A retired National Insurance Scheme (NIS) officer has charged that unemployed single mothers are being disadvantaged by some of the government agency’s regulations, and not receiving benefits he believes they should be entitled to.
Stephen Strickland made the allegation late last week as he delivered the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) lunchtime lecture at the George Street Auditorium, where he charged that the National Insurance Department was out of touch with the realities of the real world.
Strickland made specific reference to regulations governing the payment of maternity benefits, which he argued were skewed heavily towards women who were married or in common law relationships.
He noted that under the existing NIS regulations, an unemployed, unwed expectant mother must have been living with the father of the child for at least two years in order to benefit from his contributions. If the father of the child is married to someone else, the woman is also prohibited from claiming for maternity benefits based on his contributions.
However, the retired public servant, who has taken to pastoring in his golden years, argued that it should not be within the purview of the contributory scheme to assess the moral circumstances under which women become pregnant.
“Personally, I do not believe that there should be any requirement that they should be living together for whatever period, because once the man is willing to sign at the Registry Department that he is the father of the child, then the mother of his child should receive that maternity benefit,” he said.
“It is not about morality, it is about . . . a contributory scheme. He has paid his contribution, he says he is the father of the child, then give the mother her benefit.”
The outspoken former NIS employee also expressed concern that archaic regulations within Barbados’ labour laws threaten the employment of women who have more than three pregnancies.
“There is a piece of legislation which says that if a woman claims maternity leave four times with the same employer, she has essentially terminated her own services . . . . I have spoken to the relevant authorities and nothing has been done. I don’t want to say that it is discriminatory, maybe it is, but it is a case where women need to fight on their own behalf, especially with the number of women organizations that are in existence. Something can be surely done to correct this,” Strickland said.
“I personally believe it is a case of women not being prepared to fight for their rights in that matter.”