The issue of childcare within the context of “family status” was before the courts in the case of SMS Equipment Inc. v Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union Local 707 (2015 ABQB 162).

The employee in SMS Equipment worked a pattern of rotating night and day shifts as a requirement of her employment. When the employee was working night shifts, she was forced to pay for overnight childcare as well as daytime childcare (when she was sleeping). This pattern of shiftwork was held to have a disproportionate effect on single parents such as the employee in this case.

What does this mean for employers?

This case serves as a warning to employers to be mindful of the growing scope of “family status”, which includes their employees’ childcare duties and obligations. As Justice Ross points out at paragraph 49 of the decision, the cost of childcare is logically implicated into “childcare obligations” which are in turn included under “family status” protection. Justice Ross held that these costs cannot be overlooked in an analysis of “childcare” and “family status”. Therefore, even if an employee could potentially self-accommodate, as the employee attempted to do in SMS Equipment, if added childcare costs remain, the rule or policy may be found to be discriminatory.

This post is intended to provide general information concerning developments in the law and is not intended to provide legal advice in respect of any particular situation.