May 12, 2016

As employee requests for accommodation of childcare and eldercare needs continue to rise, it is increasingly important for workplaces to have clear policies and practices in place to assess and address these issues and to implement accommodative measures where appropriate. Join Lancaster’s experts for practical guidance in accommodating employees’ family responsibilities, and an update on recent legal decisions in this evolving area of law.

  • Exploring the legal landscape: Are adjudicators across Canada taking a uniform legal approach in determining whether family status discrimination has been established? If not, what are the competing approaches? Which jurisdictions have adopted the Federal Court of Appeal’s approach, which requires proof of a family obligation that cannot be neglected without incurring legal liability? Is this a workable approach in practice? What do the competing approaches mean from a practical perspective? What legal approach is applied to non-childcare cases, such as care of elderly parents or spouses?
  • Assessing accommodation requests: Should workplaces have a specific policy or procedure related to family status accommodation, or is a general human rights/anti-discrimination policy sufficient? What issues should employers and unions consider when an employee requests family status accommodation? What is the extent of the employee’s obligation to explore reasonable alternative solutions before workplace accommodation is warranted? What kinds of questions are employers entitled to ask in order to assess the employee’s efforts to “self-accommodate”? How should employers and unions address accommodative measures that conflict with seniority, scheduling, benefits, or other provisions of the collective agreement?
  • Understanding undue hardship: What factors should be considered when assessing whether accommodating an employee’s family care responsibilities amounts to undue hardship for the employer? When will repeated absences by an employee due to family obligations amount to undue hardship? Will it be undue hardship for an employer if a number of employees seek family care accommodation at the same time?
  • Implementing policies related to work-life balance: What policies can workplaces implement to help employees achieve work-life balance? What can be done to minimize the adverse effect shiftwork can have on family life and personal health? Should attendance management policies provide exceptions for absences due to familial responsibilities? Can employers realistically offer flexible hours to all employees with family caregiving needs?