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Canada falls behind in basic worker benefits: McGill study Doesn't measure up to other countries on sick leave, vacation time and breastfeeding breaks MIKE KING, The Gazette Published: 6 hours ago mike king the gazette Canada is perennially a top-10 finisher in United Nations rankings as one of the best countries in the world to live in. But a new McGill University study indicates that Canada lags behind many other countries on some basic worker benefits. The school's Institute for Health and Social Policy conducted recently an international survey that is the first research of its type to measure Canadian laws and practices vs. those of 180 other countries in such areas as maternity leave, annual paid vacations, sick leave and breaks for breastfeeding mothers. The Work Equity Canada (WECan) index, conducted by the institute's Jody Heymann, Martine Chaussard and Megan Gerecke, found Canada scores well for having policies that guarantee paid leave to care for dependents with serious illnesses. But Canada fared worse in other areas. The 78-page report notes: - In nearly 90 other countries, workers are guaranteed three weeks or more of paid leave a year, while most Canadian workers with a year's tenure are guaranteed only two. In Ontario, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, even workers with long service are guaranteed just two weeks of vacation. - At least 156 countries provide leave for sick workers, 81 of them offering full wage replacement. Canada guarantees just more than half as much, 55 per cent of insurable income, with most provinces and territories not guaranteeing job protection during leaves of more than 12 days. - More than 100 countries officially provide new mothers in the formal workforce with complete wage replacement during maternity leave. Most women in Canada are only guaranteed 55 per cent of their insurable income during maternity leave. Quebec is the exception, with women receiving 70 to 75 per cent of their insured income. - Since breastfeeding has been proven to dramatically reduce illness and death among infants and toddlers, 114 countries have laws guaranteeing women the right to a break to breastfeed at work. Not a single province guarantees the same benefit. On leave for dependents with serious illnesses, Canada is one of 39 countries with such leaves with pay and among them one of only 16 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members making the guarantee. Institute director Heymann notes there's a wide variation in laws and practices from province to province, especially when it comes to helping parents handle pregnancy and childbirth. "Quebec offers parents more choice, higher wage replacement rates and five weeks paternity leave for men's exclusive use," Heymann said. "In addition, Quebec allows self-employed workers to opt out into parental benefits," she added. "No such provisions exist for self-employed workers in the rest of Canada" - a group that makes up 15 per cent of the employed workforce. René Roy, secretary-general of the Quebec Federation of Labour, said he's studying the McGill report and isn't ready yet to comment on it. To view the full report, visit http://www.mcgill.ca/ihsp [email protected]