Andrea Doucet, Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies at Brock University; Sophie Mathieu, postdoctoral fellow at Université Téluq and a lecturer at the Université de Montréal; and Lindsey McKay, assistant teaching professor at Thompson Rivers University, had a piece published in Policy Options advocating for expanded access to parental leave.
“What should parental leave benefits look like in post-pandemic Canada? While the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred critical attention to re-thinking approaches to care policies, little consideration has been given to how parental leave should be re-designed in order to effectively support both parents and children.
Parental benefits are part of a suite of “special benefits” within the Employment Insurance (EI) system. Although they are employment policies designed to enable some parents to take paid leave from employment in order to engage in socially important care work, parental benefits are also care policies in that they are about caregivers (parents) and care-receivers (infants and young children).
Parental benefits are also social protection policies whose design includes questions of who pays, who benefits, and how the policies support both parental care and the financial provisioning of that care. Finally, they are gender equality policies that have the potential to act as a lever for gender equality at work and at home.
The relationship between parental leave benefits and gender equality is especially critical now as the pandemic has revealed and intensified gender inequalities in paid and unpaid care work. In two-parent mother/father households, an intricate balance of roles and responsibilities influences which parent leaves work and which parent takes on most of the family care and home schooling. With the suspension or reduced delivery of care and educational services – child care, schooling, after-school care, summer camps – it has been women, especially mothers, who have borne most of the responsibilities for care and domestic life.”
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