HR | Atlantic - Positive Change at Work

Family Matters

May 09, 2011

In Prince Edward Island, there is a very common practice of asking people you meet “Who’s your father?” While this is often joked about, in a community where there are many branches of families this can be a key piece of information for helping people place others in the context of their origins, their community and relations.   This practice also denotes the importance of family in our lives, and this intersection of family issues and workplace obligations is increasingly a source of tension between the rights of individuals and the employer in the form of claims of accommodation for family status.

Constance Robinson recently presented on this issue at the HRANS 2011 Conference in Halifax, N.S.  After looking at the definition of family status in different jurisdictions, there are four key questions employers must consider:

  1. Nature of the parental or familial obligation: is it a substantial obligation?
  2. The degree of interference with this obligation: is it serious?
  3. The connection to a bona fide work requirement: is the employer policy or practice necessary or modifiable?
  4. Employee’s efforts to self-manage/accommodate: what has the employee attempted to deal with the issue?

While each situation must be dealt with on its own merits, these questions will go a long ways to helping employers determine whether they have an obligation, and how far that obligation extends.  Some of the slides from the presentation are available at this link.


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