On May 19, 2020, Ontario extended the emergency orders that it has made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until May 29, 2020, and made important announcements regarding school closures and when childcare centres can reopen.
In particular, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that public schools in Ontario will not reopen this school year, but that there are plans for schools to reopen in September for next school year.
On May 19, 2020, Ontario also announced that licensed childcare centres, early learning centres and private schools will not reopen during stage 1 of Ontario’s Framework for Reopening Our Province (for an overview of the framework, please read our recent article)¸ but that they will reopen during stage 2 of the framework. Given that stage 1 commenced on May 19, 2020, and that the assessment periods under the framework are 2-4 weeks each, this means that the earliest that licensed childcare centres, early learning centres, and private schools could reopen would be June 2, 2020. Therefore, such workplaces will very likely remain closed until at least June 2, 2020.
Accordingly, employers should bear in mind that many employees that are parents will need to continue balancing their employment and childcare duties during the workday while schools and childcare centres remain closed. As we have discussed previously on this Resource Centre, employers are legally obliged to accommodate limitations arising from protected grounds under human rights legislation to the point of undue hardship, including limitations resulting from childcare obligations under the protected ground of “family status” (for an overview of employers’ duty to accommodate and family status accommodation specifically, please read our recent article). Therefore, employers would be well advised to consider whether any productivity, attendance, or performance issues of employees may be due to the employees’ childcare obligations. Doing so will help employers avoid potential exposures arising from discipline or terminations of employment being found to constitute family status discrimination.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.