By Laura Tolhoek | Owner of Essential HR

It’s 3:30pm on a Wednesday and your supervisor has come into your office looking like a ghost. She just got a text message that her day care is closing in two weeks.

“What is an employer’s requirement of accommodation for an employee with a childcare conflict?”

Though case law in Ontario is still emerging, what has been established is that family status is a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code. This means that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on family status and are required to accommodate issues of childcare up to undue hardship.

In accommodation situations, all parties need to understand that it is a two-way street. The employee cannot demand the accommodation that they wish to have, and the employer must be understanding of the employee’s needs. For example, an employee cannot ask for an accommodation to start work late because they want to walk their child to school every morning. Employees are required to “self-accommodate” and attempt to resolve the childcare problems through their own means if possible.

Accommodation can also look different depending on the size of the organization. A larger organization has more resources to accommodate an employee compared to a smaller one. For example, an independent bookstore that is open from 10-6 has less flexibility to offer a variety of shifts compared to an international department store with thousands of employees working various shifts.

Life happens, … and usually at the most inconvenient of times.

Employers who adopt flexible and understanding approaches when it comes to family obligations have a workforce that is more likely to stay with the organization and report higher job satisfaction. The challenge is being as consistent as possible across the organization in the application of the flexibility. Without consistency and communication, there could be internal conflict and allegations of preferential treatment.

Laura Tolhoek is the Proprietor of Essential HR and offers hands-on HR services to business in Niagara including managing the complexities of employee accommodation.  Essential HR is excited to be a part of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and looks forward to partnering with businesses who are looking for the support of a seasoned HR Manager on speed dial!  Visit for more information. 

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