News / Calgary

Lack of maternity benefits could be steering policewomen away from Calgary

Policewomen looking to start a family may want to steer clear of Calgary, says the union representing officers in the city.

As the Calgary Police Service works to get more women behind the badge, some members of the organization that represents front-line officers say a lack of supplemental maternity benefits could hinder recruitment efforts.

According to the Calgary Police Association (CPA), members have no additional employment benefits known as a “top up” in addition to their federal maternity leave. The union expects this will be one of the top issues in arbitration, which starts Monday.

Right now, the agreement between the CPA and the City of Calgary indicates officers are entitled to 15 weeks of maternity leave without pay and union officials say it’s a package far below what’s being offered by other Canadian police agencies.

Sueanne Ford, a 25-year member of the CPA and a staff sergeant in the city’s police service, said she struggled due to the lack of benefits when she had her son seven years ago.

She said future policewomen may experience the same challenges if something doesn’t change.

“It’s pretty hypocritical,” she said of the city’s position.

“We’re a very forward-thinking city, we’re a forward-thinking service and if we want to attract those women to the police service, they are going to struggle.”

Several other police agencies in Canada, including the Edmonton Police Service, provide members with a top up ranging anywhere from 15 to 17 weeks at up to 95 per cent of their weekly wages.

In Calgary, no such package exists.

Howard Burns president of the CPA, told Metro the lack of benefits is problematic, as agencies across the country are pushing for more female recruits.

“Obviously from a recruiting standpoint, you need to be competitive and right now Calgary isn’t competitive,” he said.

“As the police association president, if I was advising a potential female recruit, I would advise them to look long and hard at the benefits that are offered,” he said. “If they’re planning on having a family, right now, I would probably steer clear of Calgary.”

An acting sergeant and a mother of two, Jennifer Ward has been a CPA member for 12 years and she said the additional benefits are important, as maternal benefits though the federal government is much less than a police salary.

The CPS has made some progress recruiting female officers, as roughly 380 of its front-line officers are women, but the service may have trouble retaining them in the future, said Ward.

“In three to five years they’re going to be considering having a family,” she said. “And knowing that that’s all they can make during that time on mat leave, they could potentially lose female members.”

She said while the CPS is trying to create an environment of inclusion, specifically towards females and families, the city is “definitely not supporting that.”

The City of Calgary declined to comment for this story, citing its ongoing negotiations with the CPA .

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