Should Canada rethink its parental benefits system? Report calls for total overhaul

Mandatory Credit: Photo by A parent walks a toddler in the autumn sunshine on Wimbledon Common Seasonal weather, UK - 09 Oct 2016. Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock

OTTAWA – A new study says the Liberal government should rethink federal parental benefits and overhaul a system that is leaving out too many families and women.

The study released Wednesday by the Institute for Research on Public Policy says the federal government should consider taking parental benefits out of the employment insurance system and give it a new federal program to ensure that more parents can qualify for benefits.

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As is, the study says, there is a cohort of those new parents, particularly mothers, who don’t qualify for benefits, or 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 notes take up is low.

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The study also finds 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 an entire year.

The study’s author says 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.

SOUND OFF: What would you like to see change when it comes to federal parental benefits and maternity leave policy?

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