With schools reopening and more workplaces back at full operation, many parents are returning to work.
An Impossible Choice
Earlier this year, schools in Ontario closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The closure was unprecedented. Many employers followed suit by either closing entirely or sending workers home to work remotely. So, while not without its challenges, most parents were able to juggle providing childcare and school instruction while either laid off or working from home.
In August of 2020, families with school-age children were given the choice in Ontario between attending in-person classes or attending online classes in September. So, parents have to choose to either send their kids to school where the risk of contracting COVID-19 is greater or keep them home. This choice has impacted many parents’ choice to return to work.
How Can Employers Help?
Employers must understand that the pandemic has created new stressors in workers’ lives. Parents are especially prone to stress as they start to return to work. There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to COVID-19 and the school year, including how parents will be affected in the workplace. Employers can help by managing with compassion, understanding, and patience. As well, it is recommended that employers work together with parents to make accommodations where necessary and appropriate.
Are Employers Required to Accommodate Working Parents?
To help parents return to work, employers should consider making accommodations if necessary, including flexible work arrangements, different start or end times, or allowing non-traditional schedules, such as a four-day workweek. Remote work is another great option if it’s feasible.
Employees must make reasonable attempts to secure childcare and attend work. However, if no alternative care can be found, parents may be eligible for protected leave under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). This leave is called infectious disease emergency leave.
Parents who need to be off work because of a school or daycare closure related to COVID-19 are protected. In fact, anyone requiring leave from work who meets the criteria of infectious disease emergency leave is protected. The leave covers:
- Employers under investigation or treatment for COVID-19
- Employees under quarantine orders
- Employers following orders from employers to stay home
- Employees providing care for a specific family member, including a child, due to a COVID-19 related reason
- Employee’s whose child’s school or daycare had to close, or whose child was sent home from school or daycare
- Employees subject to a travel ban related to COVID-19
Employees who take infectious disease emergency leave are entitled to the same rights as employees who take any other leave that is protected under the ESA. They cannot be penalized, threatened, or terminated for taking protected leave. Infectious disease emergency leave is in place until January 2nd, 2021. The government may choose to extend the leave, but if they do not, the ESA’s regular rules will resume on January 3rd, 2021.
Get more information about infectious disease emergency leave
BEST Safety Training Can Help
Employers, supervisors, human resource professionals, and managers all need to know what kinds of leave employees are entitled to under the ESA, and employees need to know their rights as well. Best Safety Training offers a number of training products that can help, including:
- Supervisor Competency Training
- COVID-19 Safety Training
- AODA Training
- Safety Culture and the Three Fundamental Rights
- Safety Awareness for Workers
- And More!
BEST Safety Training offers a full catalogue of online training so that employees can safely participate in training while maintaining a safe and healthy physical distance.
To ask questions, contact us online or call 226.777.7385. Visit us 24/7 on the web at bestsafetytraining.ca.