Canadians will be entitled to more time off work after the birth or adoption of a child, but only if both new parents share the time at home with baby.

The federal government is accelerating the timeline on a new parental sharing benefit aimed at seeing parents more equally share the responsibility of raising children in order to boost gender equality in the workplace.

The new measure will provide an additional five weeks of Employment Insurance parental benefits when parents agree to share them to take time off work.

Parents, including same-sex and adoptive parents, with children born or placed for adoption on or after March 17, 2019, will be eligible.

The government had intended to bring in the measure in June but says implementing it three months earlier means more than 24,000 additional parents could benefit.

“Providing women with equal economic opportunities will drive innovation and support middle class families. The new parental sharing benefit will give parents extra flexibility and encourage Canadians to share the work of raising their children more equally,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, who made the announcement in Toronto Wednesday to help mark the first Gender Equality Week.

Women make 85 per cent of all parental claims and take longer leaves from the workplace, according to government figures.

Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef said when child-care duties fall disproportionately on women, it has economic and social consequences.

“Encouraging all parents to be engaged in full-time caregiving for their infants will help to create greater financial security for women and stronger bonds between fathers or second parents and their babies,” said Monsef in a statement. “On Gender Equality Week, the Parental Sharing Benefit is an excellent illustration of the way our government is working to advance gender equality both at home and in the workplace.”

With the sharing benefit, parents selecting the standard duration of parental benefits could receive up to 40 weeks of parental benefits, up from 35 weeks. Neither parent could access more than 35 weeks in total, meaning they must be shared.

Parents selecting the extended duration of parental benefits could receive up to 69 weeks of parental benefits, up from 61 weeks. Neither parent could access more than 61 weeks in total.