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N.S. committee recommends businesses make accommodations for employees with children amid COVID-19

Nova Scotia's legislature has passed a motion that would require businesses to accommodate employees with dependants as they reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Getty Images

The provincial NDP has put forward a motion requesting all workplaces in Nova Scotia to include accommodations for employees with dependants in their plans for reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The motion was to ask the Chair to write a letter on behalf of the committee to the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education to request the inclusion of accommodations.

The standing committee on human resources met on Tuesday by teleconference, which is the first time legislature business has been conducted in more than 10 weeks due to the novel coronavirus disease.

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“With schools closed, summer camps uncertain, and respite services limited, we know that many employees will face barriers to returning to work,” said Claudia Chender, MLA for Dartmouth South.

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“Government has a role to play in requiring businesses to make flexible work hours and other accommodations so that workers with dependants, women in particular, are not further disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.

Chender said the province has thousands of children and people who are differently abled, elderly or immunocompromised whose caregivers cannot
return to business as usual regardless of the reopening plans unless they’re provided with accommodations.

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“Based on the best evidence we have now, we know that we will lose many hundreds, if not thousands, from the workforce, and most of those
will be women (if accommodations won’t be included in the reopening plans),” said Chender.

At the virtual meeting, Brad Johns, MLA for Sackville-Beaver Bank, said his only concern in regards to the motion is whether or not it may have a negative result in making businesses who are on the fence decide not to open because they cannot make accommodations for employees with children.

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“I certainly support and understand the need to be able to accommodate people with children,” said Johns. “However, I am concerned in regards to putting too many limits on businesses that they may choose just not to reopen because they can’t make the accommodations.”

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Chender said in response that as businesses are now being asked to put forward plans about how to reopen in the context of COVID-19, there must also be a plan put forward for how to accommodate workers who have dependants.

“The reality is that they will have to do that, and if they don’t, we will see a much worse economic situation than we’re currently in because we will lose that many more workers,” she said.

All eight members of the standing committee, which includes Chender and Johns, have agreed to pass the motion to write to the minister of labour and advanced education, asking the minister to consider making it a requirement for businesses to include the proper accommodations.

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