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It’s starting to get embarrassing that our politicians are OK with the idea that the United States and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries in the world with absolutely no provision for some kind of paid time off for working women who are new mothers, according to the United Nations.

cb-long-way-baby-Daniel-EhrenworthThankfully – some – American corporations may finally be acknowledging that their employees are entitled to some kind of paid leave when they have children.

Netflix announced it would offer new parents, both mothers and fathers, unlimited paid parental leave during the first year following the birth or adoption of a child. During that yearlong period, the parent will receive their full salary, and can stay at home full time, come into work full time, or go back and forth between those two, as needs dictate – an impressively flexible policy designed to cater to the vagaries of parenting a newborn.

Within 24 hours, Microsoft had sweetened its own parental leave policy, in what observers quickly interpreted as a response to Netflix’s opening salvo in the Silicon Valley talent wars. Microsoft now will give new mothers a total of 20 weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child, up from a total of 12 paid weeks previously, and toss in some pre-maternity leave as well, making the whole package more flexible. Last month, IBM initiated a plan to help breast-feeding mothers who are traveling on business ship their breast milk home to their babies free of charge. (It already offers 14 weeks of paid leave to new mothers.) And of course, if you wouldn’t mind focusing on your career for a few years and deferring motherhood, Silicon Valley is taking the lead in offering women benefits in that respect, too. Companies like Facebook and Apple are offering women a shiny new benefit in the form of the ability to freeze their eggs and postpone the need to worry about the pesky question of parental leave altogether for now.

The 2,000 or so Netflix employees who will benefit from the company’s move are extremely fortunate – and the company’s management is to be applauded. 

Firstly, tech companies are hardly representative of corporate America. If you read the stories about Netflix’s initiative, and choked on your morning coffee when you read that the company already offers its employees unlimited vacation, well, welcome to Silicon Valley. That’s not all that uncommon, and other workplace perks can include such cool stuff that ordinary folks can scarcely dream of, including more mundane things like the use of nap pods and free massages. The reason for all this, of course, is that the unemployment rate in the software industry is about half the nationwide average, and it has been incredibly hard for fast-growing technology companies worldwide to find the staff they need.

And sometimes, even Silicon Valley companies have sent decidedly family-unfriendly signals, as when Marissa Mayer canceled Yahoo’s flexible work-from-home policies in early 2013, shortly after becoming CEO, requiring everyone to work in the office. (Mayer famously took only two weeks of maternity leave herself.) So, Netflix and others may offer these benefits safe in the knowledge that only a fraction of their employees will take advantage of them for fear of looking like slackers.

The biggest issue of all may be that Silicon Valley simply doesn’t have that many women around, compared to other workplaces. The gap is widening, according to a recent study by the American Association of University Women that found that just 26% of those working in computing today are women, down from 35% in 1990. Only about 3% of startup technology companies that get backed by venture capital funds are led by woman; women are under-represented in the ranks of senior management and on boards of directors in Silicon Valley. The “brogrammer” culture just exacerbates the problem.

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What does Parental Leave look like in Canada:

What are Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits?
The Employment Insurance (EI) program offers temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers. This assistance includes providing maternity benefits and parental benefits.

Since January 1, 2006, the Province of Quebec has been responsible for providing maternity, paternity, parental, and adoption benefits to residents of Quebec through a program called the Quebec Parental Insurance Program. All other types of EI benefits, such as regular benefits, sickness benefits, compassionate care and parents of critically ill children (PCIC) benefits, remain available to residents of Quebec.

EI Special Benefits for Self-Employed People

Self-employed Canadians can apply for EI special benefits (sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care and PCIC benefits) if they are registered for access to the EI program.

What are EI maternity benefits?

EI maternity benefits are offered to biological mothers, including surrogate mothers, who cannot work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth. A maximum of 15 weeks of EI maternity benefits is available. The 15 weeks can start as early as eight weeks before the expected date of birth, and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth.

What are EI parental benefits?

EI parental benefits are offered to parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child. A maximum of 35 weeks of parental benefits is available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents. The two parents can share these 35 weeks of benefits. A person recognized as the child’s legal parent on the provincial or territorial birth certificate may be eligible to receive parental benefits.

The number of weeks of EI maternity or parental benefits you are entitled to receive does not change, even if you have a multiple birth (twins, triplets, etc.) or if you adopt more than one child at the same time.

Are you eligible for EI maternity or parental benefits?
You may be eligible to receive EI maternity or parental benefits if:

  • you are employed in insurable employment;
  • you meet the specific criteria for receiving EI maternity or parental benefits;
  • your normal weekly earnings are reduced by more than 40%; and
  • you have accumulated at least 600 hours of insurable employment during the qualifying period or, if
  • you are a self-employed fisher, you have earned enough money during the qualifying period.

For more information visit the Canadian EI Web Site For Further Details

Which Companies in Canada have great Parental Benefits?

  • Public service works generally have top ups

2015 Family Friendly Employers (Macleans):

Accenture Inc.,
BC Public Service,
Dalhousie University,
Department of Finance Canada,
Desjardins Group,
HP Advanced Solutions Inc.,
ISM Canada,
Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc.,
Monsanto Canada Inc.,
National Energy Board,
Ontario Public Service / OPS,
Saskatchewan Government Insurance / SGI,
Simon Fraser University,
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre,
Toyota Motor Mfg. Canada Inc.,
Trican Well Service Ltd.,
University of Toronto,
Vancouver City Savings Credit Union / Vancity,
World Vision Canada,

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