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Family Status Accommodation during the COVID-19 Pandemic (OPS)

❗ During the COVID-19 pandemic

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside-down.

If you are experiencing issues balancing work and family care obligations, or if stress, timing, or other factors associated with overtime demands are significantly impacting your mental or physical health, it may be necessary to request flexibility from your Employer or a more formal accommodation.

For matters related to workload and overtime:

For matters related to your physical or mental health:

For matters related to family care responsibilities:

See our fact sheet on COVID-19 »


Contents

Introduction

About family status 

Accommodation options 

Your Employer’s flexibility 

Potential income assistance 

How to request family status accommodation 

Talking to your manager 

If you have questions or need assistance


Introduction

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside-down. 

Restrictions due to the pandemic has meant that many childcare facilities are closed or are accepting fewer children in their programs. Schools are offering a variety of methods for delivery, including in-class learning, online learning, home-schooling, and a combination of all three. Before and after school programs and extra-curriculars may no longer be offered or may be reduced. 

Similarly, eldercare services have changed. Day programs may no longer be available through community centres, or only available to a select few. Rehabilitative, paramedical, and personal social worker services may not be available. As a result, some of us are choosing to care for our parents in our own homes. 

Times are difficult for a lot of people, including those trying to balance work with child and eldercare needs. 

This fact sheet is designed to provide you with practical advice and best practices to use when seeking flexibility and accommodation from your Employer due to family status needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


About family status

Section 5 of the Human Rights Code of Ontario gives every employee “right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination” on a list of grounds—one of which is family status. 

Family status refers to a person’s child-parent relationship. Family status protection is available to biological children and parents, and to those who are in a child/parent-like role


Accommodation options

There are many options available to support your family status needs in the workplace. 

It’s important to match those options to your specific needs. Your Employer is not permitted to insist on a “one-size-fits-all” approach—they must consider the unique needs of each employee. 

At the same time, you are not entitled to your “ideal” accommodation—you must be flexible and prepared to accept a reasonable arrangement that nevertheless meets your needs. 

Once an accommodation is in place, it can be adjusted. What is reasonable now may no longer be reasonable as circumstances evolve or as your needs change. 

You may wish to seek the assistance of an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative to brainstorm options that would allow you to meet your family status obligations and meet your Employer’s operational requirements, where that is possible. 

A few ideas to get started: 

Please see our fact sheet on leaves of absence, and specifically the sections on family responsibility leave, family caregiver leave, family medical leave, and critical illness leave. 

If you reduce your work hours but continue to need your full pay, you will need to “top-up” your pay with your own accumulated credits. You may also be eligible for potential income relief during a leave of absence. See below for more information. 

Your Employer’s flexibility 

AMAPCEO has advocated strongly on behalf of members. As a result, and given the gravity of the pandemic, the OPS Employer has committed to being as flexible as possible when it comes to family status accommodation requests. 

On September 2, 2020, the Secretary of Cabinet wrote to all OPS staff that those working from home will receive at least two weeks’ written notice of a return to the workplace. 

Importantly, the Secretary also acknowledged the unique circumstances each of us face and encouraged “…all managers to adopt an empathetic and flexible approach in responding to requests for customized work arrangements.” 

You still need to explore all other options to try to mitigate the impact your family status needs have on your ability to work before you can ask for leave. 

It is important that you are able to demonstrate that you have exhausted all other options to no avail. Only then can you request a leave of absence with pay. 

Potential income assistance 

If your income is affected by a leave of absence, you may be eligible for some income assistance through Employment Insurance (EI), including the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, and caregiver and compassionate care benefits. 


How to request family status accommodation 

If you know that you’ll need your Employer’s flexibility and accommodation in planning your return to the workplace, do not wait until you are formally called back to the workplace to request accommodation. 

You may wish to seek the assistance of an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative to help you with your request. They can help you determine the most viable options that meet your needs and your Employer’s needs. 

Talking to your manager 

1. Write down what has taken place to date that you believe to be relevant to your situation. This will help you organize your thoughts and assist a Workplace Representative, should you need their help. 

  • Write your account out in such detail that someone who knows nothing about your or your workplace would be able to read your document, and understand who the people involved are, the context and importance of what was said or done, and be able to bring themselves up to speed quickly. 
  • You should also gather all relevant documentation. 

2. Reach out to your manager about having a conversation related to accommodation and the reason for it. If you don’t make this request via email, be sure to take personal notes and record the date. 

3. Speak with your manager. 

  • There are many ways to start this conversation. Some examples from the OPS Gradual Re-opening of Ontario Workplaces (GROW) plan include “I am experiencing challenges with returning to the workplace and balancing childcare/eldercare obligations,” and “it would help if…” 
  • During the conversation, identify the challenge(s), and the accommodation you are seeking. You may be presented with an alternative or be expected to talk through another possible solution.  
  • Your Employer is also entitled to ask detailed questions about family status matters, other options you have considered, and available alternatives. 
  • If you feel you might like support for this conversation, you have the right to have a Workplace Representative join you for any meeting with your manager related to a workplace accommodation. 
  • If your manager will not discuss accommodations with you, or you feel your accommodation has been unfairly denied, please contact an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative immediately. 

If you have questions or need assistance

Please contact an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative in your District. They do not have to be in your Ministry.

Workplace Representatives are trained union members who have volunteered to confidentially assist members like you in the workplace. They should be your first point of contact in seeking information and representation with an issue at work.

Your Workplace Representative may ask you to use the union’s secure web-based system, RADAR, to provide details about your situation. RADAR will help you and your Workplace Representative keep track of things without the privacy concerns that could come from using the Employer’s email system.