Atlantic Employers’ Counsel – Fall 2014
This issue focuses on the family and the interaction between employment and family obligations.
As 2014 comes to a close, I would like to extend Seasons Greetings to all of our readers and to thank you for your kind comments and e-mails over the past year. I have enjoyed my time as Editor of this publication and am proud to have reviewed more than 150 articles by my Labour and Employment group colleagues during my tenure. However, I am stepping aside to take on a new role in our Labour and Employment Group and, as such, this is my last issue as Editor of the Atlantic Employers’ Counsel.
All of the provinces and territories in Canada (except New Brunswick), prescribe human rights protections based on “family status” (or “civil status” in Quebec, which has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada to include familial relationships). TheCanadian Human Rights Act (“Act“) also prohibits discrimination based on family status.
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on “family status” under the Human Rights legislation in every Canadian jurisdictions, except in New Brunswick. Although the legislation across jurisdictions is fairly similar, until this year there has been widespread debate about if, and when, an employee’s child care obligations can trigger the duty to accommodate.
The basis of family status extends beyond childcare; there is also the developing issue of eldercare, that is, when members of the workforce need to take time away from work in order to tend to the needs of elderly and infirm parents. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal was asked to deal with this very issue in Devaney v. ZRV Holdings Limited (2012 HRTO 1590).
While New Brunswick does not protect discrimination based on “family status”, each province in Atlantic Canada has legislation that provides for family leave. In general terms, these provisions require employers to grant employees a specified amount of time off to fulfill routine family responsibilities, such as caring for a child during a minor illness. Family leave is distinct from compassionate care leave, which is a more substantial absence granted when an employee’s family member is seriously ill. The legislative schemes in each Atlantic province are similar, but different.
There are so many shapes and sizes of family businesses in Atlantic Canada, from husband-and-wife entrepreneurs just starting out, to well established household names. I don’t wish to generalize, but there are some things that many family businesses have in common. The titular fox refer to the general reluctance felt by many small, family business owners about bringing in “non-family” employees.
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