New moms told to go to work to get EI parental benefits after jobs lost to COVID-19

New moms told to go to work to get EI parental benefits after jobs lost to COVID-19

OTTAWA — Alexis Adams is joyful about the arrival of her third daughter but she is also concerned about how to pay for another maternity leave that is, like her daughter, barely a week old.

Adams lost her job in late March when COVID-19 shut down the television show she was working on. She was about 150 hours short of qualifying for employment insurance, which is how the federal government delivers maternity and parental leave benefits.

“It’s very, very troubling,” Adams, 39, said over the phone as she explained how she and her family were counting on the benefits to cover living expenses.

“We have a mortgage, we’ve had to defer our mortgage, all of those things that everyone else is dealing with,” she said.

“It gives us, both my husband and I, knots in our stomachs to think about it.”

Her story is being repeated across the country as new mothers, and those still expecting, stare down losing out on federal parental benefits through no fault of their own.

The minister in charge of the file vowed anew in recent days that a fix was coming to help those women qualify, but told MPs that there isn’t a simple solution.

EI requires a minimum number of hours in the 52 weeks before making a claim to qualify for payments. Since March, some new and soon-to-be mothers couldn’t work because of public health restrictions. Many were among the first wave of layoffs in March when the pandemic hit the country, or lost jobs that they had lined up.

Pascale Gibeau, 39, had a position lined up for early April, right after finishing her doctorate. She figured she could earn the 600 hours needed before her second child is due in mid-July.

Her start date, though, got pushed back to May. Then June. Her plan was toast. She will have to rely on what she’ll receive from EI as a self-employed worker, which would be less than had she hit the 600-hour mark.

She and other mothers in Squamish, B.C., including Adams, wrote their local MP, Liberal Patrick Weiler, who promised the government was trying to figure out a solution. They have continued to write, but haven’t heard anything new.

Adams called Service Canada. She was told she needed to work the necessary hours by December to qualify for 35 weeks of parental benefits.

“In my field, TV and film, no one is back 100 per cent in production,” Adams said.

“It’s not like tomorrow I could go to my colleagues and be like, ‘someone please give me a job,’ and work from home, and deal with children and a newborn. It’s obviously not feasible at this point.”

Conservative employment critic Dan Albas spoke about a case brought to him of a mother who was 40 hours short of qualifying — about one week of work. She and other new parents “have absolutely zero certainty” about their benefits, he said.

“This is not a future problem that needs to be looked at and analyzed. This is a problem right now for those parents,” Albas said in an interview.

“It’s challenging enough to have a child during a pandemic. With no understanding of what your maternity leave benefits will be? That is devastating.”

MPs have previously heard that the issue stems from the system that runs EI, parts of which are run by a programming code that is decades old. Officials have said they can’t simply change the number of hours required for eligibility.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

(File photo)
Ponoka’s seen rise in relationship ‘disharmony,’ domestic violence during COVID-19

While there has been an increase in files, not all have required charges to be laid

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Most Read