New Parent Taking Parental Leave? What Canada’s EI Changes Mean for You
Nov 24, 2017
The Federal Government recently announced a number of big changes to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and leaves.
Among the changes, they’re adding a new extended parental leave option, which will allow new parents to choose between an 18-month leave or the current 12-month leave.
If a worker chooses the 18-month option, the maximum weekly amount they’ll receive will decrease from $543 to $326. Basically, it’s almost the same benefit spread out over a longer period of time. For some families this option is welcomed. But many others won’t be able to afford the lower weekly amount.
The federal government says the new changes will be available to all new parents as of December 3, 2017. Only federally regulated workers will have job protection for the full 18 months if choosing that option.
Changes to provincial legislation and collective agreements haven’t been made yet to give other workers (including MGEU members) job protection for the full year-and-a-half. Provinces, including Manitoba, would have to extend job protection past 12 months by amending the Employment Standards Code.
Similarly, MGEU collective agreements would need to be amended to give members the extended leave option. Since learning of the changes, our union has begun contacting employers to negotiate appropriate changes to collective agreements. But until these changes are in place (and not every employer is obliged to agree to them) members should take precautions by speaking with their employer and getting written approval before applying for the extended leave option in order to guarantee their current job when they return to work.
The EI changes have raised many questions for MGEU members who are looking to take parental leave in the near future. To help answer some of those questions, our union has created these Frequently Asked Questions. If these FAQs don’t answer your question, please review Service Canada’s eBulletin on the issue and feel free to contact our MGEU Resource Centre.
Extended Parental Leave FAQ
Q: If I’m not a federally regulated worker, is my job protected in Manitoba if I opt for the extended 18-month parental leave?
A: The recent changes to Employment Insurance Parental benefits extend job protection to federally regulated workers only. Provinces, including Manitoba, will need to decide to extend job protection by amending the Employment Standards Code. The Manitoba Employment Standards Code currently recognizes parental leave up to a limit of 37 continuous weeks. For unionized workers, collective agreements will also need to be adjusted to reflect the extended parental leave of 62 weeks (1 week waiting period plus 61 weeks of benefits). Without revised language, any leave without pay for parental leave beyond 37 weeks may not be approved by employers and your job may not be protected.
Q: I am on parental leave right now. Can I switch to the extended leave option?
A: No. The Extended Parental Benefits only come into effect on December 3, 2017 and are applicable only to those who make application on or after December 3, 2017 for EI parental leave.
Q: How much do I receive if I opt for the extended leave versus the standard leave over the course of the claim?
A: There are a number of factors, but you receive roughly the same amount in total benefits. For example, if you qualify for the maximum EI maternity/parental benefits rates of $543/week and $326/week:
Standard 12-month Benefits: 15 weeks of maternity @ $543/week + 35 weeks of parental @ $543/week = 50 weeks of benefits totalling $27,150 (average weekly benefit is $543)
Extended 18-month Benefits: 15 weeks of maternity @ $543/week + 61 weeks of parental @ $326/week = 76 weeks of benefits totalling $28,031 (average weekly benefit is $368)
Q: If I apply for the standard leave, can I change my mind midway through my claim and change to the extended leave?
A. No. The Employment Insurance Regulations will not allow for any amendments to be made once you or your spouse apply with a choice for parental benefits and once a payment has been made. There will be no appeal rights available.
Q. Has the federal government expanded child care spaces to support the extended leave?
A. No. There have been no initiatives tied to the Employment Insurance Parental Leave expansion for creating additional child care spaces.
For more information about all of the changes the federal government is making to EI benefits, go to Service Canada’s Employment Insurance Improvements page.