In most countries, if you have a child, you’re entitled to parental leave.
If you have twins, are you entitled to two leaves?
That’s the premise behind a lawsuit filed by two Ottawa parents, Christian Martin and Paula Critchley. The couple had twins in April of 2009. Under Canadian Employment Insurance law, parents are able to split up to 35 weeks of paid parental leave. Martin and Critchley, however, felt that both parents should be eligble for the full 35 weeks because there were two children who required care.
Martin initially applied for benefits and was denied, on the basis that Critchley was already collecting benefits. In an appeal, Martin stated that because the twins were born prematurely and required an increased level of care, and because the twins were born of a single pregnancy, both parents should be eligible for parental benefits in order to care for the children. In September of 2009, the Employment Insurance Board of Referees ruled that both Martin and Critchley could collect parental benefits for the full 35 weeks, since one parent filed for leave on behalf of one child and the other parent for the other. The decision of the board did not change the law and had no effect on other parents’ claims, although many believed it would have an impact on future cases.
The Federal court overturned that ruling yesterday, stating that allowing both parents to collect full leave benefits would contravene employment insurance rules. Martin and Critchley state they will appeal the ruling.
Canada has one of the most generous maternity/parental leave systems in the world. Mothers are able to take up to 50 weeks of government-paid leave while their jobs remain protected; fathers are able to split up to 35 weeks of that leave with the mother. On one hand, it seems laughably entitled to demand the government pay for leave for a parent to care for a second child in an already generous system. On the other, there is a certain logic to it: if both parents have paid in to the EI system, why is only one parent able to collect leave no matter how many children result from a pregnancy?
Photo credit: BeautifulFreaks on Flickr