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Maternity Benefits

06/20/07

  08:31:40 pm, by Nimble   , 657 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People

Maternity Benefits

We attended a surprisingly informative and interesting session about maternity benefits, presented by Dick Hehr (no, really). Dick is a pretty good champion for teacher's rights, a good listener by all accounts, and I really liked his no-nonsense, unapologetic yet friendly style.

He's been around the system for quite a long time, and told us that Alberta is rather middle-of-the-road when it comes to maternity benefits, but that "we've come a long way, baby". Many a year ago, female teachers were expected to resign... before they started showing signs of pregnancy, because a pregnant teacher would lead to potentially unfortunate questions or, heaven forbid, sex education. It really wasn't all that long ago, in the grand scheme of things.

The way things work in Alberta is that employers are required to give you time for maternity leave and parental leave, but they do not have to pay you. If there are arrangements to be paid as well, be considered lucky.

This does not mean that you have to go broke for the duration of your pregnancy. This is actually covered by Employment Insurance (our rebadged Unemployment Insurance). You must have accrued 300+ hours of work in the past 52 weeks to qualify. This could actually be an issue if you have back-to-back pregnancies, especially if there is a summer involved.

Maternity leave covers the 6 months after birth. Parental leave can continue after that. In the school system, parental leave can run for the remainder of the school year plus the next.

For teachers, there are some special provisions through their collective agreement. Parts of maternity leave can count as sick leave. There was a landmark case in Red Deer where beforehand, many administrators and doctors were reluctant to classify the near-birth time as "sick leave", but the case was tried and maternity was deemed to qualify, since the mother was unable to work.

Sick leave can go up to 8 weeks after the birth. That's 56 days, maximum. If sick leave time has been accrued before that point, the total still cannot go beyond 90 days. Maternity time has to start at the birth of the baby. What this means is that you collect Employment Insurance, but the sick leave pay is deducted by that amount... or you can consider it that you get full pay from the board, but they get your EI, under the principle that you cannot make more not working than you can working (there was a summer caveat, but I won't go into detail here).

Sick leave can commence before the expected date of birth. This, however, requires a doctor's note that the woman cannot work due to health reasons. Apparently, a male doctor is much more likely to give a note earlier than a female doctor - you can make up your own reasons here.

If a C-section is required, a teacher can apply for extended disability benefits, which continue for (I believe) another 5 weeks.

In practice, you will get back your same or near equivalent teaching position at the same school, but principals need not do this.

One interesting issue of fairness. Pregnant women cannot be treated worse than non-pregnant ones. However, the converse is true. If teachers are being surplussed, pregnant women can be surplussed as well, since it is also not fair to hold non-pregnant people as inferior in work dealings.

Union dues are much reduced versus that of working teachers during maternity leave. The board pays for health insurance, etc. for the maternity leave portion (6 months), but after that, the board is free of any paying obligations at all. It was highly recommended to keep paying the insurance, slightly pricy though it may be, since anything happening in the interim can make it hard to get insurance again, the reason given being, of course, "pre-existing condition".

So, we have much more clue now as to what to expect!

Next week, starting pre-natal classes on the other side of the city every Monday. Oof :)

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