Liberals should consider overhaul of parental leave benefits: study

system leaves out too many families, women

OTTAWA — A new study says the Liberal government should rethink federal parental benefits and overhaul a system that leaves out too many families and women, while ditching the idea of dedicated time off for new dads.

As is, the study says, there is a cohort of new parents, particularly mothers, who don’t qualify for benefits because employment insurance rules require them to have worked a specific number of hours in the previous year.

Other can’t qualify because they are self-employed or freelancers — a problem likely to increase with the widening of the “gig” economy. Self-employed parents can voluntarily opt-in to the employment insurance system in order to qualify for parental benefits, but the study says the take up is low.

Looking even closer at the numbers, the study released Wednesday by the Institute for Research on Public Policy found that parents from lower and modest income homes — those the federal government would consider as hoping to join the middle class — don’t take benefits for a full year.

The study’s author said it all leads to questions of how inclusive the parental leave system really is and whether a change in rules would mean parents aren’t forced back to work sooner than they are meant to in order to make ends meet.

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