By: Helen Patterson
Mother’s Day is coming up in Canada and apparently more phone calls are made on this day than any other day of the year! While parenting and caregiving is moving forward as far as equal responsibility in the 21st century, females continue to take on a predominant role in caregiving. Take the time to demonstrate appreciation for the “Moms” in your life – whether biological mother, adopted mother, grandmother or great grandmother. Or thank the other women and men who take on one of the most difficult jobs in the world – taking care of a child. There are a number of supports that employers can provide, some legally required, and some that are progressive and flexible programs for mothers and parents. Let’s take a look at Mother’s Day and parenting, and some top considerations for companies below.
History of Mother’s Day
Before I get into some great examples of interesting programs for parents, I’d like to share the history of Mother’s Day, since that is what I like to do! Motherhood is traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, and the clearest modern precedent is from the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday”. In 1870 Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation”, a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. It seems some things haven’t changed! It’s also been a date for launching political and feminist causes, such as when Coretta Scott King, used it to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare. Today it’s become more secular where it continues to be a day to celebrate and honour women with time, gifts and flowers. You can learn more here: History Mother's Day
How Can Employers Support Mothers and Parents?
Mother’s Day is not a statutory holiday in Canada; it falls on the second Sunday of May each year, when most organizations, schools and government offices are closed. Most employers therefore do not need to worry about providing any paid or unpaid time off as they do with a number of other statutory holiday. Likewise, Father’s Day which is coming up in June is also not legally mandated as a holiday with or without pay. What can an organization do to help support parents in Canada? What are some of the compliance obligations of employers when it comes to those employees who are parents?
Maternity/Parental Leave Options
As a starting point, employers should be aware of their obligation to provide maternity or parental leave options to parents. As a recap, organizations in Canada will be subject to federal, provincial or territorial employment laws. Each jurisdiction sets out the following requirements either in employment standards laws or in laws regulating government income:
- Eligibility period
- Length of leave of absence
- Whether the job is protected after the leave
- Whether an employee qualifies for employment insurance
Employers that want to attract and retain top talent may also provide top-up pay over and above what the government might cover as there is a monetary cap. Please keep in mind that Quebec has its own program of insurance known as the Quebec Parental Insurance Program, and slightly different entitlements, such as paternity leave and different levels of compensation. Employers will need to think about replacing the employee who is taking the leave of absence (so back-filling the employee). Also, the Federal government recently introduced extended entitlements – it’s changing all the time. Further, human rights issues might arise once an employee becomes a caregiver, both for children, and their parents.
Accommodation and Family Status Issues
In the human rights area, family status accommodation has been evolving as well. While most employers would not consider that they need to address issues such as flexible work schedules for parents, there is a shift to looking at some of this in certain cases. Looking at my own recent experience as a sandwich generation, taking care of children, and my mother’s needs, I’m blessed that I can work with an organization that provided me flexibility to meet the demands of my personal life. Great organizations understand the blend between work and life challenges. We will look at this in a future blog so stay tuned! If you’re interested in more about the changing nature of the family unit in Canada, you can also check out The Vanier Institute materials.
Celebrate the Mothers in Your Life
While it’s great to have a day that we can acknowledge the Mothers in the world, it’s important to appreciate these special people throughout the year! Gratitude for the women who gave us our life is something not to be taken for granted. Love and thank you to all the Moms and caregivers out there!
Helen has a unique background combining careers in employment law and human resources and brings this expertise to her role in HR and Compliance Insights and Product Compliance at ADP Canada.