Accommodating family status

Law is not yet settled, but a few basic guidelines can help
By Howard Levitt and Lai-King Hum
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/11/2009

Back in the day, “family status” was a yes or no question. As in, “Yes, I have one” or “No, I don’t.” With changes in traditional family patterns, an aging population and financial difficulties foisted on families, employers are increasingly faced with demands for accommodation arising from family caregiving needs.

While social and economic forces have been inexorably reshaping both the traditional family unit and the conventional career path for half a century, governments were slow to respond. For example, family status became a protected ground under Ontario’s Human Rights Code in 1982, however, the law is not settled.

What is family status? How do you recognize if there is discrimination on the basis of family status? When is the duty to accommodate triggered?