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Making it Work - Fathers on Parental Leave

Last fall, my wife surprised me with the news that we were expecting our second child. Unplanned as it was, I was determined to take advantage of the government-endorsed parental leave. Expanded in 2000, parental leave is a federal initiative granting new parents access to 35 weeks of paid leave.

Since my wife had been a stay at home mom for the past 36 months, she was ineligible for maternity benefits. Instead, we decided I would take 16 weeks of parental leave. My decision, or should I say our, decision was an easy one. With our first child, I was enrolled in full time studies at SAIT and my time outside the classroom was filled with studying and practical work experience. I had little time or energy for my baby girl.

Having been with my current employer for over five years, I felt comfortable taking the time to slow down and savor every moment this time around. Looking back on the experience, I have these tips for dads:

 

Be informed and up-front.

Investigate your employer’s benefit policy and notify your supervisor and human resources sooner rather than later. While parental leave is a federally mandated program, giving your employer ample time to adjust its manpower requirements is not only polite but will make the transition out of and back to work easier.

 

Show me the money.

While parental leave is paid leave, the rate is 55 percent of your average insured earnings to a maximum of $413 a week. After deducting federal tax, this translates into a net benefit of $794 biweekly.Many employers have supplementary unemployment benefits. For me, this meant six weeks of ‘top up’ to my regular salary.Plan ahead by putting money aside during the pregnancy to alleviate some of the possible money crunches during the actual leave.

 

Reactions — especially other people’s

Be prepared for a wide variety of responses to your announcement that you will be taking time off work. They range, regardless of age or sex, from envy to ridicule. Some may grumble, others will wistfully wish they had the opportunity when their children were young. Most, however, will be positive and slap you with a “Good for you!”

 

The Paperwork

To receive the benefit, you must apply. With your ROE (record of employment obtained from your employer), you can apply in person at any Service Canada Centre (hrsdc.gc.ca) but be prepared for the minimum two week lag between your application and payment.

With my leave over, I returned to work mid-September. Taking parental leave allowed my wife to recover from the C-section and I was able to fully participate in the sleepless nights and what seemed like endless feedings and diaperings. Financially, we have some catching up to do but I had the opportunity to volunteer in my daughter’s classroom, we bonded as a four member family unit and it was, in the words of Mastercard: priceless.

 


Carmen is a contributing author of the recently released Pearson Physics textbook scheduled for implementation in AB high schools in Sept. 2007.

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