Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently announced tax changes that target supposedly unfair tax benefits enjoyed by private corporations. The measure is expected to have a negative impact on many small business owners — and it could be even worse for female physicians.
“[A] significant number of doctors are actually young to middle-aged moms,” said Dr. Michelle Cohen, a rural family doctor, in a think piece published by Huffington Post Canada
. According to Cohen, 52% of Canadian physicians under the age of 45 are women; in family medicine, women represent 59% of doctors under 45, and 65% of those under 35.
Cohen noted that female physicians who own their own practice face unique challenges. Aside from providing their own labour in caring for patients, they have to pay the salaries of other healthcare staff, cover rent for clinic space, and pay for medical equipment. For individual physicians, a growing number of whom are women with young families, healthcare infrastructure has to be paid out-of-pocket.
And maternity leave isn’t a simple choice for female doctors, especially since they’ll still have to take care of their patients and business expenses. “All of these costs were paid out by me [during my maternity leave] … and resulted in a tight financial squeeze during the months I was home with my son,” she said.
She also pointed out that physicians typically get a late start in saving for retirement, as well as building their families, because they spend at least a decade in post-secondary studies. Couple that with the fact that they don’t have pension or maternity benefits, Cohen said, and the decision to have a family while running a practice becomes especially burdensome.
“I'm not complaining about my lack of maternity leave benefits, and certainly there are women in much more fragile financial positions who don't have maternity benefits, either,” she said. “My point is that I have all the responsibilities and risks of a small business, yet the federal government doesn't think I should have any of the tax treatment available to other types of small businesses.”
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