Vancouver [September 28, 2016] – In response to a human rights complaint, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation announced yesterday that it will end the practice of clawing back Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits from families receiving income and disability assistance. The government also announced that it will no longer claw back EI benefits for parents caring for critically ill children. These changes will allow about 200 families with young children in BC to keep their EI income replacement at a time when they need it most.
The Community Legal Assistance Society filed the human rights complaint earlier this year on behalf of Jess and Tony Alford. The complaint alleged that the BC government engaged in sex discrimination contrary to human rights law by depriving women of their EI maternity and parental benefits.
Jess Alford worked a retail job at a book store. While she was working she paid premiums into EI like any other worker and accumulated enough employment hours to make an EI claim. When she took leave from work to have her child she collected the EI maternity and parental benefits she was entitled to. But because Jess's partner receives disability assistance, the BC government deducted the entire amount she received in EI benefits dollar-for-dollar.
Now, families in Ms. Alford's situation will get to keep their EI benefits. "Having my family's income drastically reduced because I needed time off work to have my baby only made a stressful time worse for our family," said Jess Alford. "I'm so happy to know that going forward families like ours who pay into the EI system will get to keep the EI benefits they have earned."
"The purpose of EI maternity and parental benefits is to share the financial cost of child birth and early child care among everyone in our society, rather than heaping that cost on women alone," said Laura Johnston, lawyer for the complainants. "These changes are an important step forward for women's equality."
Laura Johnston, Lawyer, Community Legal Assistance Society, 604-673-3105, ljohnston [@] clasbc.net
Kevin Love, Lawyer, Community Legal Assistance Society, 604-673-3104, klove [@] clasbc.net