What Is a Family Status Accommodation?
A family status accommodation is a type of workplace accommodation. The Ontario Human Rights Code lists “family status” as a protected ground. This means that employers have a duty to accommodate people whose work obligations conflict with family obligations.
Family status accommodations can take the form of changes in scheduling, alternative work assignments, or location of work (including remote delivery of courses).
Who Can Request a Family Status Accommodation?
The types of family obligations that are protected are parent-child relationships, legal guardianship, or extended family responsibilities. If a member’s work obligations conflict with their family obligations, the employer has a duty to accommodate.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the return to campus, members may find themselves needing family status accommodations where they did not before. For example, being the primary caregiver of an immunocompromised child may not have needed to be accommodated prior to the pandemic, but would now be a serious concern.
If you are not sure whether your circumstances are grounds to request a family status accommodation, you are encouraged to contact Nadia Kanani, CUPE 3903 Equity Officer, at email@example.com.
What Is the Process of Requesting a Family Status Accommodation?
For Fall 2021, family status accommodations will be negotiated through the Office of the Associate Dean in each Faculty. Once you contact the AD, they will give you a form to fill out. This form is reviewed by a third party company contracted by the employer. The request will then be approved, denied, or alternative accommodations may be discussed and negotiated. If you want to appeal this decision, you are strongly encouraged to contact the union beforehand, so that we can help you make the argument.
There are two elements of family status obligations that guide this process:
- If work obligations conflict with family obligations, the employer has a duty to accommodate regardless of any steps that you may or may not have taken before requesting to be accommodated.
- However, members must be willing to consider alternative arrangements, and be ready to potentially negotiate a reasonable alternative to their original request.
It is the union’s position that the form provided by York does not conform with best practices and legal obligations of the employer’s duty to accommodate on the grounds of family status. We are attempting to address this with the employer. Meanwhile, below are some guidelines and tips for filling out the form as it exists.
How to Complete the Family Status Accommodation Request Form
Question 1: Please tell us about your family/parental obligation
Describe the family obligation for which you are requesting accommodation. At this point, keep it simple and only provide information relevant to the specific family obligation for which you need to be accommodated.
“I am the primary care-taker for my elderly parent, who requires frequent care”
“I am the legal guardian of a child who is immunocompromised”
“I am a single parent with 3 children”
“I am the primary caregiver for my children who are attending school remotely in the Fall”
Question 2: How do these obligations affect your ability to perform your current position?
The legal test is whether work obligations impede family obligations, not the other way around. Highlight the ways in which your current work arrangements prevent you from meeting your family obligations.
“I cannot work in person on campus since any exposure to COVID-19 would prevent me from caring for my parent/child for whom I am the primary care-giver. If my child/parent contracts COVID-19, they are at very high risk of death or other severe outcome”
“I am required to assist my children in logging into class at 8:30am – an 8:30am tutorial/course start time would interfere with this obligation”
Question 3 & 4: Have you taken steps to address your obligation? If “Yes”, please provide us with details about the steps you have taken. If “No”, what steps do you think you can take.
Whether you have previously taken steps to address your obligation does not impact the employer’s duty to accommodate based on family status. However, since members are required to be open to alternative arrangements, it can help minimize back-and-forth to indicate other arrangements that have been attempted and failed, if applicable.
“I have asked my sibling to help with care responsibilities for our parent, but they are a health care worker and cannot have the required schedule flexibility”
“My partner is a shift worker and cannot be available for the 8am school start time”
Question 5: Please describe the change in work arrangement (ie. work schedule, work location) you are requesting and how this will assist.
This is the section where you indicate the kind of accommodation that you believe will address your needs. Be specific and tell the employer what you need; avoid the language of preference (“I would prefer…”, “if it’s possible…”) as the employer is legally required to meet your accommodation needs, not preferences.
“I need to teach remotely so that I can work from home to care for my child”
“If I have to attend campus, it must be between the hours of 10am and 2pm so as to not conflict with my care responsibilities”
Question 6: Are there any other work arrangement (i.e. work schedule, work location) changes which could assist you besides your preferred one?
This question is problematic, since it implies that your answer above is a preference, rather than an accommodation need. However, you must be willing to consider reasonable alternatives, so if there are some available, indicate them here. As above, avoid the language of preference.
“If teaching cannot be scheduled for the hours I can attend campus, I could teach remotely between 9am and 3pm”
Question 7: Please provide any additional information that may assist us in considering your accommodation request
If you want to provide additional information, remember that you are not required to disclose medical diagnoses of family members, detailed information about the care you provide, or additional details regarding your living arrangements.