Although many families successfully juggle the demands of parenting and a career, this year may be more challenging than most. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down Ontario schools in March, and although schools are scheduled to reopen this fall, the onerous stipulations that have been set out by the Provincial Government has many parents wondering how they will manage.
Daycare resources that parents may have relied upon in the past may not be available in the same manner as they once were. Other parents are feeling anxious about sending their kids back to school at all this September and may decide to continue with online learning options.
So, what happens when school and daycare schedules conflict with a parent’s work schedule?
Duty to Accommodate
Most employers are aware of their responsibility under the Human Rights Code to accommodate employees with a disability. What they may be less aware of is the fact that they also have a duty to accommodate an employee’s “family status”.
In other words, employers must accommodate the needs of employees who have childcare obligations provided that doing so does not cause undue financial hardship to the employer.
What does this mean?
Accommodating the childcare needs of an employee does not mean that the employer must provide daycare – although there are some larger employers that do this. What it does mean it that they must make reasonable attempts to ensure that the employee can perform both their duties on the job and their duties as a parent.
This may involve allowing the employee to work remotely for a while, or allowing the employee to work revised hours in order that they may take care of their children when they are not in school or daycare.
What are the responsibilities of the employee?
Employees with childcare needs must also share in some of the responsibility with the employer. For example, they should explore whether it is possible to have another family member or friend care for their child while they are working. The employee should not refuse to work when there is reasonable accommodation by the employer.
Does an employer have to provide time off?
The answer to this question will depend on the type of work and the individual circumstances. If an employee is able to work remotely or under some other arrangement, this option needs to be presented first.
If there is genuinely no way that the employee can meet both their work and their family obligations, the employer must provide a paid or unpaid leave of absence depending on the employer’s leave policies.
Moving forward post pandemic will present new challenges for both employers and employees but they must work together to find reasonable solutions. If you have questions about your duty to accommodate as an employer, or if you are an employee who feels your employer is denying you reasonable accommodation, we can help.
Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. If you have any questions on COVID-19 and your workplace or are now in the process of reopening and bringing employees back to work, please contact us or call us at 905-477-7011. Sign up for our newsletter to receive up-to-date COVID-19 information, including new legislation and Court decisions impacting your workplace.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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