Increasing numbers of Canadians are caring for aging or ailing family members. One in five adult women in Canada looks after a person in the home who is chronically ill or disabled, spending on average 28 hours a week. Currently, 12% of working Canadians are full-time caregivers for loved ones. This is in part due to an increased emphasis by governments on home care, as opposed to hospital care, in some cases without adequate community services in place. The provision of elder care is placing increasing pressure on people to meet the competing demands of work and family responsibilities.
As a result, there has been a call for steps to address the situation of those who care for family members through measures such as ‘eternity leave’ which would involve time off to care for family members near the end of their life. The Canadian Association for Retired Persons, Canada’s largest seniors group, is calling for a ‘bill of rights’ that would give compensation to those who quit their jobs to care for family members, tax breaks, training programs and national standards for hours and working conditions.
The Commission’s publication Human Rights at Work recognizes the issues raised by elder care and notes that the Code ground of “family status” may cover elder care given to a parent. Human Rights at Work recognizes that employers have a positive and supportive role to play in helping employees balance competing demands and states that “the employer’s duty to accommodate extends to employees who have work-related absences due to family related responsibilities” (child-care or parent-care responsibilities). The publication suggests more flexibility in the workplace and alternative work arrangements as a means to permit employees to balance work and personal demands and contribute to the effective use of a skilled labour force.