July 29, 2014 | In: Opinion

Why Maternity Leave Is Bad for the Canadian Economy

Before starting this post I want to stress the point that neither I’m against motherhood nor I’m against reasonable subsidy for mothers and a reasonable time off when becoming a mother. I’m against using and abusing the system.

Maternity leave is becoming more and more of an issue. Here in Canada maternity leave is a year for the mother, and about 6 weeks (or maybe 8 weeks) for the father.

Here’s what’s happening: Would be mothers get hired in a company. 6 months down the road they take their maternity leave (you have to work at least for 6 months to be allowed for the maternity leave), so they leave for a year, then the come back and they stay for another 6 months, and then they take another maternity leave for a full year. Repeat until they no longer want kids (the magic number here is usually 3).

We had several of these cases in one of the companies I worked with, and I know of many other similar cases in other companies. The problem is that companies are forced, by Federal and Provincial law, to reserve a seat for these mothers once they come back to work, same job description, same pay, same everything. They also have to fire anyone who was doing their work during this year because they cannot afford to have 2 people doing the same job once the mother is back. In many of these “firing” scenarios, the people fired produced much better work. It was really tragic.

Another thing to mention is once a woman becomes pregnant, there is no way on Earth you can fire her, she will immediately go to the “Norme du Travail” (or its equivalent outside Quebec) and sue you for at least $100k (claiming she was fired because she was pregnant, while she was really fired because of her bad performance), even though she probably only worked for 3 months for a yearly salary of $40k. Not only that, once she becomes pregnant, her productivity is diminished to about 20% of its original productivity (that’s 80% loss of productivity), and every other day she has a doctor visit, and every other day she’s too tired to come to work, so she’ll work from home, which means that she won’t do any work at all.

This whole thing is ridicilous it’s not even funny anymore and is becoming a deterrent for companies to hire women for fear that they become pregnant and take that one year off. You see, a company is a business, and a business is about productivity, about getting things done, about making money; a business is not about providing a safety net for a full year for someone who may or may not be interested in the job once the year has elapsed, a business is not about jumping through hoops to find a temporary replacement who will be fired when the year has elapsed. A business has the right to hire and fire anyone without getting sued for “discrimination” – if you’re not adding to the end result of the company, then you probably shouldn’t be working for that company anymore.

So what’s the solution?

The only solution I can think of is to reduce the maternity leave to 12 weeks instead of a full year (same as the United States) and require that would-be-mothers be working for the company for a full year before being eligible for the maternity leave. Yes, I know that there are social implications, but if you want to remain in the workforce, then there’s a price to pay, and your employer and the Canadian government shouldn’t be the only ones paying that price.

I end this post with a question to those would-be-mothers out there who may be using and/or abusing the system: “Your company thrives on the commitment of its employees. Do you think leaving them for a year, staying for 6 months, and then coming back for another year demonstrates genuine commitment?”

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

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