Canada's Family Leave Model
September 16, 2003
In the United States, paid parental-leave proposals are increasingly on lawmakers' agendas, and some advocates say Canada's policy could be a model. Starting next year, California will be the first state to offer a paid family leave -- to both mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents -- funded by an increase in employees' payroll deductions for state disability insurance.
Some aspects of the Canadian family leave model:
- Canada has expanded its parental-leave benefit, extending it in 2001 to almost a full year from six months.
- New mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents and same-sex couples, can collect as much as 55 percent of their weekly pay, pretax, up to a maximum of C$420 (US$308), for as many as 50 weeks per couple.
- After their leave is finished, parents are guaranteed their jobs back.
Some parents stay home together, collecting two government checks for 25 weeks. Others, however, can't afford to have even one paycheck reduced for very long, so don't take the full 50 weeks. In fact, parental-leave claims by fathers in Canada soared 80 percent in the extended policy's first year, while total claims surged 24 percent to 216,000. Overall, the average leave grew to more than 10 months, up from 6.5 months.
Big U.S. employers remain largely opposed to paid-leave initiatives, arguing in many cases that the Family and Medical Leave Act is generous enough. Objections include the potential for abuse and disruption in the workplace.
Source: Elena Cherney, "Family-Leave Advocates Look To Canada For Generous Model," Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2003.
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