Family leave: (noun) Leave a person takes from their work in support of their family. Family leave includes maternity, paternity, parental, adoption, family medical, care and nurturing and bereavement leave.
In 1971, the Federal Government acted on recommendations from the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. They amended the Unemployment Insurance Act to include 15 weeks maternity benefits at 66% of their salary for mothers with at least 20 weeks of insurable earnings.
But this was not enough, so unions started to campaign to include maternity leave top-up in their collective agreements. In 1974, the Association of University and College Employees (AUCE) at the University of British Columbia negotiated the first collective agreement with paid maternity leave.
Unions representing Quebec government, education and health workers combined their bargaining strength in the Common Front. In 1979, they negotiated 20 weeks fully paid maternity leave, 10 weeks adoption leave, and five days paid paternity leave.
In 1981, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), under the leadership of Jean-Claude Parrot, had to strike for 42 days to win 17 weeks paid maternity leave, but they made the issue legitimate in the public’s eyes.
The following year, federal clerks, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and Bell telephone workers, members of the Communications Workers of Canada (CWC), negotiated paid maternity leave. These wins came after both unions had gone on strike in the previous round of negotiations.
These breakthroughs rocked Canada at the time and still resonate in the lives of young families across the country. This is, in the end, the happy – if unfinished – story of how determined people and changing times have helped to improve the lives of individuals, of families, and of society as a whole.