Party leaders pushing for major changes to flexible work, parental leave

Trudeau, Harper promise extended parental leave, option to stretch leave to 18 months

Two major party leaders have gone on record promising extended benefits for working parents.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in August revealed plans to extend parental leave employment insurance benefits for a period up to 18 months. The benefits would be paid out at a lower level.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Conservative Party would match that promise, according to reports.

As opposed to the currently-offered 15 weeks of maternity leave and an additional 35 weeks of parental leave under employment insurance benefits, Harper proposed giving parents the option of extending parental benefits to 61 weeks at a lower payment rate.

It’s not the only campaign pledge Harper made for working parents — he also proposed EI changes for self-employed parents which would allow them to supplement their employment insurance payments with self-employment income earned during parental leave.

Re-shaping the workplace?

Depending on the outcome of this month’s election, we might expect to see other dramatic changes to the workplace as well. In addition to extended parental leaves, Trudeau has also promised all employees covered by federal labour law would have the ability to ask their employers for flexible work options, according to reports.

That could mean asking for flexible start- and end-times to the workday, and the ability to work from home, said Trudeau.

There will not be a requirement for employers to agree to the requests, he said.

But it appears there is very real pressure for party leaders to campaign on platforms of significant changes to the workplace status quo — likely in an effort to appeal to the oft-cited middle-class.

"The workplace is changed, the families have changed, and it's up to the Canadian government to catch up," said Trudeau at a campaign event.

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