Sharon Gregson, spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. File photo

Human rights tribunal complaint by mom example of B.C. daycare “chaos,” advocate says

Parent claims she was forced to quit her job because employer didn’t give her time to find a daycare.

The Nicole Ziegler case was called “another example of the child care chaos that exists for families with young children,” by a B.C. daycare advocate.

Sharon Gregson, spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. was commenting on a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case involving Ziegler, a Langley single mom who claims she was discriminated against when her employer, Pacific Blue Cross, failed to give her enough time to find a daycare for her one-year-old son when her hours of work were changed.

The case underlines the need for more affordable, licensed daycare, Gregson said.

Ziegler filed a complaint with the tribunal, saying she was forced to resign after 11 years because Pacific Blue Cross suddenly moved her to a later shift.

Ziegler, who worked the 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift, was moved to 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

She told management she couldn’t work that shift and still arrive at the daycare by the time it closed at 6 p.m. and would have to make new childcare arrangements.

Ziegler says she was forced to resign because she had no choice when Pacific Blue Cross would only give her two months to find new childcare.

Ziegler told the tribunal that in January 2017, she called multiple daycare providers and none of them had space available for a child her son’s age.

A manager sent an email to Ziegler saying that since Pacific’s changes to its scheduling hours and practice were “well within the reason of standard business hours,” it was not in a position to accommodate “employee preferences.”

When Ziegler applied to participate in the company’s voluntary separation program that pays employees to end their employment with Pacific in exchange for a lump sum severance payment, her application was denied.

A lawyer for Pacific Blue Cross, who denies the company discriminated against Ziegler, applied to have the complaint dismissed.

The company argued that the shift change did not result in a “serious interference with a substantial parental obligation.”

In a June 22 written decision posted on the tribunal website, tribunal member Pamela Murray ruled the hearing of the complaint would proceed.

In rejecting the dismissal application, Murray said if Ziegler can present facts to back up her claim, “it could be sufficient to prove that she was not able to meet what I see as a substantial — indeed, what I see as a core — parental obligation: ensuring her child was safely cared for while she was at work.”

Ziegler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An email from a lawyer for Blue Cross provided the following statement:

“At Pacific Blue Cross, our aim is to improve the health and well being of British Columbians. We are very proud that we’ve been awarded the Worklife BC Award of Merit for promoting work/life balance, the Who’s Who Award in Workplace Wellness from Benefits Canada, and recognized as one of BC’s Top Employers.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to comment on this matter, as it is before the BC Human Rights Tribunal. We are committed to a diverse and equitable workforce and providing a healthy, safe and flexible workplace.”

Coalition of Child Care Advocates spokesperson Gregson said the current shortage of daycare spaces in B.C. is placing many mothers in the position of deciding between working or looking after their children.

Concerning the allegations in the Ziegler case, Gregson said “it is frankly impossible” to find a new daycare in two months.

While the provincial government has committed to spending more to create daycare spaces and to reduce costs, “for parents it can’t come quickly enough,” Gregson said.

Gregson warned the province also has a “recruitment crisis” for trained early childhood educators to staff those new daycares, because many are poorly paid.

The Coalition backs the campaign for a $10 a day daycare system in B.C. and the online petition at https://www.10aday.ca.

The 2018 B.C. budget promised an investment of more than $1 billion to create more than 24,000 child care spaces over the next three years.

A new child care benefit that will be rolled out in September will reduce child care costs by up to $1,250 per month per child and support 86,000 B.C. families per year by 2020/21. The province has also announced up to $350 per month for licensed child care providers that was expected to reduce fees for an estimated 50,000 families per year by 2020/21.

READ MORE: BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

The B.C. government also boosted the monthly subsidy for young parents who rely on childcare to finish high school.

Subsidies will be $1,500 per month for eligible parents who are under the age of 24 and had a child before their 20th birthday, as well as meet the other eligibility criteria for the child care subsidy program.

READ MORE: Young parents finishing high school get B.C. childcare subsidy boost



dan.ferguson@langleytimes.com

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