THE BLOG

Working Mothers in Canada: the Policies and Contradictions

04/19/2013 05:30 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 05:12 EDT

While "motherhood" sounds a solid established notion in our society, it could in fact appear contradictory too. This contradiction is even more visible when it comes to the "working mothers" and the policies in place for them. On one hand, the society praises mothers' sacrifice and unconditional love for their children. On the other hand, the same mothers could be subjected to punitive discrimination at work and consequently job loss and financial deprivation.

On Tuesday, April the 9, CBC had a news coverage of ineligibility of Canadian mothers to receive Employment Insurance (EI) right after maternity leave. In other words, what is implied by law is the maternity leave is considered unemployment. Likewise other Canadians, new mothers who are back from the maternity leave, need to accumulate insurable working hours within 52 weeks preceding the claim day, in order to be eligible to receive EI in case of lay-off. In fact, women will lose all their accumulated insurable working hours when they go on maternity leave.

The attractive side of the story encourages the Canadian new mothers to rely on their maternity benefits and stay home with their newborns for a year. The system assures women that the employers legally are obliged to reserve their positions while they are on the leave. Sadly, the story has an unattractive hidden side and that is when mothers return back to work post-maternity leave and they learn they lost all the insurable working hours they accumulated before the leave. Therefore, if they lose their jobs for any reason before accumulating enough of hours then they won't have any financial security until they land their next job.

However, as Canadian women, we are proud that after many years of advocacy finally new working mothers are entitled to receive maternity leave benefits for a year, but it seems we still have to campaign for more job security post-maternity leave. We need to remember new mothers not only need the social supports right after the birth but they need variety of supports such as more job safety after they return back to work.

In my humble opinion, in order to take steps toward solving this double standard, we first need to address the issue collectively and raise awareness both in personal and public levels. Then we need to pursue our elected representatives to advocate on women's eligibility to receive EI in case of lay-off post-maternity. It is noteworthy to illustrate that Maternity Leave and unemployment are different in nature and hence receiving maternity leave cannot and should not undermine EI eligibility. We need to harmonize our standards about working mothers and recognize their challenges to make a good life balance between motherhood and their professional life.