Both parents of a set of twins born in Ontario will be staying home to take care of them while receiving benefits after an Employment Insurance (EI) board awarded parental benefits to both.
The twin girls were born on April 21, 2009, to Paula Critchley and Christian Martin, who were both employees of the federal government in Ottawa. Critchley was awarded the usual 15 weeks maternity leave plus 35 weeks parental leave for one of the babies. Martin also applied for 35 weeks of parental leave for the other baby, but was turned down because EI law says 35 weeks can only be provided for a single pregnancy or adoption, not each birth. The time could be split among the parents, but only a total of 35 weeks was allowed.
The babies were born prematurely and underweight, and Critchley had health complications during and after the births, which caused the couple serious problems. Martin fought for his own parental benefits, claiming that caring for two babies was too difficult and “overwhelming” without both parents present. He also said it was unfair and discriminatory to only allow one set of benefits for two babies just because they were born together.
The board allowed Martin’s claim for his own set of 35 weeks of parental benefits, allowing him to stay home to help care for his two daughters. It said both parents suffered from “onerous household obligations” related to the birth and agreed each parent could make a separate claim for one of the babies.
However, board decisions are not binding precedents are the decision only applies in this one case, meaning other multiple birth parents will not necessarily get multiple parental benefits. The government could either challenge the ruling or amend EI rules to allow the decision to apply to all multiple births going forward.
“It is not about multiple-birth parents getting more benefits than parents of single births, but rather to get the equivalent treatment since there are more babies to care for,” Martin told the Ottawa Citizen. “Two sets of benefits are normally given to the same claimant for two separate babies if they come a couple of years apart.”
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