Written by: Sheldon Vogt
Registered Nurses (RNs) are the cornerstone to continuity of care within our hospitals and communities. Amidst capacity pressures, cost saving strategies, worker shortages and new delivery care models, RNs work tirelessly around the clock to consistently meet the individual needs of all patients and families. It is vital that RNs maintain personal health to uphold their duties at work. UNA has demonstrated success in bargaining for comprehensive health and extended benefits packages leading the way to expanding the well-being of members across Alberta. This article is the first of a series designed to help UNA members better understand how to access and maximize their benefits.
Volume 1 – Maternity Leave:
Arguably, the most important year in a child’s life is their very first. It is a time when they establish a lasting connection with their loved ones. Maternity leave provides parents the gift of time to build, grow and strengthen the relationship with their newly born child, creating unforgettable memories. The following is a guide to maximizing the time spent with your child and how to best utilize benefits UNA has acquired for its members through extensive bargaining. It is our hope this streamlined information will help you accomplish a successful maternity leave, providing you and your child the greatest gift, time. This information is a recommendation of the best course of action for UNA members to maximize the return they receive from their maternity LOA benefits, EI and SUB plan.
The process of utilizing your benefits to get the most out of your maternity LOA does not have to be laborious. Information on the three components required to maximize your return during your maternity LOA are presented in sections: Maternity Leave of Absence, Employment Insurance and Supplementary Unemployment Benefit. Each section is color coded to correspond with colored squares on the flow map that can help guide you through the process. Remember to keep personal copies of all documentation sent to your manager and the HR Benefits Department. Try scanning and sending stuff through your email so you have a running record of communications. This includes completed benefits, beneficiary or LOA forms, sick notes, and written requests.
What happens when a UNA member is weeks away from delivery but does not feel well enough to work?
In many of these instances, employers have advised UNA members to change their maternity LOA start date to the date they are no longer able to work due to pregnancy related health concerns. It is imperative to understand that UNA members are entitled to sick leave prior to delivery and should not change their maternity leave start date, but rather take sick leave. It is strongly encouraged and supported to begin your maternity LOA on the actual delivery date so you may benefit from having a full 12 months with your newborn child.
To begin sick leave prior to the Maternity LOA/Delivery date, have a physician write you a sick note clearly explaining you are no longer able to work due to pregnancy related health concerns. Give the note to your manager at which point you should be placed on sick leave, being paid out of your sick bank until your delivery date and commencement of your Maternity LOA.
Employers are also likely to attempt to have you work modified duties until your date of delivery and may question you about your abilities. Details regarding your health status and abilities should be between HR Ability Advisors, you and your physician; it is recommended not to engage in such conversations with your manager. Any UNA member who is not granted sick leave, feeling pressured to work modified duties when they feel unable or change their LOA start date, should contact their Local UNA office immediately.