Monday, September 15, 2008

Parental Leave Program Will Really Help

Stephen Harper's promise today to extend parental leave to self employed Canadians is an excellent idea that will help encourage families to choose small businesses at a time when many people are faced with starting a new career after layoffs or downsizing.

To start his day, Harper visited a spa partly owned by female entrepreneur Angela Macheado. Harper used that event as visual prelude to announce that his government would allow self-employed Canadians to opt in to the employment
insurance fund in order to qualify for parental leave benefits.

"Ironically, self-employed Canadians who are successful and who create jobs must pay into the EI system on behalf of their employees, but cannot access those benefits themselves. This is not right," Harper said.

"Self-employed Canadians, and those who one day hope to be, shouldn't have to choose between starting a family and starting a business because of government policy."

Self-employed persons would have to opt in at least six months prior to making any claim. The independent Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board will set premiums and other details at a later date.

Today's promise meets the Conservative's standard of "tangible, meaningful and affordable announcements." It is very tangible and meaningful to small business owners and professionals with several contracts as opposed to one full time job. If you are operating your business this way and then choose to have a baby, you currently earn nothing for the time you have off, whearas people with a full time job get one year's worth of benefits. It can make the decision to start a small business and the decision to start or grow your family very difficult. This announcement makes both decisions easier and makes government policy more fair.

Today's announcement is affordable for governments too, because those who opt into the program still pay premiums. Naturally it will cost the Employment Insurance more because it's voluntary and families that are planning to have children will be more likely to opt in. Still, the overall cost will be very manageable while the benefit for those affected will be very real.

Well done Stephen.

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