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Reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees

On Behalf of | Oct 30, 2023 | Employment Law |

Workers who are or become pregnant have specific rights and legal protections on the job. Unfortunately, too many employers still unfairly fire or deny them reasonable accommodations. These actions create considerable financial and professional complications; they could also endanger the safety of the woman and her unborn child.

For instance, serious health issues could arise if an employer denies reasonable accommodations. Thus, it is crucial to understand the types of practical and appropriate adjustments employees with pregnancy-related conditions might require.

Types of reasonable accommodations

Canadian employers have a duty to accommodate workers with pregnancy-related needs. Accommodations that do not cause undue hardship on an employer or other workers are typically reasonable. Some of the most common examples of these include:

  • A chair to sit on instead of standing
  • Longer or more frequent breaks
  • Reserved parking spots close to the entrance
  • Flexibility in their work schedule
  • Temporary placement in light-duty work
  • Modified uniforms
  • Time off for pregnancy-related doctors’ appointments

These accommodations generally do not require much from employers or colleagues, but they can help ensure a pregnant worker is safe, healthy and comfortable.

What are unreasonable accommodations?

Under human rights laws, employers have the obligation to provide accommodations to the point of “undue hardship”. It is crucial to note that just because a worker requests an accommodation does not mean they will receive it. In some cases, a request is too costly or complicated to implement; in other cases, it dramatically changes the worker’s job or puts much too much strain on others. 

The test of what constitutes “undue hardship” depends on the specific facts of each case. Some potential examples of requested accommodations that may cause the employer undue hardship include:

  • Requesting that a company provides childcare
  • Asking for non-standard offerings, like employer-provided transportation or meals
  • Demanding an assistant
  • Asking for significant changes in a work schedule that are not compatible with the workplace
  • Requiring a business to change its hours 

The analysis of whether the employer has reached the point of undue hardship will include consideration of whether proposed solutions are too expensive or disruptive for the employer to implement, even if they would make things easier for a pregnant worker.

Finding common ground

Workers seeking accommodation and their employer each have a responsibility to participate in good faith discussions about potential solutions before landing on a plan. There is typically always room for compromise, so being open to these discussions is critical.

When an employee with a pregnancy-related condition requires an accommodation, it can take time to negotiate and identify precisely what that will entail. Both employers and employees may want to seek legal counsel to ensure their requests and responses are fair and lawful.



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