Maternity program shortfall: BCMA responds

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 50, No. 5, June 2008, Page 242 Letters

The Pregnancy Leave Program (PLP) was established under the 2004 Working Agreement, with funding in the amount of $1.3 million annually.

At the time of this initial negotiation, there was no experience available to give a firm idea of what program budget might be needed. In any event, the funds negotiated were all that was available for this program at that time, and it was recognized that it might well be inadequate to fully fund the benefit.

The $1.3 million was reconfirmed under the Benefits Subsidiary Agreement (BSA) of the 2007 Physician Master Agreement.

The PLP is identified as the first priority for allocation of surplus benefit funds under the BSA for the period 2006/7 to 2009/10 (see below).

The benefit is set out in the BSA as 50% of average weekly billings in the calendar year prior to the delivery date or the 12 months prior to the delivery date, whichever yields the greater average, to a maximum of $880 per week for 17 consecutive weeks. 

However, since the funding is a fixed amount and there is no way to anticipate the actual number of claims that will be made in a given year, the initial benefit is paid at a level ensuring the funds will not be exhausted before all claims for the year are received. Any funds remaining at the end of the year are distributed to eligible claimants in the form of a top-up.

Under the terms of the BSA the Joint Benefits Committee is responsible for oversight of the negotiated benefits. As part of its responsibilities the Committee reviews the financial status of all negotiated benefits each year and redistributes surpluses arising out of the programs to alleviate any shortfall in benefits to the greatest extent possible. 

For the 2006/07 program year the Committee was able to bring the maximum PLP benefit top-up to the $880 level and it is anticipated that this process will yield sufficient funding to provide for a top-up to the maximum benefit level in each of the next 3 years. Effective with the 2010/11 benefit year the program will become a full parental leave plan and the funding will be increased to $4.3 million annually.

As a matter of interest, the maximum benefit paid in each year since the inception of this program (after ap­plication of the top-up) is as follows:

• 2002/03—$803.55
• 2003/04—$831.10
• 2004/05—$834.21
• 2005/06—$650.00 (there was insufficient funding for a top-up in this year)
• 2006/07—$880.00
• 2007/08—TBA (pending final year-end results)

—Michael A. McCann, MD
Co-chair, Joint Benefits Committee

Michael A. McCann, MD,. Maternity program shortfall: BCMA responds. BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 5, June, 2008, Page(s) 242 - Letters.

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