Canada has announced it will be extending its paid parental benefits to 18 months starting Dec. 3. The United States remains the only developed country without a paid parental benefits program; it instead relies on the states and individual companies to implement their own policies.
When the new policy goes into effect in Canada, new parents will be able to take 12 weeks off either before or after the birth of their child and extend their benefits to 18 months, according to the Toronto Star.
Government employees in Canada will receive the benefits and be able to take the time off immediately, while non-government employees will still need to wait for their employers and provinces to process the change. As designed, anyone who opts for the longer time frame will receive up to $326 a week as opposed to $543 a week over 12 months, reports the Toronto Star.
So far, out of Canada's 10 provinces, only Ontario has publicly said it will make a change to their legislation. In Canada, 92 percent of employees will need this provincial change in order to access these benefits.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 12 percent of non-government employees have access to paid maternity leave, not including time off for the father. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, employees are allowed 12 weeks unpaid job security that allows them to return to their job after the birth or adoption of a child. However, according to USA Today, many workers don't qualify for this.
Companies like Starbucks, Yahoo!, and Walmart have announced extended leave for new parents, but those benefits only go to top-level employees, USA Today reports.
Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said to the Toronto Star the changes, first outlined in this year’s federal budget, combined with the new child benefit and other changes to the Employment Insurance system, are all designed to give families more flexibility and help the economy, as well.
“Anything that makes it easier for families to balance work and life is good for our economy, is good for our businesses,” said Duclos at an event at an Ottawa hospital, reports the Toronto Star.
In President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget, he proposed what would be the first federal family paid leave policy in U.S. history, reports the BBC. The budget contained billions of dollars in cuts to social programs, but made room for the benefit of six weeks paid parental leave for new parents.
"The proposal will allow States to establish paid parental leave programs in a way that is most appropriate for their workforce and economy," the budget reads. "The proposal gives states broad latitude."
The parents would have to wait, like those in Canada, for the states to decide how they will implement the new benefit and whether they support it. In the U.S., California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have their own state-run paid family leave systems. New York and the District of Columbia are soon to go into effect, but 45 other states are still left uncovered.
According to BBC News, the Trump budget says the plan would cost $18 billion over the next 10 years, and would be paid for by eliminating fraud in the system and also by states raising their payroll taxes for employers.
The Toronto Star reports federal officials estimate that about 20,000 families will opt for the extra time, but caution the figures could vary.
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said to the Toronto Star that small business owners are not expecting a large amount of take up for the new measures because they seem only to benefit high-income Canadians who can afford to take the extra time off.
The International Labor Organization recommends at least 14 weeks, reports BBC. India provides at least 26 weeks and Norway 44 weeks, while countries like Japan provide a full year of paid leave.