B.C. mother files human rights complaint after shift change leaves her without daycare
Advocates say B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case highlights need for more daycare spaces
A mother from Langley, B.C., says she was forced to quit her job because her employer changed her shift and she couldn't find child care for her one-year-old baby closer to work on short notice.
The mother, Nicole Ziegler, filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleging her employer, Pacific Blue Cross, discriminated against her on the basis of family status.
The company tried to have the case dismissed, but its application was recently denied and the case has been allowed to proceed.
Affordable child-care advocates say the case highlights the need for more child-care spaces in the province and the struggle many working mothers face finding suitable daycare.
"It's quite normal for women not to be able to participate in the workforce because they can't find licensed child care or they can't afford to access licensed childcare," said Sharon Gregson, spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C.
"Child care is in chaos across the province."
According to a 2018 report on early childhood care in Canada, less than 50 per cent of children under five with a working mother have access to a regulated child care space.
B.C.'s NDP government has made significant inroads toward improving the province's child-care needs, Gregson said, but it will take years for the province to catch up.
Changing work hours
According to the tribunal's decision, Ziegler worked at Pacific Blue Cross for 11 years. Her son was one when she filed her complaint in 2017.
The insurance company's office is in Burnaby, and it took Ziegler 45 to 90 minutes to drive from work to the daycare near her home in Langley.
As a senior employee, Ziegler was able to choose an earlier shift so she could pick up her son from daycare, which closed at 6 p.m.
In January 2017, Blue Cross decided all employees at the call centre where Ziegler worked would have to start rotating through different shifts.
Ziegler told her employer she couldn't work the later shift, which ended at 5 p.m., because she wouldn't be able to pick up her son from daycare on time.
When Blue Cross suggested she find a daycare closer to work or one open past 6 p.m., she told her boss that would be "impossible" on such short notice.
Blue Cross said it had no obligation to accommodate Ziegler's needs. Her circumstances were not "unique," it argued it its application to dismiss the case, and the shift changes didn't interfere in a "substantial parental obligation."
Ziegler ultimately quit because, she argued, she had no other choice.
She eventually found another job in Langley, closer to her home and daycare provider. Had she stayed at Blue Cross, she could have retired at 55 with a pension.
Ziegler did not respond to a CBC News request for an interview.
Lack of child care in B.C.
Child care advocate Gregson says employers should accommodate where they can, but there's only so much they can do given B.C.'s dire childcare situation.
"No accommodation is going to create child care spaces that don't exist — particularly for shift workers," she said.
Gregson isn't surprised that Ziegler couldn't find a new daycare in less than two months. She says it takes some women years to access affordable, registered child care.
"The situation has gotten so bad for families with young children that it's going to take years to dig out of the chaos that currently exists," she said.
Labour and human rights lawyer Elizabeth Reid says, from a legal perspective, the primary obligation to find childcare rests with the family.
Reid said some of the factors a tribunal member would consider in a case like this include the age of the child, the family's social support system and its financial capacity to find other solutions.
Blue Cross declined to comment on the case, but said it's "committed to a diverse and equitable workforce and providing a healthy, safe and flexible workplace."