Last year, the federal courts found in favour of Fiona Johnstone, a boarder service employee who alleged she had been discriminated against on the basis of family status. She sought to have her schedule changed in order to accommodate for the limited childcare available in her area. There was concern that this case would “open the floodgates” for other employees to “willingly” change their work hours to accommodate for childcare.
The Federal Court of Appeal determined that childcare is a legitimate part of family status and will be protected. The Court then established a 4-part test to determine if future individuals have been discriminated against on the basis of family status. The employee must demonstrate they have made a reasonable effort to secure childcare. They would then have to provide evidence that there are no other reasonable options available.
Essentially, they cannot state care is unavailable if a certain childcare provider is unavailable during the hours of work. Preference of provider is not a legitimate exception. All requests by the employee need to be taken seriously by the employer. The employer, if proper evidence is provided, is then obligated to accommodate these needs.