No it is not about food preferences -- it is about a generation of adults who form the meat in the sandwich in their continuing struggle to balance child care, elder care and work simultaneously.
Having both parents at work is the norm, which means that childcare obligations must be balanced, often precariously, with workplace duties. At the same time, our population is aging and people often end up having to look after their elderly parents. Effectively, those in the workforce are stuck in the middle, caring for the generations before and after them -- the "Sandwich Generation".
Can the "Sandwich Generation" manage this delicate balancing act? Yes, as long as the workplace co-operates. But just how far do employers have to go to accommodate "lifestyle" decisions to have children and obligations to care for elderly parents?
Prior to the last few years, the concept of "family status" in human rights legislation received little or no attention. In the past, it was seen as having been intended to protect employees from adverse treatment because they were married or because they had (or could have) children. Now, the concept has been extended further.
As the demographic phenomenon of the Sandwich Generation continues, and more employees find themselves needing to care for their loved ones, both younger and older, employees demand flexibility in the workplace. For the first time, this ground of discrimination is getting the attention it deserves.
Earlier this year, we learned that Fiona Johnstone, who worked shift work at Toronto Pearson Airport, asked to work set hours in order to accommodate child care obligations, after giving birth to her first child. Her request was denied, but she was offered stable, part-time work, and an adjusted schedule. Nonetheless, the Federal Human Rights Tribunal found that she was not being accommodated reasonably, and found that it was the employer's duty to do so. Headlines such as "Federal Court sides with new mother who claimed right to set work hours" followed.
More recently, for the first time, elder care was recognized as grounds for discrimination on the basis of family status.
In the matter of Hicks v. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered HRSDC to pay a former employee $15,000 for pain and suffering, as well as the maximum award permitted under the Human Rights Act, $20,000, for denying his request for dual residence assistance after he was transferred from Sydney, N.S. to Gatineau but his wife had to stay behind to care for her ailing mother.
In this case, Mr. Hicks had been working for the Coal Mining Safety Commission in Sydney when he was transferred to its division in Gatineau. Unfortunately, his mother-in-law was too sick to travel, and required daily assistance, so his wife remained behind to care for her. During that time, Mr. Hicks applied for financial assistance, but was rejected on the basis of his mother- in- law not being considered a proper "dependent".
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal disagreed, and found that the employer had demonstrated disregard and indifference to Mr. Hicks' family status, and failed to account for his family circumstances. Notably, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario had previously found that elder care obligations fell within the definition of "family status" in 2012 in its decision Devaney v. ZRV Holdings Ltd., when the complainant was dismissed due to absences, which related primarily to his obligations as the primary caregiver for his mother.
As the Sandwich Generation phenomenon continues, employers need to be mindful of the fact that by law, child and elder care obligations of its employees may be protected. At the same time, employees must understand that not all child or elder care is protected, and they do not have the right to impose their preferred terms of employment simply because they are responsible for looking after a child or an aging parent.
Employees cannot simply demand a different shift because they have a child, nor can they take time off of work just because their parents are getting older. They will have to produce compelling evidence of a legitimate need, such as the evidence of Mrs. Johnstone that there were no other viable childcare options. But, employers should never dismiss such requests for accommodation out of hand as occurred in the Johnstone case. Rather, they should consider the legitimacy of the request and, if appropriate, the potential for accommodation. An employer that can produce documentation of bona fide efforts to consider reasonable accommodation will be in a much stronger position to defend a discrimination claim.
BILLS: Every month, input your billing dates into your calender or smartphone to help you pay bills on time, suggest Professional Organizers in Canada (POC).
LETTERS: Use a tray, box or dedicate one drawer to organize your mail. You can label your tray or box with 'must be paid', 'incoming mail', or 'junk' — this is an easy way to keep your mail (which, as we all know, is usually bills) organized.
MESSY ROOMS: Which room is the messiest? Which room is in dire need of a vacuum? Before you start to organize any room in your home, ask yourself which room is the priority. Make an action plan — write down the problem you have with each room and what you would like to see changed.
THINK SMALL: Not every cleaning task needs to be a room. POC say you shouldn't just start in a small place, but instead, start with smaller tasks. For example, if your laundry room is the problem, start by organizing or washing all the laundry hanging around your home.
FAMILY NIGHTS: Maybe Monday nights are game nights and Fridays are pizza nights. Whatever your family is into, make a routine out of it, says POC.
MAKE THOSE CALLS: We all have relatives and friends we haven't touched based with in a while. This year, POC recommends starting fresh and spending a few minutes every week either emailing, texting or calling someone important in your life.
DOWN TIME: Maybe you both love rock climbing, cooking or even sitting on the couch catching up with your favourite shows. Whatever it may be, this year, improve your relationship by finding common goals and scheduling a day to actually do them, according to AskMen.com.
BE UNPREDICTABLE: Take a look at your partner's calender (and no, not by snooping in their personal email) and figure out what he or she has coming up in their schedule. Maybe it's a baseball game or movie night — YourTango.com recommends making an unexpected surprise like a meal or snack to help them get their day started right.
EMAILS: Most of you are probably getting tons of emails during the day (the average employee gets around 50, according to ABC News). This year, spend one part of your week (even a few minutes a day) clearing our your inbox and replying to emails. Tip: this past week we tested out an email organizational tool called The Swizzle.
THE DESK: Certified organizer coach Ellen Faye says being more productive starts with your work space. Clean out your drawers, throw away those old files and magazines, and start over with a clean desk.