Update from Faculty Relations on Family Status Accommodation and Flexible Arrangements: Guidelines and Process for Fall 2021

Please find an update from the Employer regarding family status accommodation below. If you have any questions and/or would like YUFA assistance in requesting accommodation based on family status, please email [email protected].

Update on Family Status Accommodation from Dan Bradshaw, Assistant Vice-President, Labour Relations:

"As has been anticipated and discussed in various fora, requests for family status accommodation have increased for the Fall of 2021 as the University has continued with its gradual increase in the level of on-campus activity. Our Employee Well-Being Office continues to make best efforts to be responsive to these requests as quickly as possible.

In light of feedback received about the University’s response to some early requests for family accommodation, the decision making principles on which those requests were considered have been reviewed and some adjustments were made. See in particular paragraphs 3 and 4 and the matter of “dependence and care”. This review of the principles was led by our Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion. These revised decision making principles were put into place on September 9, 2021.

Also, an additional review step has been added where in the first instance EWB’s initial assessment is to not grant the family status accommodation request. In appropriate cases the CHREI will further review the request to consider informal solutions that can meet the employee’s needs. Such solutions are intended to be in place for the fall term and must be consistent with operational requirements.

York University employees who meet the requirements for family status accommodations must be accommodated in accordance with the law, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and in accordance with York University policies and procedures. The following principles are being considered in determining if an employee is eligible for family status accommodation, and if so the nature of the required accommodations.

Decision Making Principles:

1. The duty to accommodate family status works according to the same principles as the duty to accommodate persons with disability.

2. This duty to accommodate covers parent/child relationships in either direction: parent responsible for childcare, or adult child responsible for eldercare.

3. There is reason to believe this right (to accommodation) may extend to other similar relationships of dependence and care. In cases where there is not a parent/child relationship, but where there is a similar relationship of dependence and care, a service provider or employer can request evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances to confirm that the relationship would qualify, in other words that the individual’s caregiving responsibilities can be seen as an immutable characteristic of their family status.

4. York will consider responsibilities in connection with relationships that are outside the traditional scope of family status such as responsibilities towards a spouse or common law partner so long as there is a relationship of dependence and care.

5. It is not a precondition for accommodation that the care relationship engages an individual’s legal obligations. For example, adult children are not legally required to care for their elders in the same way that parents are the legal guardians of children, but adults providing elder care are still protected by the family status provisions of the Code. Legal guardian status is not a requirement for engaging a duty to accommodate for family obligations.

6. The duty to accommodate family status encompasses the essential needs of the family member who requires assistance or care and does not cover preferences or conveniences.

7. Accommodation is a multi-party process that involves the university and the employee. All those involved should work together cooperatively and respectfully to develop and implement appropriate accommodation solutions.

8. The person seeking accommodation has a responsibility to inform the employer of their caregiving needs related to a parent-child relationship (or other deemed relationship), and that there is a conflict between those needs and the organization’s rules, requirements, standards, processes or procedures, and to explain in some detail the specifics of the conflict.

9. Persons seeking accommodation may be asked about their reasonable efforts to obtain family help and outside supports.

10. Persons seeking accommodation are obliged to disclose relevant information and a refusal to engage with the employer in either facilitating an understanding of their needs or working to find a solution, may result in there being no duty to accommodate in a given case.

11. Persons seeking accommodation are in the best position to identify and evaluate such outside resources. However, it is a best practice for employers to provide assistance to individuals in locating information regarding such resources; for example, through Employee Assistance Programs.

12. Employers may make reasonable requests for information that are necessary to clarify the nature and extent of the accommodation need. Employers may request documentation of the validity of the accommodation-seeker’s needs, such as medical documentation related to a family member’s disability, or illness. Requests for evidence or supporting documentation should be reasonable in the circumstances to verify essential facts relevant to the employment.

13. Employers may also seek reasonable information regarding any available family assistance, community support and outside resources that the individual has enquired into.

14. As information related to family needs and arrangements may be highly personal, employers should take steps to ensure that information related to accommodation requests is kept confidential and shared only with those who need it.

15. Employers should act in a timely manner and take an active role in seeking accommodation solutions. Persons seeking accommodation should cooperate in the accommodation process, provide relevant information, and meet any agreed-upon standards once accommodation has been provided."