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ADOPTION NEWS CENTRAL
Quebec adopters get a superior parental leave plan
BY ROBIN HILBORN, Family Helper editor
(Jan. 1, 2006) It was back in 1996 that the Quebec government first decided to offer its own parental benefit program ... but was then unable to agree with Ottawa on a separate program. It took until 2005 for the provincial and federal governments to reach a deal allowing Quebec to go ahead on its own.
On March 1, 2005 the federal government finally agreed that Quebec can run its own parental leave program. That program -- the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) -- replaces the federal Employment Insurance plan as of Jan. 1, 2006.
As a result, Canada now has a two-tier parental benefits system, with Quebec parents getting better maternity, paternity, parental and adoption benefits than parents in the other provinces.
CURRENT FEDERAL PROGRAM
Under the current Employment Insurance (EI) program, women who give birth get 15 weeks of maternity leave and 35 weeks of parental leave. Adoptive parents get only 35 weeks of parental leave. (The discrepancy is a bone of contention in the adoption community.)
While on leave from work to care for the new family member, you can collect 55% of your average insured earnings -- up to $413 a week (after a two-week waiting period). To get the benefit, you need to have worked 600 hours (and have paid EI premiums) in the previous 52 weeks. Self-employed workers do not qualify for benefits.
The 35 weeks off can be taken by one adoptive parent or shared between two at the same time, to a total of 35 weeks. You could also take a few weeks off, then return to work, while your partner takes the remaining time.
QUEBEC DOES IT BETTER
QPIP is better ... higher rates of pay, no minimum number of working hours, no waiting period before payments start, a minimum income of $2,000, and a maximum insurable earnings (in 2005) of $56,000. Moreover, self-employed workers are eligible. QPIP also provides for the indexation of benefits for low-income families.
The plan's benefits are:
* Maternity leave: 18 weeks at 70% of income. For birth mothers only.
A birth mother can get benefits for 50 weeks: 18 weeks of maternity benefits at 70%, plus 32 weeks of parental benefits, with the first 7 weeks at 70% and the remainder at 55% of income.
To be eligible for QPIP benefits, a person must:
* Be the parent of a child born or adopted on or after January 1, 2006.
If your child was born or adopted before Jan. 1, 2006 you're not eligible under QPIP. Instead, you should apply under EI. Quebec parents already getting EI benefits on Jan. 1, 2006 will continue to do so, at rates specified by EI.
Ottawa will contribute $750 million a year to help fund QPIP, but Quebec workers will also pay higher premiums to cover their higher benefits. Employers, salaried workers and self-employed workers will all pay premiums to the plan.
For more, see the article at the Adoption Council of Canada web site, www.adoption.ca/news/051020queleave.htm.