What rights do working parents have to help them juggle child care, virtual learning during pandemic?

What rights do working parents have to help them juggle child care, virtual learning during pandemic?
Top Stories
TORONTO -- Parents struggling to balance their jobs and child-care needs during the pandemic may be entitled to workplace accommodations, such as flexible hours and time off, employment lawyers say.

“Employers generally do have an obligation to accommodate employees’ child care obligations in the workplace up to the point of undue hardship,” says Simone Ostrowski, an employment lawyer at Whitten & Lublin in Toronto.

Federal and provincial legislation gives employees across the country the ability to seek accommodations and modifications based on their family status. Accommodations typically include things like flexible work hours, alternating workdays and the ability to work from home, all of which can help parents whose children are doing online learning from home. 

Ontario has extended school closures indefinitely, with Nova Scotia announcing that schools in the Halifax area will close this week amid a surge of COVID-19 cases. Alberta has also closed schools in high-case areas, including Edmonton, Calgary and Fort McMurray. Schools located in the Quebec Metropolitan Community, as well as other high-risk areas, are closed until May 7.

“If a family has a new kid, for example, or children, but even seniors or parents who need care, employees have the right to ask their employers for accommodation within a certain limit to what they can and cannot get,” said Christopher Achkar, employment lawyer and owner of Achkar Law in Toronto. “That could be in the form of starting later, starting earlier, working different times such as Saturdays and Sundays, a variety of accommodations they can ask for, but again within a limit.”

It is the responsibility of both the employee and employer to ensure that the accommodations are reasonable and justified based on the employee’s family circumstances.

“As long as the employee can still do the core duties of the job, but they just need some accommodations, say for timing, then the employer is supposed to work with them to provide that,” said Ostrowski.

“Employees also cannot insist on a particular type of accommodation necessarily. They can make their needs and limitations known but it is ultimately the employer and employee who are supposed to decide together what’s an appropriate accommodation.”

Employees also have the ability to request temporary leaves based on family status.  However, the type of leave they are granted and whether or not it’s paid depends on their employer.

In Ontario, the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave outlines the emergency leave standards for employees who need to take time off because of the pandemic.

However, temporary leaves are not always a beneficial decision for employees, since they are unpaid and can potentially take an employee away from the workplace for an extended period of time.

“Obviously anytime an employee is away from a work place it potentially puts them in a vulnerable position,” says Ostrowski. “This is why we have that [legal] protection. We say that an employee cannot be penalized because they took one of these protected leaves, but we recognize that we need that legal protection in there because someone who’s not in the workplace and who is on a leave is often more vulnerable to being terminated or being left out of workplace decisions.”

Employees who find their employers unwilling to make accommodations based on their family status can contact an employment lawyer, the ministry of labour or file a complaint under human rights legislation in their province or the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Read more on CTVnews
News Topics :
Similar Articles :
Top Stories
TORONTO The next three months will likely feel incredibly daunting for many parents and children already struggling with work, online classes and home life. As businesses slowly...
Employment standards legislation at both the federal and provincial level is clear Employees returning from pregnancy or parental leave must be placed back into the position that they most recently...
CALGARY – Wendy Giuffre’s phone has been constantly ringing with calls from nervous employers trying to figure out how they can bring their employees back to work as COVID 19 restrictions...
Top Stories
TORONTO Between the ongoing anti Black racism protests, provinces cautiously reopening, and the temptation to gather with friends again as summer looms, do employers concerned about workplace...
TORONTO As Canadians head back to work after spending months at home, new data suggests that some provinces are seeing more work refusal claims amid the COVID 19...