In a move that will benefit families across the country, the federal government has unveiled additional weeks of parental leave for two-parent families, including same-sex and adoptive parents.

The new “use-it-or-leave-it” plan adds 5 additional weeks of paternity leave for families in which both parents take time off work to help care for their newborn babies.

Originally, 35 weeks of paid leave was available to new parents to split between themselves in whichever way they saw fit. This new option will give them 40 weeks of paid leave, as long as the second parent uses at least 5 weeks of it.

All to improve gender equality

One of the major themes of the 2018 federal budget is gender equality.

This move is intended to shift the “disproportionate” responsibility of child care away from primarily women, and to make sure that new mothers have the option to return to work sooner if they so choose.

However, no additions were made to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for new parents – the policy currently offers up to 55% of income, in comparison with the 70% offered by Quebec’s provincial model.

Critics argue that the lack of an EI boost means that families may not make use of the additional paternity leave option.

The changes will be available starting June 2019, and is estimated to cost the government $1.2 billion over the first five years and $344.7 million per year after that.