Managing employees with family obligations – The Law

Family Status and Childcare Obligations – Duty to Accommodate

Balancing the need to retain talent and support employees while ensuring a productive workplace is a challenge facing all employers.

Under the Human Rights Code, employers, unions, landlords and service providers all have a legal duty to accommodate based on a person’s family status. Many accommodations can be made easily, at little or no cost. Even where the best solution might result in undue hardship, there is still a duty to take next-best steps until more ideal ones can be put in place.


Employees are required to disclose what their family status-related needs are, with supporting information as needed, and help explore possible solutions.  As an employer, union, landlord or service provider: Accept requests for accommodation in good faith. Ask only for needed information, and keep this information confidential.


October 29, 2014, Leaves to Help Families under ESA Come Into Force

On April 29, 2014, Bill 21, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families) received royal assent and became law. The new law builds on the existing family medical leave by creating three new job-protected leaves:

  • Family Caregiver Leave: up to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees to provide care or support to a family member with a serious medical condition.
  • Critically Ill Child Care Leave: up to 37 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to provide care to a critically ill child.
  • Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave: up to 52 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents of a missing child and up to 104 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents of a child who has died as a result of a crime.

A doctor’s note would be required to qualify for Family Caregiver Leave and Critically Ill Child Care Leave.
This new law comes into effect at a time when the number of people aged 60 to 64 grew at a rate of 29 per cent since the previous survey in 2006 — the fastest-growing age group in Canada.

By 2021, Statistics Canada predicts there will be 11,100 Canadians aged 100 or older, rising to 14,800 by 2026.  “Life expectancy is likely to continue to rise in Canada over the next decades, increasing the chance for individuals to reach 100 years,” Statistics Canada notes in a release.


In reality, the majority of seniors age successfully with the help of their families, social networks, and primary care providers. However, a number are especially frail and suffer from complex medical and psychosocial problems rendering them one of the most vulnerable patient populations in society.  Increasingly more seniors with medical conditions are staying at home and family members are having to act as caregivers.

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