Resolving Timeline Issues

Maternity Leave

Posted on: August 5, 2009

This post is part of the Carnival of Maternity Leave over at Strocel.com. Visit http://www.strocel.com/maternity-leave for more posts on maternity leave from August 3 – 15, 2009.

When I found out I was pregnant last year, we were surprised. Not at the pregnancy itself, but at the timing. You see, I’d gone off birth control in March or so when my prescription ran out. By September I was pregnant. My job was really going to hell in a handbasket, and there’s somewhat of a major event happening in Vancouver next year – I didn’t want to commute while that was happening. This couldn’t have been better timing.

In December, Darren quit his job – for the best really since he was miserable there and was out of work for 3 months. He’s in a much better place now, making more money and is able to leave work at work. It did however, drain our savings.

I went on maternity leave about 5 weeks (give or take) before my due date. It was Easter, a long weekend and seemed like a good time to break off. On April 14, I applied for Maternity and Parental EI benefits and was told that it would be about a month before its approved, given the state of the economy and the larger than usual numbers of people applying for EI.

Me: A month? So if I don’t hear anything in about 6 weeks I should call?
EI Agent: No, no, no. It’ll only be 4 weeks. I promise.

(Dude, I work for government; I know that 4 weeks usually means 6 or longer)

On May 17th, the Poptart was born; my EI claim still hadn’t been processed. I waited another couple of weeks then phoned because I was getting these reports in the mail to fill out even though I had asked to be exempt from them. Every time I phoned or went to the Service Canada office, I was told I didn’t have to fill them out – yet they kept sending them. None of the agents had any idea why I was receiving them.

 Normally, the wait wouldn’t be an issue, but my employer provides a 6 week top up to 95% and we were running kind of tight at that point.

At the six week mark, I phoned the automated system again and listened to the whole message which said that I had to fill out the reports in order to get my claim processed.

Me: [hits 0, listens to muzak]
Agent: How may I help you?
Me: So I applied for my maternity EI over a month ago and a decision still hasn’t been made. Also, I keep getting these reports to fill out in the mail, and I asked to be exempt from them. Your automated system tells me I need to fill them out in order to have a decision made. The agents tell me I don’t need to fill them out. So which is it?
Agent: Okay, first, I’ll flag your account and have the agent dealing with your file contact you within 48 hours. And I’ll check with my supervisor as to the reports.
Me: And I would like an email explaining that either I do or do not have to fill out the reports.
Agent: What?
Me: I want something in writing that I do or do not have to fill out the reports. This is ridiculous.
Agent: [goes away, puts me on hold]
Me: [Muzak]
Agent: Okay, you don’t have to fill out the reports.
Me: You’re sure? Because your system says differently.
Agent: Yes, because your file hasn’t been processed, its just in the pile with all other applications.
Me: So where’s that email?
Agent: Its coming. Is there anything else I can do?…

Within 12 hours I got a call saying my file would be processed that day. I got a back payment within 72 hours.

Anyways, it got me thinking: maternity EI should be a no brainer once your Records of Employment (ROEs) are in, especially if your ROE is submitted electronically by your employer. Maternity and Parental EI is based on the number of hours you’ve worked in a certain period of time. I knew I had the requisite number of hours for the maximum benefit. How difficult is it to create an algorithm that runs a check against the number of hours and performs the calculation of your benefits and trigger a conditional approval? All that would be necessary would be for a quick check to make sure that everything is in order. Those Maternity/Parental EI forms could be dealt with by a few agents once a week. And that would reduce the stress on new parents who not only have a newborn to deal with, but also have to deal with government bureaucracy to get a pittance of EI benefits.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have a year off to spend with my daughter. This is MY year with her because in a few years, she’s going to be Daddy’s Girl. I don’t think its fair that my income is cut in less than half – yes, you get 55% of your income to a maximum of $447/week. So its not 55% if you earn more than $812/week. Which I do.

I don’t like running that tight on money. There’s enough, but we have a bit of a cashflow issue, particularly at the beginning of the month after the mortgage, strata fees and my continuation of benefits have come out. We’ve trimmed pretty much everywhere we can, and quite honestly, my complaints are not those of a lot of other people. I should feel lucky that we all we had to do was go down to one car, cut out the maid service, cook more, and go to using my own cloth diapers rather than having a service. And I do feel lucky.

But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Canada has a low population growth rate; it may even be negative now. If the government wishes to maintain its population, then it’ll have to change the way maternity and parental benefits are. In addition to streamlining the process so that approval is immediate, it would be great if it would be an actual 55% of your income. Or more. It somehow only seems fair to do that and relieve some of the pressures on new parents so that they don’t have to choose between work and family.

At the end of the day, though, being able to spend this time with my daughter really, really makes up for it.

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8 Responses to "Maternity Leave"

Isn’t bureaucracy fun? /sarcasm

Seriously, that’s crazy that it took that long to process your claim. I applied back in August before the economy collapsed, so maybe that’s why, but I received notification within like 2 weeks of filing. I understand that unexpected events can put a strain on the system, but maybe that would be a good time to hire some temporary employees to take the load off. Not to mention, it would deal with the unemployment problem.

I think I may be a political genius. 😉

[…] Maternity Leave by Nicole AKPC_IDS += "5389,"; Love this? Share it! […]

I know you’re having a hard time, but dude here in the U.S. I’d KILL for your system. I didn’t get a paycheck for 4 months (1 month I was on bed rest, and the rest for maternity leave which I HAD to be back to work when Theo was 10 weeks old. It killed me.)

But I know it’s hard to cut costs and be stressed. It sucks. So I hope things get better for you!

yes – our system is way better than the usa system – (which is scary horrible and you can’t even compare) however there is soooo much room for improvement. The Canadian government does not support young families – Harper likes to think he is with our extra $100/month per kid but he really needs to get his head out of his ass. A national subsidized childcare program would have been much better.

Yes it is wonderful that you get a year off. Your EI contributions are not capped b/c you have a good income but your ability to access them is – why? self-employed women get nothing. I would have paid EI if that meant I could have had a mat leave (I was self employed when having my babies). After maternity leave – you then have to pay $30+/day for daycare so you can go back to work until your child is in grade 1 – not kindergarten b/c that’s 1/2 time so you’re still screwed for daycare.

I strongly beveive that more Canadian families would have more children if there was more support. Caring for babies and toddlers are stressful enough(love them dearly but challenging) without the added financial stress.

oi! thanks for the rant
Erin
a fellow mama in ontario!

That is so weird that they weren’t processing it because of the “economy”. Hmm, sounds off to me. I applied back in July 2008 and no problems then.
I agree that the ROE should just be able to be sent electronically and then voila! All the paper work is silly.
It is always a bit of a shock cutting back on things because we like to spend what we have. Hope it gets easier.

[…] went on maternity leave five weeks before her daughter was due. As she explains in her post Maternity Leave, her claim still hadn’t been processed by the time her little one arrived, right on schedule. […]

My company does a top-up thing, too, but for 17 weeks. I’ll be going through this soon, so I was happy to read your post!

Aw don’t you hate it when you know what the government speak BS really means. I got that too.

My EI was processed supa fast so no complaints there but I agree that there should be more support AFTER the parental leave is over. Daycare situation is abysmal.

I worked in a gov’t building with plenty of empty, leasable space and there were at least 5 co-workers who would have put their kids in a gov’t run daycare centre in the building. Instead, those who could find daycare (I was not one) were driving all over the city picking up, dropping off.

I mean I know how hard it would be to do. But dammit, what a waste of space, time, energy, you know?

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