“There’s some question about whether that’s really enough incentive to get men to change their leave-taking behaviour, particularly when we’re in this context of greater economic uncertainty,” she said.
“There is a lot we don’t know about how these policies play out in the context of a recession.”
A report this month from Statistics Canada said the proportion of spouses or partners of recent mothers who claimed, or intended to claim, the EI leave increased to 35.4 per cent last year from 31.3 per cent in 2018 and 29.1 per cent in 2017.
Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees EI, couldn’t say many parents used the sharing benefit last year and so far this year.
Doucet said rates could actually go up as more fathers work remotely and take care of children at home because of school or daycare closures. Research suggests the more fathers are home, the more they want to get involved in care.
“They want to be involved. They don’t just want to go to work the next day,” she said.
“All that could have some benefit. There could be some implications for fathers working from home, or their take up of leave.”
But, she added, the policy has to change.
Doucet and two co-authors recently called on the government to boost the income-replacement rate and ease access, particularly in light of an economic downturn disproportionately affecting women.
As is, about one-third of women don’t qualify for EI parental benefits, Doucet said, noting many are mothers from low-income, racialized or new immigrant families.
“Parental leave is critical to shifting those gender equality patterns, so that if we ever get into another pandemic â¦ things could be different,” Doucet said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.