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To be accommodated with an exception to a hybrid work policy, an employee needs to show that other supports are not available.Fly View Productions/Getty Images

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Ask Women and Work

Question: I spent much of the pandemic on mat leave, then worked from home for the past year and a half. Now, my employer is asking all employees to come back into the office at least three days per week. My workplace is a significant commute from my home, so I will not be able to get to my daycare in time to pick up my child if I have to travel back and forth to work each day. Do I have any legal recourse that will allow me to continue working from home?

We asked Samantha Seabrook, lawyer and founder of Seabrook Workplace Law in Toronto, to tackle this one:

The first place to turn when you have a question like this is your employment contract. Does the employment contract state that you only work from home, only work from the office or does it allow for a hybrid work arrangement? If the contract says you are only to work from home, then the employer may not be able to impose a unilateral change to the place of employment. If the contract states that you are to work from the office, then the employer may have more ability to change your place of employment back to the office. I suggest that you have your contract reviewed by an employment lawyer to provide a thorough analysis.

Keep in mind that employers can impose some changes to employment with enough notice of that change. You can then decide if you wish to remain employed under those conditions. We always recommend to our employer clients that notice of a change in location be provided as much in advance as possible because it is only fair that employees have time to make arrangements for the change.

The other issue at play in your situation is that your employer may need to accommodate your child-care needs. To show that you need to be accommodated with an exception to your employer’s hybrid work policy, you will need to provide information to your employer about your child-care obligations and show that other supports are not available to help you in the circumstances.

You should inform your employer of your specific situation and the challenges you are facing with the commute and child care. It is beneficial to do this in writing, detailing the reasons why the return to the office affects your family status.

Then, engage in a constructive dialogue with your employer to explore potential accommodations. This might include a continuation of working from home, flexible working hours or a hybrid model that reduces the impact on your child-care responsibilities.

In Ontario, the Human Rights Code protects real disadvantage to a family need, it does not protect preferences for your family. It is best that you canvass family and other caregiving supports to see whether other options are available. You will then be prepared to provide reasonable evidence of your child-care needs to support your request if the employer asks for it.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at

This week’s must-read stories on women and work

These women are reclaiming yoga and wellness spaces for racialized communities

Since Shanelle McKenzie and Kim Knight founded the Villij and started running pop-up wellness classes for racialized women in 2017, they’ve discovered they provide a lot more than simply a space to do yoga.

On last week’s opening day of their new Toronto studio – one of the first in Canada focused on this demographic but open to all women – they greeted everyone by name. And after the class’s many vinyasas (a sequence of positions) to the sounds of pranayama (deep breathing), instead of rushing out, most of the women stayed behind to talk to each other. In fact, those who go to the Villij’s classes often linger afterward, forming friendships that continue to flourish outside of the studio.

“So many women come alone and leave with their own village,” says Ms. Knight, who was born and raised in Montreal and has Jamaican roots. “They plan dinners, go bowling or even get their driver’s licences together. This has changed how we see wellness.”

Read about more initiatives eliminating barriers to accessing self-care for Black, Indigenous and other women in minority groups.

For disabled and neurodivergent professionals, promotions can be elusive

The final nail in the coffin of Lizzie Somerfield’s legal career came when she was turned down for a promotion. While working as a lawyer in London, U.K., during the pandemic, the 33-year-old neurodiversity coach and consultant, who now lives in Oakville, Ont., was diagnosed with ADHD and autism.

When Ms. Somerfield was passed over for a promotion, in favour of a colleague who was the same age and had similar work experience, she asked for feedback. The response was, more or less, a list of autistic traits, she says. She needed to get better at reading a room. She needed to be better at handling change. She needed to assuage the perception of her colleagues that she was a team player.

“Who I am is valid,” Ms. Somerfield recalls thinking in response, “and the things you’re promoting off of aren’t skills. They’re traits of a neurotype that I am not.”

Read why managers need to address their unconscious biases and the ways promotions processes can “lock out” capable candidates.

Leadership beyond words: Four strengths introverts have that are key to success

“In a business world that frequently associates outspokenness with leadership, introverts are often misjudged, or even worse, undervalued for their leadership skills,” says Merge Gupta-Sunderji, CEO at leadership development consultancy Turning Managers Into Leaders.

“It’s a pity. Introverts are just as influential and effective leaders as extroverts; they just bring different skills and strengths to bear.

“The key for introverts lies in highlighting and embracing their strengths, rather than hiding or trying to change them. It is not a matter of extroversion versus introversion that produces exceptional leaders; it is how each person uses their innate talents to motivate and get things done through others.”

Read about the four strengths introverts have that are also critical success factors in leadership roles.

In case you missed it

Unmanaged menopause symptoms cost the economy billions. Why aren’t we talking about it more?

Shirley Weir started to notice the symptoms of menopause in her early 40s.

“I was waking up every morning at 3 a.m. [and] I had brain fog that was debilitating,” she said during a webcast on World Menopause Day (October 18) hosted by The Globe Women’s Collective. “It was impacting my ability to run a business, look after young children and look after my aging mother.”

But when she approached her doctor and tried to do research online, she found the information she was getting was confusing and conflicting. “There was no community, no place where I could go and say, ‘This is trustworthy, this is verified,’” said Ms. Weir, who reached menopause by age 49.

So, she decided to create that space herself – an online and in-person educational community called Menopause Chicks. Her story is emblematic of how many Canadian women (and people of other genders who menstruate) are having to take their menopause journeys into their own hands because of stigma, lack of information and lack of critical supports around menopause.

Read the full article.

From the archives

Online networks help immigrant entrepreneurs find community

Eno Eka never imagined there would be someone to pick her up from the airport when she landed in Toronto in 2018 as a new immigrant from Lagos, Nigeria.

The lead-up to her journey to Canada had been stressful – the stories she heard about the cold in Canada, the tight job market and immigrants stuck in survival jobs had already made her nervous.

But Ms. Eka had been networking with like-minded people in the months before she landed in Canada, a move that she says helped her a great deal.

“The person who volunteered to pick me up on my first day in Canada was someone I met through a WhatsApp group,” says Ms. Eka, who is now the Calgary-based CEO of her own IT business consulting company and founder of a school which helps professionals sharpen up their business analysis skills.

“I was able to connect with a lot of communities online – immigrant professionals from Africa, immigrants from Nigeria, Black immigrants, these were the people who really helped me,” she says.

Read the full article.

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