Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Family matters

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A federal court decision that says employers are required to accommodate reasonable child-care requests has moved the goalposts in workplace law. Its real significance, however, ought to be the signal it sends to workers and managers, namely that both have to consider the reasonable needs of the other, as well as their own.

The court ruled earlier this month that the Canadian Border Services Agency wrongly denied a female employee a special shift arrangement to accommodate her child-care needs. It noted the agency had no trouble meeting similar requests on medical or religious grounds.

In this case, the employer was capable of meeting its employee's legitimate needs without hurting its overall efficiency. The court ruled a similar request in another workplace could be turned down if the employer could show it would cause "undue hardship."

It is also the duty of the employee seeking special accommodation to show other alternatives to resolve the problem, such as evening daycare, are not available.

The bottom line is employers must meet the reasonable family needs of their employees, including elder care, if such accommodation will not hurt their business. At the same time, although the court did not specifically say so, employees should also consider whether their employer can meet their needs when they apply for a job.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2013 A14

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