On December 19, 2023, the Nova Scotia government announced that it will be taking immediate steps to provide defined pension plan coverage for employees who work in licensed early learning and child care programs.
Employees will also be entitled to health, life, long term disability and dental benefits through the Health Association of Nova Scotia (HANS) and they will be available to all employees, whether working full or part time.
Child Care Now Nova Scotia commends the government for listening and responding to the demands of child care advocates, and taking this very large initiative to support the child care workforce.
“The announcement today represents a major breakthrough for child care advocates and child care employees across the country,” says Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director of Child Care Now. “We have been pushing all levels of government to extend defined pension benefits and comprehensive benefit coverage to the child care sector and the Nova Scotia government is demonstrating it can be done.”
The new pension benefits will be provided through the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT) pension plan, a large pan-Canadian multi-employer defined benefit pension plan. The pension benefits will be funded through matching employee and employer contributions. Employers will receive additional public funding to offset the cost of their pension plan contributions. Employees will contribute 5% of their wages to the pension plan; however, the loss in take-home pay will be compensated through a wage increase of approximately 15%, starting in April 2024.
“Having health insurance, and being able to retire with a pension, will be a game-changer for so many workers in the sector,” says Kenya Thompson, Coordinator of Child Care Now Nova Scotia. “But because wages continue to be inadequate, the pension amount will be low. Promoting a strong child care workforce goes hand-in-hand with creating a strong system of early learning and child care in Nova Scotia. To recruit and retain enough early childhood educators to make it happen, we need stronger wages.”
A guaranteed, predictable pension benefit based on their pre-retirement salary and years of service, means those who work in the child care sector will be less likely to retire into poverty in the years ahead. However, today’s announcement will be of little benefit to workers nearing retirement, who have been unable to put savings aside because of historically poor wages, nor had the opportunity to pay into a pension. Child Care Now and our Nova Scotia chapter call on the government to support workers who have dedicated years of service to children and families across Nova Scotia.