On January 3rd, the Ontario government announced a set of new restrictions that include moving school online until at least January 17th.
This announcement has left many working parents scrambling to plan for childcare over the next two weeks. While not a complete solution, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Employment Standards Act provide protections for parents and guardians in this situation.
Working from home with flexibility
For employees whose job allows them to work from home, it may be the case that they can continue working while a child or children are learning remotely but require some flexibility to balance managing their job and the virtual classroom. They would be seeking an accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code based on Family Status.
Employees are to be accommodated to the point of undue hardship, meaning that the accommodation it is not overly burdensome for the employer in how it impacts their operations. In this scenario, appropriate accommodations might include adjusting working hours and altering deliverables and expectations on a temporary basis. These adjustments allow the working parent to keeping working through this time with reasonable accommodations based on the situation.
When you cannot work from home
For employees who are unable to perform their jobs from home and are required to stay home because of school closures, they are entitled to job protected leave under the Employment Standard Act (Emergency leave: declared emergencies and infectious disease emergencies, Section 50.1(1.1)(b)(v)).
While this leave is unpaid, employers should allow employees who find themselves in this situation to exhaust their paid leave entitlements if they so choose before they go on unpaid leave.