COVID-19 response impacting Sarnia woman’s maternity leave time | Sarnia Observer

by pregnancy journalist

Jazmine Fedora says she may miss nearly half her upcoming maternity leave because she’s been placed on employment insurance instead of federal emergency aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

And she’s not alone.

Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu said she’s received more than 10 calls from women like Fedora – pregnant and placed on EI and not switched over, like non-pregnant colleagues, to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit when it became available in April, effectively forcing them to begin their maternity leaves early.

Fedora, 29, and expecting her first child Aug. 21,  was laid off from her job as a dental assistant at an orthodontic office on March 20. She said she can’t even opt out of EI because she’s been told she’d need to start over at zero to make up the 600 work hours needed to qualify for maternity leave again.

Without a fix, the Sarnia woman said she’ll miss out on about five months with her baby-to-be and have to look for daycare early so she can go back to work next March.

“I honestly would go without payment right now and just suffer so I can keep my EI hours,” Fedora said, “but that’s not an option.”

The Canadian Press reported in April that women in Burlington, Comox, B.C., and Calgary had encountered similar circumstances, wherein they can’t access the $2000-per-month emergency benefit, though the government said in April anyone who had applied for EI after March 15 would automatically be moved to the new 16-week benefit.

Fedora said her non-pregnant colleagues, who applied for EI like she did on March 20, were switched to CERB without incident.

Employment and Social Development Canada told the Canadian Press that pregnant women eligible for CERB can receive the emergency benefit even if they expect to start an EI maternity or parental claim soon, and there’s no requirement to claim CERB for the entire 16 weeks.

The Observer sent Employment and Social Development Canada additional questions by email April 27.

A media relations spokesperson said its office was dealing with a high number of inquiries and would do its best to respond soon.

Follow-up emails were sent April 28 and April 30. No answers were provided as of May 1.

“The government has been very slow to act,” Gladu said Friday. “We have raised the issue with them multiple times, as well as in the virtual Parliament that happened this week. They’re aware of the problem.”

It’s important for the government to address the issue, she said.

“People that have worked that deserve their maternity leave shouldn’t be treated differently and forced to take their maternity leave early when they’re not even ready to do that,” Gladu said.

Fedora, in addition to contacting Gladu’s office, said she’s spent hours on the phone with EI, the Canada Revenue Agency and Service Canada to help remedy her situation – all to no avail.

Hopes are her EI hours will be reimbursed when – and if – she’s able to transfer to the CERB in the interim, she said.

“There’s enough people that know about it now that hopefully something will happen,” she said.

This content was originally published here.

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