Looking Forward: Paid Parental Leave

Happy Father’s Day! 

The ownership team here at Escarpment Labs includes two dads, and between us Nate and I have had three children since starting this company. As new parents and entrepreneurs we’ve both had to make some difficult decisions with our families about how we balance our work with our parental responsibilities, and neither of us ever felt as if we could take long, dedicated stretches of time off from Escarpment to help care for our newborns. When my daughter was born six years ago, I was trying to finish grad school and Escarpment -- also in its infancy -- was being run part-time by three co-founders who all had other major time commitments. Taking any serious time off would have meant shelving Escarpment just as we were about to launch, so taking paternity leave seemed impossible at the time. We don’t want any of our staff to ever feel like they have to prioritize their work over their families in the same way. Let’s talk about parental leave.

Over the last six years we’ve seen Escarpment Labs mature from a bare-bones startup to a well-established presence in the Canadian brewing industry, and as we’ve grown and become more financially stable we’ve gradually added benefits for our employees that remove potential sources of stress and make it easier for staff to take care of themselves and their families. A few years ago we started a health care spending account to reimburse staff for medical expenses, then in response to COVID-19 we expanded that spending account and implemented a formal paid sick leave policy. Father’s Day seems like a good occasion to announce that we now have a paid parental leave top-up policy for permanent employees, to ensure that new parents at Escarpment won’t have to sacrifice income to take time off to look after their kids.  


In Canada, paid parental leave is administered as an Employment Insurance (EI) benefit: new parents stop receiving their pay-cheques from their employers, and the federal government steps in to pay those parents a portion of what they made when they were working, up to a weekly maximum. Birth mothers can be eligible for Maternity benefits that cover 55% of their salaries for 15 weeks, up to a maximum of $595 per week, then under Standard Parental benefits, the two parents can split another 40 weeks of the same coverage: 55% of their salaries to a weekly max of $595. 


$595 a week is not nothing, but a 45% pay cut (or more) is a significant hit, and dealing with that loss of income can put a lot of pressure on new parents to return to work sooner than they’d otherwise like, or to skip parental leave entirely. Under our new top-up policy, Escarpment will supplement the EI benefits so that new parents will still receive 100% of their pre-baby income for the duration of their Maternity leave and for the first 15 weeks of their Standard Parental leave. After those first 15 weeks of Standard Parental leave at 100%, we’ll top up the EI benefit to 70% of the employee’s salary for the rest of their leave. 


We want to be the kind of employer that people can build careers and lives around, and that means being there for our staff as they go through big life changes. We’re aware that many of our employees at Escarpment are partnered and are at that age when a lot of couples start thinking about having kids, and we know firsthand that parenthood is challenging and expensive. We’re glad to be able to help prospective parents by alleviating a major financial barrier to starting or growing a family.