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Proposed Ontario Leave Cut Leaves Lady Lawyers in Lurch

Proposed Ontario Leave Cut Leaves Lady Lawyers in Lurch


Proposed changes to a parental leave program used by hundreds of attorneys in Ontario may leave pregnant attorneys with limited options for continuing their legal practice. The changes are being proposed as a cost-saving measure by the Ontario Law Society and have caused concern among many lawyers who rely on the program. Here’s what you need to know about the issue.


The Law Society of Ontario introduced a parental leave assistance program for lawyers in 2017. The program, which provides financial assistance to lawyers going on parental leave, has been used by hundreds of attorneys, particularly women, to help them maintain their legal practice while caring for a new child. The proposed changes would see the funding for the program cut significantly, leaving many lawyers without the support they need.

Impact on Women Lawyers

Critics of the proposed changes argue that they will disproportionately impact women lawyers, who are more likely to take parental leave than their male counterparts. They assert that the changes will make it difficult for women to maintain their legal practice and return to work after having a child. Lawyers who have relied on the program in the past are concerned about how they will continue to practice law without the support provided by the program.

Cost-Saving Measures

The Law Society of Ontario has proposed the changes as a cost-saving measure to address a projected budget shortfall. The organization has stated that it will explore other options to support lawyers on parental leave, but critics argue that the proposed cuts will have a significant impact on the legal profession, particularly for women lawyers.

Call for Action

As lawyers and advocates voice their concerns about the proposed changes, the Law Society of Ontario is expected to hold a debate on the issue this week. Lawyers are calling for the organization to reconsider the changes and to maintain the support provided by the parental leave program. They argue that the changes will not only have a negative impact on individual lawyers but will also harm the legal profession as a whole.


The proposed changes to the parental leave assistance program in Ontario have caused concern among lawyers, particularly women, who rely on the support provided by the program. Critics argue that the changes will limit the options available to lawyers on parental leave and will have a negative impact on the legal profession. As the Law Society of Ontario debates the proposed changes, many are calling for the organization to maintain the support provided by the program and to explore other options to address budget concerns.

A cut to a parental leave program that hundreds of attorneys—most of them women—have depended on for three years may leave some pregnant attorneys without options for continuing their legal practice.  The changes, proposed as a cost savings measure by the Ontario Law Society, will be debated later this week.

The Ontario Law Society licenses attorneys and provides services to attorneys in the Canadian province of Ontario the same way that state bar associations do in the United States.  Three years ago, it began a pilot program to give parental leave to new parents who were trying to juggle their parental responsibilities with their professional ones.

The program, which cost about half a million dollars per year, was designed to supplement the income of attorneys taking parental leave as solo practitioners or while working for small firms.  Larger firms often have ad hoc maternity leave policies or relatively new policies that allow attorneys to continue being paid for several months after giving birth.  However, smaller firms generally cannot afford to give this kind of maternity benefit, and solo practitioners may lack the funds to simply not take clients for a few months while they recover from labor.

The province of Ontario does have special benefits that can pay up to $450 per week during parental leave, this is often not enough for attorneys to continue to pay office rents.  If the $750 a week program through the Ontario Law Society is discontinued, the unemployment insurance $450 per week maximum may be the best that many solo practitioners and small firm attorneys can do.

Ontario’s law society chose to implement the parental leave program after noticing that while women made up 50 percent of the graduating class of Ontario’s law schools, after 8 years in the profession they were only 35 percent.  Women at small firms, according to the law society, are likely to stop working when they are unable to go back to work for several months after giving birth, because they are unable to continue billing clients and lack family friendly flexibility.

Currently, people who are deriving benefits from the policy typically take about 12 weeks total of paid leave.  While men are allowed to receive parental leave benefits, women have been far more likely to use the program and constitute the vast majority of its recipients to date.

In order to use the program, attorneys must demonstrate that they work at a firm with five lawyers or fewer, that they are becoming a birth or adoptive parent, and that they are unable to obtain any other type of paid leave.  They must also stop doing any legal work during the time that they are receiving the parental leave benefit, in order to prevent attorneys from simply having the benefit paid out in addition to salary for several weeks.

Sources: lsuc.on.ca, theglobeandmail.com