When an employee is going to have a child, an employer needs to prepare for the worker’s eventual leave of absence, particularly if the employee is the mother, but increasingly for fathers, too. But important changes happen to expecting employees long before their baby is born, and employers should understand this and consider how these changes will affect the workplace.
The federal government is facing a $450-million class-action lawsuit for failing to provide sickness employment Insurance benefits to women already receiving maternity EI benefits while on maternity leave. The aim of the lawsuit is to ensure no other new mother who becomes seriously ill during maternity leave has to fight for sickness benefits.
I just read an interesting report about women in the workplace. Essentially, the report suggests that women remain underrepresented relative to their male counterparts, even though they form a highly educated and skilled labour pool in the market. Given the skills shortage that is expected to occur in the near future due to mass retirements of senior baby boomer workers, this is an unsettling finding. But why is this happening?
Across Canada, human rights legislation protects people from discrimination and harassment based on sex/gender; this protection includes pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is illegal to discriminate because a woman is pregnant. It is also illegal to discriminate because a woman was pregnant, had a baby or might become pregnant.
Here’s a question that probably few lawmakers are interested in asking themselves: does human rights legislation make the people it is designed to protect less desirable to employers?
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently awarded a woman $35,000 after her employer fired her when she revealed on her first day of work that she was four months pregnant. (The award covered $20,000 in lost wages and benefits, and $15,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.) In addition to the damage award, given the overwhelming number of women working for the employer, the tribunal ordered the company to implement and distribute a written policy on the accommodation of pregnancy to ensure future compliance.