The sexist, Conservatives amongst us must be aghast at yesterday’s landmark federal court decision that states workplaces are obliged to accommodate reasonable childcare-related requests from their employees.
"We might as well reside in Sweeden or France. We are a socialist nation" they will decree.
We have come a long, long way from the days when employers could get away with discriminating against women because they had menstrual cycles and might get pregnant. They felt such a situation might lead to less productivity, loss time at work because the little brats had a sniffle. Even worse, Women felt entitled to parental leave.
The story goes that a former a prominent lawyer and politician in this province did not advance in a certain west coast firm because she was a women and wanted to have children. True or not, she certainly felt that way.
I have no reason to doubt her because such behavior was the norm for much of 60s,70’s & even the 1980’s.
Childcare has slowly become the domain of both parents, male and female (and gay/lesbian couples). Unemployment Insurance, work related programs and collective agreements, provincial and federal human rights legislation are supposed to protect individuals from discrimination bases on parental obligations and childcare needs.
As a young single employee it used to grate on my nerves when my colleagues used to up and go to pick-up kids. Why did I have to work nights when they could go home? We all did the same work. Why were there needs accommodated without question. I used to be one of those that once believed family matters have no business in the workplace. Keep your problems at home, it was your choice to have a family – not mine or the company.
That changed as friends began to have children and the demands of childcare became evident. Than in 1999, I bought shares in the family making business. We had three kids and were confronted with the issue of daycare costs, daycare availability and whose career came first.
I have never worked for an employer that has not tried to accommodate childcare needs. However, that does not mean that there are not millions of Canadians that have been subjected to draconian employers who have not adjusted to the reality of new millennium employee needs.
I have had some recent experience assisting people that are stuck in non-union environments where, at best, public health/safety, employment equity and special needs are skirted. If one has a sick child – and one stays home to care for the child – one does not get paid.
In these places, regular shifts the demands of family are no a consideration. Many employees are financially penalized for having children. We can do better but it took the courts to rectify this violation of human rights.
Once again proof positive that we need the impartial courts and human rights tribunals to protect peoples individual rights.
In her decision, Justice Leonard Mandamin is explicit - requests for childcare accommodations stem from genuine need and are not simply the product of lifestyle choices.
Now if only the Conservative Party of Canada, and that minority that supports them, could adjust their thinking on a universal daycare program the works for Canadians.