Our neighbours to the south may envy our one year of paid maternity leave, but a recent study suggests Canada’s parental work-life balance still leaves much to be desired.
A study by Expert Market – a U.K.-based marketing solutions firm – measured parental work-life balance in 37 countries, and ranked Canada No. 34.
The findings were based on average annual hours worked by parents in each country, as well as the number of annual paid leave days available by law, total paid leave available to mothers, and total paid leave reserved for fathers.
The top countries for parental work-life balance were all Europe-based – Finland, Estonia, Austria and France – while the worst countries included the U.S. at No. 37, followed by Mexico at No. 36, and Costa Rica at No. 35.
Great variances in annual leave allowance
There are stark contrasts between Canada and the U.S. when it comes to parental benefits; most notably the fact that the latter does not have any paid annual leave requirements whatsoever, making it challenging for many parents to take time off with their newborns or newly adopted children.
On the other hand, Canadian parents are entitled to 55 per cent of their annual salaries through Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits for the year they take leave, up to a maximum insurable salary of $51,300.
However, the Liberal government did recently introduce an 18-month parental leave at 33 per cent of salary – an option critics have suggested won’t really benefit the majority of parents due to the low monthly earnings and time away from professional development.
Canadians still only have a fraction of the average paid leave of many other developed countries, particularly those in Europe. For instance, Canadians are only permitted a minimum of 10 days of vacation time, while Sweden, Norway and Finland are allotted 25 days.
The study also highlighted that Estonia, which ranked second-best, offers the highest amount of total paid leave time, giving mothers up to 85 weeks. Germany, which ranked the fifth-best, had the lowest annual hours worked, meaning parents have more free time. And Japan, which ranked seventh-best, gives fathers the most amount of paid leave time at 30 weeks.
What Canadian parents can do
Canada may have room for improvement when it comes to accommodating parents in the workforce, but there are certainly ways to overcome the barriers and enjoy a healthy balance of work and life. Keep the lines of communication open with your family and your employer to ensure everyone is on the same wavelength.
Though every parent’s situation is unique, and benefits vary from employer-to-employer, more and more Canadian companies now accommodate the schedules of working parents – from flexible working hours to work-from-home capabilities. Don’t be afraid to negotiate benefits such as vacation time with your employer.