WATCH: As of Dec. 3, new parents can choose to take up to 18 months off with their babies on parental leave. On that same date, a new family caregiver benefits also kick in. They include a 15-week leave to care for a critically ill or injured adult or a 35-week benefit to care for a critically ill or injured child. As Mary Griffin reports, while many support the new, longer, parental leave, they are not sure the finances will work.
“Welcome everybody.” Eva Bild, owner of Mothering Touch Centre in Victoria, welcomes the nine new mothers and their babies to class.
Most of the women CHEK News talked to at the centre on Thursday are taking a 12-month maternity leave. But changes to the rules governing parental and maternity leave in Canada kick in Dec. 3, as the fulfilment of a Liberal election promise made by Justin Trudeau during the campaign.
“These changes mean parents will have more flexibility, and security, during those first crucial 18 months after childbirth, which can often be the most challenging for parents,” Trudeau said.
But there’s no change to the total amount paid out in federal benefits. Instead, 12 months will now be spread over 18 months. Christine Willow with Chemistry Consulting is not sure the extended leave
“I’m not sure how many people are actually going to go for the 18 months. Because it sounds wonderful, but you are only being paid for 12. So, depending on a family’s circumstances, most of them tend to come back after 12 months because they need the earnings,” Willow said.
That seems to be reflected among the women at the Mothering Touch Centre, including new mom Jacqueline Forbes. “For our family, financially, it’s not going to work. So, I’m going to go back at the 12-month mark.”
Kristen Bel Bel Belluz says it’s not an option for her.
“I think it’s great for people who can afford it. I just can’t afford to have less than what I’m offered for the twelve months with the way that property is now,” Bel Bel Belluz said.
New mom Sarah Chisholm says she’s waiting to see what her employer will do. “I think the big thing it depends on is what my employer would do. Because right now, I’m very fortunate that they top me up. And so, it would depend on what they would be willing to do for the 18 months as well,” Chisholm said.
For those taking the 12-month leave, the government will pay up to $543 a week for the duration. But things change over 18 months, the first 15 weeks are the same: $543 a week. After that, the government pays a maximum of $325 weeks over 61 weeks.
Willow said in one of the tightest employment markets in the country, the employer often pays benefits.
“From an employer perspective, I think whatever you can do to have the best benefits for your employees in a 3.8 per cent unemployment market, is a good thing. Because it makes you an employer of choice. So, I do think it’s a win-win,” Willow said.
For those new parents currently on leave, the new policy does not apply to them.