Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The PR move we can't fall for

This announcement about extending maternity benefits for self-employed people in Canada is designed to get women voters to like Stephen Harper, but before you all go breaking out the champagne, there are a few glitches.

Other bloggers have said that the idea is a winner, and from a PR perspective, I agree, but the practical issues with implementation mean that hardly anyone will ever get a dime, and it may be the downfall of the program.

I've already said it elsewhere, but in case the comment gets eaten or it gets drowned out:

The mat leave plan announcement is smart in terms of public perception, but it actually won't help too many women overall unfortunately. Between the practical issues of how to determine an income level for benefits and the huge number of exclusions there will be---well, there's a reason it was never done before.

For example, adoptive mothers will never qualify for this, because they rarely ever know the exact time their new baby is coming. They won't be able to apply six months in advance. Same for moms of preemies and high risk babies. *

When the OMA negotiated a mat leave benefit for Doctors they picked a flat rate formula that was easy to understand, and had no sign up restrictions. There was a practical reason for that.

What Harper should've announced is simply a maternity leave program that all women get regardless of the employment status prior to birth. It would dramatically improve health outcomes for newborns and all mothers. From a public health point of view, it's the nirvana.

But he didn't do that because he's all about the headlines, and to hell with actual real women and children.

*What I didn't write there, is that self-employed women who have had miscarriages, or stillbirths or neonatal deaths will not qualify either, the same way most women on bedrest get screwed by the current system. I'm trying to get it changed....but that will require a government who actually cares about maternal-fetal infant health.

1 comment:

  1. Another thing that they should address: the amount that women receive for their mat benefits.

    I know of a single Mom that works retail. She makes about $22k a year if she works 40 hour weeks. She cannot take mat leave simply because it will only pay her 55% of her annual salary.

    That puts her under the poverty line.

    I understand putting a cap on benefits, but I can't understand not having a flat rate for those that aren't even close to the cap.

    Can't they start it off at a decent level and work their way up from that?