TRU professor publishes research calling for changes to parental leave benefits

Dr. Lindsay McKay and team call for a redesign of Canadian care policies for gender equality

Dr. Lindsay McKay, an assistant teaching professor in the Faculty of Arts at TRU, has been a member of a research team devoted to updating Canada’s care policies, specifically those centred on parental leave benefits. 

That team, led by Dr. Andrea Doucet, the Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work and Care, recently published their findings in an article titled, “Redesigning Parental Leave System to Enhance Gender Equality” in Policy Options.

The article asserts the belief that COVID-19 and the shutdown of business that occurred in the spring revealed gender inequalities that left women (mostly mothers) more responsible for care work, and thus experiencing greater job insecurity. With the pandemic forcing many mothers out of the workplace to care for their school-aged children, many may find themselves ineligible for benefits in the future.

Currently, a resident of Canada (except Quebec) must have 600 hours of employment in the past 12 months to qualify for E.I. In Quebec, under the QPIP (Quebec Provincial Insurance Policy), only 120 hours are required. This leads to a difference of 24 per cent more mothers receiving benefits in Quebec, as opposed to only 65 per cent in the rest of Canada.

The article calls on the government to re-evaluate how the parental leave system works, and to redesign it in a way that benefits all parents, and more mothers. 

Eligibility requirements for E.I. relaxed at the outset of the pandemic, and parents seeking EI only needed 120 hours worked to qualify. However, Dr. McKay is worried about what happens when that policy reverts as the economy recovers.

“We have an opportunity to come out of this pandemic better than we were when it started, and I hope we take this opportunity and keep the eligibility criteria low. What is good for Quebec is good for the rest of the country.”

The article can be found on Policy Positions website.