Just when we think we’ve got the working from home thing all figured out, 2020 throws one more hurdle into our path. With school boards across the country introducing new virtual learning plans and revised in-class schedules, many working parents have been left scrambling to accommodate this “new normal”. Let’s take a look at the rights of working parents and the accommodations that employers are required to provide.

Can I Stay Home With My Kids?

The short answer is “it depends”. While most provinces have introduced full-time in-class learning options, some families may still choose to keep their children at home for virtual classes. While the government has made this an option for families, employers are not required to accommodate this choice. However, employers are required to accommodate requirements under the Human Rights Code. This would come into effect when parents have exhausted all childcare options.

Location, Location, Location

Just like the old real estate saying, location is everything when it comes to determining the labour laws governing your workplace. Most provinces have amended the applicable labour laws to take the impact of COVID-19 into consideration by allowing employees to take extended leaves of absence to care for themselves or their family members. This protects the jobs of those who are unable to find childcare or who must keep their children home for virtual learning. Regardless of their province’s laws, employees in this situation are covered by human rights legislation.

Federally regulated employers, such as banks, telecommunications firms and transportation-related industries, fall under the Canada Labour Code. The Canada Labour Code has been amended to allow employees a job-protected leave of absence for up to 16 weeks with pensions, benefits and seniority continuing to accumulate over that period of time.

Communication

If an employee is asking for accommodation to stay home with their children, they should be prepared to answer why. If the children, or another family member, are considered high-risk then the employer may require medical documentation.

If the employee has requested accommodation for a non-medical reason, the employer has a few options. They can agree to accommodate the employee’s request fully, offer unpaid leave or, as a worst-case scenario, release the employee from employment for refusing to return to work. Most employers are choosing to take the middle ground, offering a flexible schedule with reduced hours to accommodate the employee’s request without undue hardship.

These are confusing, unprecedented times for all of us as employers, employees and parents. True North HR Consulting is here to help with complete HR services customized to your needs. From small businesses to large organizations, our goal is to assist, advise and implement strategies and policies to make your business thrive and keep your people happy. With over 20 years of experience and expertise, we can help you generate new ideas and solve big problems. Reach out today and let’s get started … hr@truenorthhr.ca