Human-rights complaint filed after B.C. Liberal government claws back EI maternity and parental benefits

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      The Community Legal Assistance Society has accused the Christy Clark government of practising sex discrimination against some women on maternity leave. And it has filed a complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to try to prove its allegation.

      Jess Alford paid employment-insurance premiums while working at a bookstore.

      She was surprised to learn that the province clawed back EI maternity and parental benefits after she left work to have a child. That's because her partner is on disability assistance.

      "My family's income went down at a time when we needed it the most—all because I had to take time off work to have my child," Alford said in a news release.

      Under provincial rules, the government deducts EI benefits dollar-for-dollar from about 150 families every year, according to the Community Legal Assistance Society.

      "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," CLAS lawyer Laura Johnston said in the news release. "This clawback defeats that purpose. It forces low-income working women further into poverty when they have children and that's sex discrimination."

      Last year, the B.C. government ended the clawback of child-support payments to single-parents on social assistance. It came after a long campaign by activists and intense pressure from NDP MLA Michelle Mungall.