Family Status Accommodation During COVID-19

The effects of COVID-19 on employers has been wide-spread, resulting in massive employment layoffs and dismissals across Ontario. For those employers who are now beginning to reopen their businesses and recall employees back to work, there are certain considerations regarding family status accommodation needs as it relates to the Ontario Human Rights Code (“OHRC”) for provincial employees, and the Canadian Human Rights Act (“CHRA”) for federally regulated employees.

The Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act

In the context of both federally and provincially regulated workplaces, the OHRC and the CHRA protect employees against discrimination on the basis of family status. Under these lawyers, employers cannot discriminate against employees if they, for example, require time off to take care of their children, and employers cannot punish those employees for those same obligations. Such punishment might include wage reduction, discriminatory comments, or even dismissal.

The OHRC and CHRA also require employers to accommodate employees on the basis of their family status. Examples could include providing time off to care for a sick parent or modifying a schedule so that a parent can care for a child. When faced with an employee who requires accommodation, the employer is required to provide accommodation to the point of undue hardship.

Accommodating for Family Status during COVID-19

Since COVID-19 has forced numerous businesses to close temporarily, this is particularly important for employees, as many are not able to return to work immediately because of their family status needs. Particularly, many employees have parental obligations and cannot secure childcare or other care services as a result of the pandemic – leading to a family status accommodation request.

For both employees and employers faced with these types of issues, it is important to consider any possible accommodation requests, but to also ensure that no drastic measures are taken if such accommodation cannot be provided.

Both employees and employers must also keep in mind that accommodation is a two-way street, and both must work together on any agreed accommodation plan.

While the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal have yet to hear any cases dealing with COVID-19-related issues, it is likely that with time, many workers will claim discrimination on the basis of family status due to recent circumstances.

Although employers may be eager to hit the ground running and to restart their businesses, they must be careful not to make unilateral decisions which affect the employee without considering the facts and their own obligations.

Takeaways for Employers and Employees

If you are an employee, you should be mindful of the rights you have under the OHRC and CHRA, including your right to work in a place free from discrimination.

If you are an employer, you should not only carefully review any accommodation request, but ensure your policies are updated and reflect the current COVID-19 climate.

Contact Us

Whether you are an employer or an employee looking for assistance with any human rights policies or claims, our team of experienced employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone at 1 (800) 771-7882, or email at [email protected], and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support, visit our CLO program page for our strategic solutions.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as, or should be construed as legal advice, and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call 1-(800)771-7882, or email [email protected].

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