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Commission settlement guarantees gender equality for doctors seeking parental leave

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September 28, 2006

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For immediate publication 

Toronto - A recent settlement negotiated by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) guarantees equality between female and male doctors seeking parental leave benefits from their employers, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall announced today.

In 2000, a male doctor practicing in Ontario applied to receive benefits under the Ontario Medical Association’s Maternity Leave Benefit Program (“MBLP”), funded by the Ministry of Health, as he was staying at home to care for his newborn child while his wife returned to work. His application was denied, as the program only granted benefits to female doctors. Complaints were filed against the Ontario Medical Association and the Ministry of Health shortly thereafter, citing discrimination based on sex.

A stated purpose of the MBLP was to give female doctors the opportunity to “bond”  and spend time with their newborn babies by reducing the financial hardship of being away from their practice. The Commission argued that this bonding opportunity should also be available to male doctors.

An agreement was reached to replace the MBLP with the Pregnancy and Parental Leave Benefits Program (“PPLBP”), under which female doctors continue to be entitled to receive benefits for pregnancy leave, but where both male and female doctors are now entitled to apply for parental leave benefits in order to spend time with their newborn or newly adopted children.

“I would like to applaud the Ontario Medical Association and the Ministry of Health for implementing this progressive program,” said Chief Commissioner Hall. “Both mothers and fathers should have equal access to the same benefits and opportunity to spend time at home with a newborn or newly adopted child.”

Parental leave was one of a number of issues raised during the Commission’s public consultation held this past year which explored the human rights implications of how family relationships affect access to employment, housing and services. For a copy of the discussion paper Human Rights and the Family in Ontario or to review the Commission’s Policy on Discrimination Because of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding please visit our Web site. 

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
(416) 314-4528

Jeff Poirier
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission