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Clawback of mat leave pay 'discriminatory,' says Chilliwack woman

A pregnant woman with a partner on disability is scrambling in Chilliwack after being told her maternity benefits will be clawed back by the province. Samantha Hilliard met with her MLA to see what could be done to change the archaic law. - JENNIFER FEINBERG/ PROGRESS
A pregnant woman with a partner on disability is scrambling in Chilliwack after being told her maternity benefits will be clawed back by the province. Samantha Hilliard met with her MLA to see what could be done to change the archaic law.
— image credit: JENNIFER FEINBERG/ PROGRESS

A pregnant woman with a partner on disability is scrambling in Chilliwack after being told her maternity benefits will be clawed back "dollar for dollar" by the provincial government.

The laws that permit the clawing back of benefits are "outdated and discriminatory," said Samantha Hilliard, an employee with Ann Davis Transition Society.

She took the matter to Chilliwack MLA John Martin's office on Airport Road Thursday, going public with her plight to urge B.C. Liberals and leader Christy Clark to change the "archaic" practice.

MLA Martin said he met with Hilliard to hear what she had to say, and told The Progress he is willing to investigate further.

Hilliard, has been working full time at ADTS for three years. The family income will plunge from just over $3,000 per month to $1,300 per month as the mat leave benefits are considered "unearned" income, leaving them almost unable pay rent and other living expenses.

"I have worked every day and have earned a maternity leave, this should not be something that affects a partner on disability ability to provide for their family," she said.

"My partner is infuriated watching me scramble to save every dollar I can so that I can pay for my own maternity leave, while finances are already a huge stressor."

It's not just Hilliard.

According to First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition a whopping $443,000 in EI maternity and parental benefits were clawed back from disability cheques over the past year, affecting about 150 families.

Hilliard said her partner who is struggling with renal failure, only has his disability cheque for income.

"To take this away, dollar for dollar, is an outrage. It causes stress to new mothers, and a feeling of helplessness to the partners who are unable to work and will see their funds depleted due to a maternity leave taken by their expecting partners."

Also appalling is the fact that the policy disproportionately discriminates against women, given that they are the ones who give birth and claim maternity benefits.

"I go to work every day to make a positive difference for women and children and families. I work frontline helping others to learn how to help themselves.

"So it's appalling that I will be plunged into poverty myself due to outdated and discriminatory laws," she said.

 

 

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