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ACFO-ACAF is pleased to report that the tentative public service FI collective agreement incorporates new legislative changes to the 2017 Employment Insurance Act (EI), specifically regarding parental leave, and secures additional improvements for new parents.
Under the new legislation and collective agreement, maternity leave remains the same but members who qualify for EI can choose between two parental leave and allowance options. Members are required to choose one of these options at the time they apply for parental leave without pay and EI benefits. These two options cannot be combined, and the selection is final.
Option 1 is the standard 12-month parental leave. Members who select this option will receive the standard EI benefits for 35 weeks at 55% of insurable earnings with a top-up to 93% of their pay for the duration of their leave. They are also eligible for an additional five weeks of parental sharing benefits for a total of 40 weeks also at 93% of their pay.
Option 2 is the extended 18-month parental leave. Members who select this option will receive extended EI benefits for 61 weeks at 33% of insurable earnings with a top-up to 55.8% of pay for the duration of their leave. They are also eligible for an additional eight weeks of parental sharing benefits for a total of 69 weeks also at 55.8% of their pay. It is important to note that Option 2 does not provide a larger or additional top-up compared to Option 1. The extended parental allowance is merely spread out over a longer period.
The most significant change is the addition of five extra sharing weeks at 93% top-up (Option 1) or eight sharing weeks at 55.8% top-up (Option 2). This will allow the parent not already on leave or adoptive parents to benefit from additional income protection while on leave to care for their child. This will also provide parity for biological and adoptive parents.
Another benefit has been secured in the new agreement for situations in which employees both working in the public service share the parental leave and have received 40 weeks of parental benefit and one employee remains on parental leave without pay. That employee is eligible to receive one additional week of top-up at 93%. In cases where an employee has taken the full 61 weeks (or for a couple, 69 weeks) the employees can benefit from one additional week of top-up at 55.8%.
An additional change for members residing outside of Quebec is that maternity leave can now begin 12 weeks before birth, up from eight weeks prior to birth under the previous agreement.
These changes do not apply to members who reside in Quebec as the province runs its own parental insurance program (QPIP). Quebec Bill 174 seeking improvements to parental benefits has not yet been adopted.
However, in cases where employees under QPIP share the parental leave and receive 32 weeks of parental benefit and five weeks of paternity benefit, or share 37 weeks of adoption benefits, and either employee remains on extended parental leave without pay, that employee is eligible to receive a 93% top-up for up to two additional weeks. The additional two weeks is intended to provide parity between the EI and QPIP regimes and ensure employees receive an equal number of weeks of top-up benefits.
Finally, it is important to note that employees who leave the federal public service prior to returning to work or only partially returning to work after a maternity or parental leave are still required to reimburse the maternity and parental allowances proportionate to the allowance received. Despite changes to the language of the collective agreement, no changes have been made to this requirement.
If you have any questions regarding the changes to maternity and parental leave and allowances, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.