COVID-19: Ontario’s Back-to-school Plan and Working Parents’ Rights


Working Parents’ Rights as Schools Reopen

Working parents who choose not to send their children to school this fall, despite Ontario reinstating classes full-time for elementary students, may be considered by their employer to have resigned if they do not come into work, warns employment lawyer Lior Samfiru.

The Government of Ontario announced Thursday afternoon that all elementary grades in the public school system will return to the classroom full-time this fall, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teens in large urban boards will be on a hybrid half-time/online structure.

“While the government has indicated that this is a choice that parents have, an employer doesn’t have to accommodate choices,” says Samfiru, managing partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. “An employer only must accommodate requirements. So parents that wish for their child to be home all while keeping their job, may have to find alternate childcare or babysitting arrangements.”

Samfiru says that where a child is on alternate days, an employer will have to accommodate a parent’s childcare obligations.

“This would be required as accommodation under the Human Rights Code.”

Does my employer have to accommodate me if I stay home with my child?

An employer may not be required to accommodate an employee who chooses to keep their child home from school, and stay at home with that child, due to fears about COVID-19.

In other words, your employer can deny your request for time off work to look after your child. They may also be able to reject your quest to work from home.

The Government of Ontario is providing a full-time option for elementary students across the province, which adheres to guidance from public health officials within the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. Therefore, a viable option for childcare is available to working parents. Only when a parent has exhausted their childcare options are they able to request accommodation from their employer.

If an employee decides not to report to work as required by their employer, the company may be able to treat the failure to report to work as a resignation. An employee who resigns is not eligible for severance pay (unless it is a resignation due to constructive dismissal)

Retracting a resignation
Forced resignations and your rights

If you have any questions about your rights as an employee, or obligations as an employer, with schools reopening in Ontario this fall, please contact an employment lawyer or email

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