Taking a parental leave as a practicing lawyer is challenging, both emotionally and financially. My aim with this article is to highlight potential options for lawyers taking a parental leave. I also hope to share a comparison of how parental leave programs for lawyers vary between jurisdictions.
Provincial Parental Insurance Plan (PPIP)
The Provincial Parental Insurance Plan is a tax deduction that was aimed at helping parents in Canada to spend a year at home following the birth or adoption of a child. The PPIP is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and can be accessed by all taxpaying parents (who have a child either by birth or adoption), regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.
The PPIP is accessible by all Canadians. Canadians also have access to Maternity and Parental Employment Insurance (EI) or the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) for residents of Quebec. The plans are in place for the same reasons but have differing rules, eligibility criteria, regulations and tax implications.
Employment Insurance (EI)
The Employment Insurance (EI) program offers temporary financial assistance to eligible Canadians who meet the criteria. This aid comprises providing maternity as well as parental benefits.
What are EI parental benefits?
Employment Insuranceparental assistanceis made available to parents who care for a newborn or an adopted child.
The two options available for receiving parental aids are the standard or extended benefits.
- Standard parental benefits can be paid for a maximum of 35 weeks and must be claimed within 52 weeks (12 months) after the week the child was born or placed for adoption. The benefits are available to biological, adoptive, or legally recognized parents at a weekly benefit rate of 55% of the claimant's average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The parents may share these 35 weeks of standard parental benefits.
- Extended parental benefitscan be paid for a maximum of 61 weeks and must be claimed within 78 weeks (18 months) after the week the child was born or placed for adoption. These benefits are given to parents with a newborn or adopted child, or parents recognized by law at a weekly benefit rate of 33% of the claimant's average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount. The said parents can partake in the 61 weeks of additional parental benefits. NOTE: You can choose to claim extended parental benefits onlyif your child was born or placed with you for adoption on or after December 3, 2017.
Criteria for Eligibility
The EI maternity or parental benefits are available for:
- Individuals who have insurable employment;
- Individuals who meet the given rules for obtaining EI maternity or parental benefits;
- Individuals with a 40% reduced weekly earnings; and
- Individuals with accumulates of at least 600 hours of insurable employment at the qualifying period.
EI is applicable for lawyers who work in practices as employees. Self-Employed lawyers may not qualify.
Parental Leave Assistance with Your Regulatory Body
In some Canadian provinces, an eligible applicant upon the birth or adoption of a child can take maternity or parental leave through their regulatory body. Some parental leave programs come with financial aid and assistance, while others do not.
Ontario’s Parental Leave Assistance Program (PLAP)
Small businesses often face lots of financial drains when staff or the business owner embarks on parental leave. To this effect, the parental leave assistance program gives lawyers in Ontario the leverage to earn during and after the adoption or birth of a child.
Following one of the recommendations made by the Law Society's Working Group on Retention of Women, PLAP is a parental leave program administered through the Law Society of Ontario. The program caters to persons working in small and medium scale firms with not more than five employees. To be eligible for PLAP, employees must meet specific criteria, and not be under any other maternity, parental or adoption aid of a private or public program.
The ineligibility of PLAP for lawyers accepting government assistance is problematic, especially since the amount of financial assistance provided by PLAP doesn’t begin to cover firm-related expenses or what you likely would have earned had you been earning during your parental leave. Applicants who meet the criteria will get $9,000 split into a stipulated weekly stipend of about $750 for twelve weeks. With this offer, each eligible family unit can finance expenses incurred as a result of their continued practice while on maternity, parental or adoption leave.
Criteria for Eligibility
Eligibility criteria for PLAP benefits require that applicants must be:
- a child’s parent;
- a functional and undented member;
- a non-beneficiary of another maternity, parental or adoption leave programs, be it private or public;
- a partner or employee in a firm with not more than five workers or a self-employed practitioner
- an active practitioner domiciled in Ontario with not less than six months practicing experience
- earning from service provisions; giving advice or legal opinions to clients
- an owner of, or working in a physical firm (not a Post Office Box) situated in Ontario;
British Columbia’s Maternity Leave Benefit Loan Program
In British Columbia, lawyers can potentially obtain a loan from their regulatory body to assist with maintaining their practice during a maternity leave. Obtaining a loan to take a maternity leave is less than ideal given that loan would have to be repaid beginning on the first year anniversary of the loan. However, the loan is interest-free and is eligible as a taxable benefit and allows for repayment over four years. Interestingly, the loan is only available for birth mothers of a child, which notably excludes women who choose to adopt and any parent that isn’t a birth mother of a child.
To be eligible for the loan, the lawyer must satisfy all of the following requirements:
- Be the birth mother of a child.
- Be a member of the Law Society of British Columbia in good standing.
- Be a sole practitioner or a self-employed lawyer associated with a firm of five lawyers or less.
- Have no access to any other maternity and parental financial benefits, other than government programs.
The program provides a loan of $2,000 per month for four months to help with overhead costs during a maternity leave. It is available to women lawyers who do not have access to maternity and parental financial benefits, other than government programs.
Quebec’s BébéBonus Program and Financial Assistance
TheBarreau du Québec’s “Bébé Bonus” program allows for financial assistance equal to half of the dues that must be paid to the Barreau du Québec in a fiscal year in which a child is born or adopted. The amount paid will depend on the amount the licensee paid in dues. In addition, the regulatory body provides financial assistance for self-employed members.
The program is for members who receive no financial support to offset part of the operating costs of their office during a period when their professional activities are reduced or non-existent following the birth or adoption of a child. There are three types of benefits: maternity (maximum three months), parental (maximum one month) and adoption (maximum three months). It is possible to accrue the benefits that will be paid for a maximum period of four months in the case of a birth or an adoption. For the period April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, the amount of financial aid is the actual amount of the monthly operating costs of up to $1631.88 per month.
The Barreau du Québec also offers a Coaching Program to solo practicing lawyers to prepare for departure on maternity, parental or adoption leave and an emergency loan program for members who have difficulty renewing their dues.
In order to qualify for theBébé Bonus program, licensees must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Become a parent in the last 12 months
- Take maternity or parental leave of at least five consecutive weeks during which work activities are suspended, or for lawyers in solo practice (in the strict sense), a paternity leave of at least five weeks which can be split in two within a maximum of three months from the birth or adoption of the child.
- Pay all of the contributions to be paid to the Barreau du Québec during the fiscal year or part of the fiscal year in which the child was born or was received for adoption, or following fiscal year if the other conditions are met, and to receive from his employer no refund of these amounts.
In order to qualify for the financial assistance program, licensees must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be a member in good standing
- To have suspended all or part of his professional activities during the relevant leave duration.
- Have sent their application within 12 months of birth, adoption, termination of professional activities on medical recommendation or termination of pregnancy.
Taking a parental leave is a difficult choice for many practitioners. While assistance is available, the amount of money received in assistance likely pales in comparison to the expenses incurred while running a practice and other expenses incurred by parents when they are expecting the birth of their child. As mentioned above, government assistance is available for employees but self-employed lawyers likely wouldn’t be eligible for the program. Regulatory bodies offer assistance programs as well but vary widely based on the jurisdiction. Quebec appears to have the most robust program for lawyer licensees in Canada.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deepa Tailor is the founder and managing director of Tailor Law Professional Corporation and a member-at-large on the OBA's Women Lawyers Forum Executive.
Any article or other information or content expressed or made available in this Section is that of the respective author and not of the OBA.