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COVID-19 – Family Status and Human Rights

Nov 9, 2020 | 0 comments

By now we have all seen the Youtube videos of people attending meetings dressed in suits up top and shorts on bottom, cats and dogs interrupting Zoom calls, and kids melting down during an AGM presentation.  Yes, these are the work hazards of 2020 when our homes became our offices.  For some employees this method of working is not simply a matter of convenience (or inconvenience) but a matter of need, given certain child and family care obligations.

The stress and strain caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has hit many employees hard.  Employees have had to adjust rapidly to school closures, sickness, fear, occupational health and safety concerns and family needs. 

As an employee, you may have a legal obligation to care for your family members and your employer in turn may have a legal obligation to accommodate your circumstances. Working from home is often the most practical way to juggle your family and work obligations and employers are not at liberty to simply ignore your request to work from home.

While many employers are accommodating their employees by allowing them to work from home, in the relaunch of our economy, there are those that are insisting that all employees work at the office regardless of the employee’s personal circumstances. 

Human rights laws in Alberta and in Canada have recognized an employer’s duty to accommodate employees on the basis of family status.  This means, where you have a legal obligation to care for family members, and you require accommodation from your employer to assist with that, they have an obligation to explore reasonable accommodation measures.  This does not mean that as an employee you are entitled to the accommodation you want, but it does mean that your employer is obligated to work with you to create accommodation measures that work for you both. 

If you are faced with an employer who is refusing to allow you to work from home in order to balance your work life with your family status obligations or who has imposed hard and fast policies that discriminate against you because of your family situation, there are legal remedies available to you.

At Willis Law, we understand and appreciate the stressful times that we all find ourselves in and if you are faced with a family status accommodation issue, we are here to help.

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