What good is 6 more months? Parents weigh in on work-leave extension

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What good is 6 more months? Parents weigh in on work-leave extension

The conversation among parents at an indoor playground in Halifax is easily steered toward the federal government's new plan to extend paid parental leave from 12 months to 18 months.

The change was announced Wednesday in the federal budget.

Child care

"I think it's fantastic and I wish it had happened when I was on maternity leave," said Kathryn Arseneau, who has two children ages five and seven. She says she would have kept her kids out of daycare longer.

"The kids had a really hard time finding comfort, being one [years old] and going into a place they didn't feel comfortable."

One downside to the new plan is parents choosing to take 18 months will be paid through employment insurance at 33 per cent of their eligible income, instead of 55 per cent at the current rate for 12 months.

"I think that presents challenges in some senses. Some families would be equipped and it would be OK but there are others that may not make enough money and that 33 per cent may not be enough and they'd have to go back early anyway," said Arseneau.

Still worth it?

But even with less money coming in over 18 months, some say things might even out financially because child care is often more expensive for children under 1½ years old. Plus, spots for kids under that age are often harder to come by.

"There's not a lot of places that take babies, so you can be on a waiting list for months or years," said Melanie Beulieu, who has children ages three and five. "So yeah, it's quite challenging and if you have the 18 months off you have more time to be on the waiting list."

What about dads?

Parents with newborns are also often faced with the challenge of deciding which parent should take the lion's share of the leave.

Jamie Wood has a two-year-old son. His wife didn't have enough hours logged at her work so he took most of the parental leave available.

"I think definitely some dads are missing out on it," he said. "It's not always ideal for people's situations to take that time off but from my experience it's worth it 110 per cent."

Woods said he understands that when both parents have the chance to take leave, it often makes more sense for the mom to be off if they are breastfeeding. But with six more months available, he thinks more dads will get a chance share more of that time a home.