Actual concrete steps? Make it easier for women to access maternity leave. Right at the moment, for instance, it's one year. That's 55% of their salary. While we certainly support the idea in the budget of women being given the opportunity to take 18 months, that reduces their EI to something like 33% from 55% of their pay. In essence, if they can take 18 months, they're doing it at 33% of their salary, which is a big pay cut. Melodie said she's a single mother. There are single mothers out there. There are single fathers out there. But anyway, it's difficult.
The money is a problem because it's difficult to live on that amount. It's nice to have the time. But I know a lot of women who have gotten pregnant and have not been able to take even the whole of their maternity leave simply because they can't afford it. That's one thing in the population. Another much smaller segment of the population can't take that much time off from work because of the job they're in. They have to go back to work. They feel they have to go back to work.
It's mostly that they go back because of the money. We've given women 12 months and now possibly 18 months but with the same amount of money. I think we have to make it easier for them to actually access that. It's all right to say you can take 12 months but you're doing it at half your salary. That's major, especially for young families. I don't know too many families these days where there aren't two working parents. So to have the one salary cut by half for 12 months or cut by a third if you go to 18 months, that's a lot. It comes down to the money a lot of times, I think. That's a big deal. It comes down to, as Anna was saying, that you build up your 600 hours—I think it's 600 hours before you can access your maternity leave—but then if something happens, if you become pregnant earlier, then maybe you anticipate it for your second child or your third child, but you don't have that bank of hours built up. So maybe that's something where a little more flexibility could be introduced to the strategy as well.
Instead of just looking at the previous 600 hours, maybe EI could look at it going back further and say, “You've worked for the last 10 years; you've got so many hours banked in the last 10 years, not just 600 hours in the last year, and this is the first time you're going to access EI”. Maybe it could be a little more flexible.