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Sept 3 Blog

After a few months working remotely, many teams have now adapted to the status quo of working from home. In fact, in light of the continued uncertainty around COVID-19, many organizations that can continue to operate remotely have opted to continue to telecommute.

Some employees might view this as a welcome change. There are definite perks to working from home. The sweatpants dress code, easy kitchen access, and 30 second commute are all big pluses for most team members.

But for some, an indefinite hiatus from office life also blurs the lines between work life and home life in inconvenient ways. For employees who are also caregivers, meeting the needs of kids and other dependants while working from home is a challenging juggling act.

For employers who are witnessing this struggle it can be unclear what kind of obligation there is to offer support. If an employee’s family status during COVID is impacting their ability to work from home, what do employers have to do to help them?

Under BC Human Rights legislation, parents or caregivers working from home have the right to ensure they are not discriminated against based on their family status. This means that employers cannot treat employees differently or punish them unfairly based on their family status.

And the obligation doesn’t stop at preventing discrimination based on family status. In addition to preventing family status discrimination, employers may also have the obligation to accommodate employees so that they can meet the needs of their families while pulling double duty. 

Accommodation is a shared responsibility between the employee and the employer, which means that there is dialogue and compromise involved. Employers have the responsibility to offer solutions to meet accommodation needs, even if it creates some hardship to the business. On the other side of the equation, employees are required to work with the employer to come up with a reasonable solution, even if it isn’t necessarily their preferred solution.

Once in place, accommodation arrangements involve ongoing communication, and must be revisited regularly to ensure they continue to work for everyone. 

What exactly does Family Status Accommodation look like in the age of COVID-19?

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to accommodating family status as every family’s needs are different, but some examples might include:

  • Working a flexible schedule, so another caregiver is available to cover childcare obligations during work hours.
  • The ability to take irregular breaks to accommodate school or daycare pickups and drop-offs.
  • Working a reduced schedule to more effectively juggle the demands of working while homing.
  • Being understanding of children’s disruptions during meetings or conference calls.
  • Modifying job duties so that disruptions or interruptions have less impact.

In addition to the duty to accommodate, employers also have a duty to ensure that employees are not penalized by taking COVID-19 related leaves, including leaves taken to care for children when day cares or schools are closed.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Are your team members who have children set up for success in the age of COVID? Being a parent is stressful enough without trying to work at the same time! If you aren’t already, make sure you’re checking in regularly to make sure parents and caregivers are supported while working from home.

Do you have a clear accommodation request process in place? If you’re not sure where to start or are unclear on what COVID-19 means for accommodation, we’re happy to discuss!

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