Back to Work: Childcare Responsibilities and Accommodations

May 22, 2020

On Friday, May 14, 2020 Premier Ford announced Stage 1 of the reopening of Ontario and some businesses have already started to reopen. If you work in one of these sectors, your employer may insist that you return to work.  However, if you have young children and no opportunity for childcare this puts you in a difficult position.

Employees with childcare responsibilities are protected under the Employment Standards Act and the Human Rights Code. Employers are required to accommodate an employee’s family status needs to the point of undue hardship. An employer may be required to adjust aspects of the job in order to accommodate your family’s needs. 

The Law on Accommodation 

In Ontario, the most likely legal test to be applied in a case about family status comes from the case Misetich v. Value Village.

In order to prove family status discrimination in the context of employment, the employee will have to establish a negative impact from the work that results in real disadvantage to the parent/child relationship and the responsibilities that flow from that relationship.. This does not mean only the legal responsibilities of a parent to a child.  Once an employee can establish that, in most circumstances, the employer must provide accommodation.  This could include changing work hours, or allowing the employee to work remotely long as the employee can do the essential duties of the job from home.

Protections under the Employment Standards Act

Please keep in mind, there are also a number of unpaid leaves under the Employment Standards Act, and there is a new COVID-19 leave that allows a parent to take unpaid leave to care for a child because of the virus due to school or childcare closures.  These unpaid leaves are also something to keep in mind when considering possible options in juggling the opening up of Ontario with limited childcare.

If you have any questions about accommodation or human rights especially during Covid-19, you can contact MacLeod Law Firm at 647-204-8107 or at [email protected].

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