity and parental leave benefits, the Government of Canada is providing families with the support they need to ensure their children get the best start in life,” said Stewart. “As a result of the EI changes, a growing number of working parents can better balance their work and family responsibilities by staying at home with their newborn for one year without fear of losing their job.”
Every province across the country experienced an increase in the number of parental claims from 2000 to 2001. New Brunswick had the biggest percentage increase, up 28.8 per cent from 3,920 in 2000 to 5,050 in 2001.
On average, parents who took advantage of the extended leave stayed home for 45 weeks. The changes included:
•extending the duration of parental benefits from 10 to 35 weeks, doubling the overall duration of maternity and parental benefits from six months to one year;
•reducing the entrance requirement to 600 hours from 700 hours;
•allowing parents who share benefits to serve only one waiting period instead of two; and
•allowing parents to work while receiving parental benefits.
“I am very pleased with the overall first-year results of the enhanced employment insurance maternity and parental benefits in 2001, and look forward to sharing additional encouraging results in the future,” said Stewart.
Findings in 2001
•Parental benefit claims increased by 42,220 to 216,010 in 2001 from 173,790 in 2000, an increase of 24.3 per cent.
•Maternity benefit claims increased by 27,420 to 198,420 in 2001 from 170,950 in 2000, an increase of 16.1 per cent.
•By lowering the entrance requirements from 700 to 600 hours, 8,240 more Canadians qualified for maternity and parental benefits in 2001.
•Families are on leave for almost 45 weeks — about 87 per cent of the full year available to them.
•The average number of parental weeks tripled from 9.4 weeks to almost 28.4 weeks.