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Study: Fathers' use of paid parental leave

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The Daily

Monday, June 23, 2008

Canada's policies on paid parental leave have changed considerably in recent years. In 2001, for example, the federal Parental Benefits Program increased the length of shareable paid parental leave benefits from 10 weeks to 35 weeks, and eliminated a second two week unpaid waiting period for co-sharing parents.

Studies revealed that shortly after these changes were made, mothers increased the time they stayed at home and fathers increased their overall participation rate from 3% in 2000 to 10% in 2001.

However, in 2006, Quebec introduced its own Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), which included higher benefit rates, no unpaid waiting period, coverage of the self-employed and a five-week non-transferable leave for fathers.

The study, "Fathers' use of paid parental leave," published today in Perspectives on Labour and Income, uses data from the 2006 Employment Insurance Coverage Survey to examine the use by fathers of paid parental leave inside and outside Quebec in the wake of these changes.

It found that the provisions of the QPIP had a profound impact on the use by fathers of paid leave in Quebec.

Of those men eligible for the program, 56% claimed benefits in 2006, up from 32% in 2005. The participation rate for fathers outside Quebec remained steady over the three years examined, at around 11%.

However, even though the parental leave benefit program was the same across Canada prior to 2006, Quebec had a consistently higher proportion of fathers claiming benefits.

In terms of time taken, fathers in Quebec claimed an average of 13 benefit weeks in 2005 and 7 in 2006. Outside Quebec, fathers increased their time from 11 to 17 weeks between the two years.

This finding is clearly linked to the large increase in the number of fathers participating in only the five week paternity program in Quebec. The reason for the increase in the weeks of leave for fathers outside Quebec is less obvious.

Many factors can influence an eligible father's decision to use some of the available parental leave. Among them are the financial impact, expected roles for men and women, the flexibility of the program, the labour market and the educational level of the parents.

Some families take the potential income loss of the higher-earning spouse into account before deciding who takes the benefits.

Fathers were 2.5 times more likely to claim benefits if they had a co-claiming spouse who earned the same or more than if they had a co-claiming spouse who earned less.

Also, fathers outside Quebec were 3.4 times more likely to claim if their spouse did not claim. This suggests that when a family is at risk of not receiving any benefits (which is more often the case outside Quebec), fathers significantly increase their participation rate.

The most common reason for eligible fathers not claiming benefits was family choice (40%), followed by difficulty taking time off work (22%) and financial issues (17%).

Internationally, 13 of 20 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries have paid parental leave programs with at least two weeks available to the father. Of these, 9 have features to encourage fathers' participation.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4428.

The article "Fathers' use of paid parental leave" is now available in the June 2008 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, Vol. 9, no. 6 (75-001-XWE, free), from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Katherine Marshall (613-951-6890;, Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division.