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Stories of Grand-Families in Prince Edward Island (Families, Mobility, and Work)

Summary of a chapter on grandparents raising grandchildren in PEI

November 16, 2022

Don Avery and Gaby Novoa’s chapter “A Hidden Chapter in Life We Did Not Expect or Foresee: Sharing the Stories of Grand-Families in Prince Edward Island” focuses on Avery’s personal experiences that led him and his wife to take responsibility for caring for their grandchildren, and on his journey in becoming involved with organizations that aim to strengthen support for and raise awareness about grand-families.

This chapter is one of many contributions included in Families, Mobility, and Work,  a compilation of articles and other knowledge products based on research from the On the Move Partnership. Published in September 2022 by Memorial University Press, this book is now available in print, as an eBook, and as a free open-access volume available in full on the Memorial University website.

“Of the dozen or so families Don has connected with through his community, he estimates that the formation of nearly half of the associated grand-families were linked to their adult children’s experiences of working out of province and, in some cases, permanently moving for work in Alberta. Parental absence for employment and rotational work schedules led to grandparents stepping in to provide care and create a home environment that was stable, reliable, and consistent.” – Don Avery and Gaby Novoa

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Chapter abstract

Over 200 children on Prince Edward Island (PEI) live in grand-families where they are being raised by one or both grandparents. Many pathways lead to the formation of grand-families. This chapter captures Don Avery’s conversation with Gaby Novoa about how his family became a grand-family, about the links between mobile work and grand-families in his life and that of others on PEI, and about how these grandparents are organizing to increase grand-family supports in PEI. As an engaged member of his community, with his own family connection to work mobility, and as founder of PEI organizations such as Central East Grandparents Initiative and Building GRAND-Families Inc., Don has observed many of the challenges and commonalities in experiences of these PEI families, family involvement with the mobile workforce, and the grand-family configurations that can result.

About the authors

Don Avery Founder of the Central Eastern Grandparents Initiative (CEGI) and Building GRAND-Families Inc., Don Avery is a dedicated advocate for raising awareness about and fostering support for grandparents and great-grandparents raising their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He has been a grandfather since 1990 and a great-grandfather since 2015. Don has over 40 years of experience in human resources and management. He has also provided foster care for approximately 35 teenagers over the span of 15 years.

Don has also been working in partnership with the Vanier Institute of the Family and Dr. Christina Murray, BA, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Prince Edward Island, on a two-year collaborative research project examining the strengths, challenges, and opportunities facing grand-families on PEI. The collaboration seeks to increase our collective understanding of grand-families and optimize their well-being—in PEI and across Canada.

Gaby Novoa As a writer and researcher with the Vanier Institute of the Family from 2017 to 2022, Gaby Novoa fostered greater public understanding of the diversity of families and family life in Canada. She has authored and co-authored numerous articles, interviews, and research recaps related to themes that cover LGBTQ+ experiences, death and dying, family well-being, and more. Gaby holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Communication and Cultural Studies with a minor in Diversity and the Contemporary World.

 

Mothers’ Experiences with Fly-In, Fly-Out Work (Families, Mobility, and Work)

Summary of a chapter on the impact of “fly-in, fly-out” work on mothers

November 9, 2022

In their chapter “A Juggling Act: Mothering While FIFO,” authors Griffin Kelly, Maria Fernanda Mosquera Garcia, and Dr. Sara Dorow provide a window into the realities and resiliencies of “mothering while FIFO.”  They explore the experiences of mothering among women working under FIFO conditions in western Canada (Alberta and British Columbia). As illustrated by the four stories, these conditions create a variety of challenges for becoming and being a mother across different stages of the life course.

This chapter is one of many contributions included in Families, Mobility, and Work,  a compilation of articles and other knowledge products based on research from the On the Move Partnership. Published in September 2022 by Memorial University Press, this book is now available in print, as an eBook, and as a free open-access volume available in full on the Memorial University website.

“Managing camp and home ‘selves’ is crucial to keeping one’s sanity as a [fly-in, fly-out] worker; but the demands of motherhood bring clashes and conflicts to these selves, including trying to imagine a future self beyond ‘work’ and ‘mother.’ […] these stresses and adjustments across disparate times and spaces, and across the realities of boom-and-bust cycles, further extend gendered chains of care, quite often to FIFO mothers’ own mothers.” – Griffin Kelly, Maria Fernanda Mosquera Garcia, and Sara Dorow, PhD

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Chapter abstract

Very little research exists on tradeswomen’s experiences of mobile work, let alone on how mobile work shapes their family lives (Nagy and Teixeira, 2020, is one recent exception). In the context of FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) work, attention to women, family, and motherhood has focused on the spouses of FIFO workers (Kaczmarek and Sibbel, 2008; Swenson and Zvonkovic, 2016) and to some degree on women employed in FIFO professional or camp jobs. Our paper combines findings from two current studies of tradeswomen, predominantly in the oil sands of Alberta, to convey experiences of “mothering while FIFO.” We offer four narrative vignettes that illustrate and humanize the challenges and exclusions faced by FIFO tradeswomen engaged in resource extraction work in western Canada at different stages of mothering: when pregnant on the job, while raising children, and during custody disputes. These stories demonstrate the need for examination of the policies and practices of FIFO-based employers that create barriers to work for mothers.

About the authors

Griffin Kelly is a graduate of the MA thesis program of the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta, where she completed a thesis on tradeswomen’s experiences of gendered harassment in the oil sands of Alberta.

Maria Fernanda Mosquera Garcia is an MA student in Sociology at the University of Alberta. Her research focuses on Latin Americans’ forced displacement and settlement experiences in Canada. She provides research assistantship for the Mobile Work and Mental Health Project, and has participated in the University of Alberta Prison Project as a research assistant.

Sara Dorow, PhD, MA, BA, is Professor and Chair in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta. Her research and teaching are in the areas of mobility, migration, family, work, and gender, using an intersectional, qualitative approach. She was Alberta Team Lead for the On the Move Partnership as part of her long-standing study of the social facets of the oil sands region. Previously she studied issues of family, race, and gender in transnational adoption.

 

From Toddlers to Teens – Examining Mobile Work and Its Impact on Family Evolution: Amber’s Story (Families, Mobility, and Work)

Summary of a chapter on the impacts of work-related mobility on family relationships

November 8, 2022

The chapter “From Toddlers to Teens – Examining Mobile Work and Its Impact on Family Evolution: Amber’s Story” is based on a life narrative distilled from multiple conversational interviews with a woman living in rural PEI. Her story describes the evolution of her personal  and family life during 12 years of her husband’s out-of-province rotational work and as her children grew from “tots to teens.” The chapter talks about entry into rotational work, its prolongation and challenges, and the strategies the family developed to overcome those challenges.

This chapter is one of many rich contributions included in Families, Mobility, and Work, a compilation of articles and other knowledge products based on research from the On the Move Partnership. Published in September 2022 by Memorial University Press, this book is now available in print, as an eBook, and as a free-open access volume available in full on the Memorial University website.

“Amber’s narrative provides key insights into the experiences and reflections of women as they adjust and adapt to their diverse roles as parents and partners as these are repeatedly negotiated and dependent on whether a loved one is coming or going for mobile work. These insights relate to time, place, and relationship, and show that Eddie’s participation in mobile work shaped all aspects of Amber’s life as a parent and partner, as well as the evolution of their family lives.” – Christina Murray, PhD, Hannah Skelding, and Sylvia Barton, PhD

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Chapter abstract

Central to this chapter is a narrative representation of six conversational interviews conducted over seven weeks with one individual, Amber, as part of author Christina Murray’s doctoral research in rural Prince Edward Island. That research consisted of similar interviews with four women whose husbands had been working in other provinces over a period of several years. The contribution opens with a brief description of the research objectives and methods that informed the larger research. This is followed by “Amber’s Story,” where one of the study participants reflects on the evolution of her marriage and family over the 12 years during which her husband, Eddie, had been travelling for work from rural PEI to northern Alberta. He originally left when their children were two and four and was only gone in the winter. Shortly after that, he began working away year-round. At the time of the conversations, the children were 14 and 17 and the son had just spent his first summer working in Alberta with his dad. The story provides an understanding of how labour migration came to permeate Amber’s personal and family life. It touches on pivotal research themes such as specific roles and responsibilities, family evolution and transitions, communication and belonging, and marriage and community relations. The contribution concludes with some recommendations arising from the doctoral research for better support for women and families who have loved ones travelling long distances for employment and information on programming implemented in direct response to these recommendations.

About the authors

Christina Murray, BA, RN, PhD, is an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Prince Edward Island. Her nursing practice has been grounded in public health and community development. Since 2015, Dr. Murray has been leading a program of interdisciplinary, collaborative narrative research focusing on labour migration and its impact on the health of individuals, families, and communities. She was the principal investigator on the Tale of Two Islands study and the Families, Work and Mobility community outreach project and is currently leading a project focused on grandparents raising their grandchildren on PEI. Dr.  Murray is also the recipient of the Vanier Institute’s 2018 Mirabelli-Glossop Award.

Hannah Skelding is passionate about exploring the relationships between social, economic, and environmental systems. Hannah attended McMaster University, where she graduated with a Combined Honours in Arts & Science and Environmental Science. She went on to complete her Master’s in Global Affairs through the University of Prince Edward Island and the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. During her time at UPEI Hannah met Dr. Christina Murray and was exposed to the implications of interprovincial labour mobility. Hannah is currently at the University of Alberta in the Department of Resource Extraction and Environmental Sociology.

Sylvia Barton, PhD, is Professor and Chair of the School of Nursing at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, British Columbia. Throughout her career, she has integrated professional practice, research, teaching, and leadership. Since coming to academia, the focus of this integration has been in three areas: researching health-specific stories and life narratives of human experience, particularly with Indigenous populations; developing innovative change in priority areas of health; and implementing inter-professional clinical teaching and learning models. As a result of her aspirations and goal-oriented stance, she has sought to exhibit excellence through partnership, relevancy, and inspiration.

 

Grandparents Supporting Families Affected by Mobile Labour (Families, Mobility, and Work)

Summary of a chapter on labour mobility and intergenerational relationships.

October 25, 2022

In Families, Mobility, and Work – a collection recently published by Memorial University Press that explores the intersection between family lives and work-related mobility – researchers Dr. Christina Murray, BA, RN, PhD; Dr. Doug Lionais, PhD; and Maddie Gallant, BScN, RN, share insights on intergenerational family experiences of labour migration in Atlantic Canada.

Their chapter, “‘Above Everything Else I Just Want to Be a Real Grandparent’: Examining the Experiences of Grandparents Supporting Families Impacted by Mobile Labour in Atlantic Canada,” highlights qualitative research findings on the challenges and opportunities experienced by grandparents who have stepped up to support their younger generations when one or both parents travel long distances and/or are separated from family for work.

This chapter is one of many rich contributions included in Families, Mobility, and Work – a compilation of articles and other knowledge products based on research from the On the Move Partnership. Published in September 2022 by Memorial University Press, this book is now available in print, as an eBook, and as a free open-access volume available in full on Memorial University website.

“All participating grandparents identified challenges related to three overarching themes: increased roles and responsibilities; a struggle between their idealized/anticipated vision of grandparenting and life after retirement and their lived reality; and challenges related to negotiating their relationships with other extended family members.” – Christina Murray, Doug Lionais, and Maddie Gallant

Access Families, Mobility, and Work

Chapter abstract

Until recently, research on interprovincial labour migration in Canada has paid limited attention to the experiences of the family members left behind. The Tale of Two Islands project was a multi-year narrative study that examined how long-distance commuting for work between Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island (PEI) and western Canada impacted intergenerational family members, including workers and their spouses and grandparents. As part of this study, conversational interviews were carried out with individual members of ten intergenerational families in PEI and Cape Breton including with thirteen grandparents. Three focus groups including one with grandmothers (N12) and another with grandfathers (N5) were carried out in PEI. This chapter explores the challenges and opportunities experienced by grandparents impacted by long-distance, interprovincial labour migration and their reflections on how this affects their daily lives. Key themes emerging from the interviews and focus groups involving grandparents included the multiple roles and responsibilities grandparents assume as they strive to support their adult children and grandchildren impacted by labour migration; the contrast between their ideal of grandparenting and their lived reality; and the familial and financial pressures they experience. Focus groups included multiple grandparents who have ended up caring for their grandchildren full-time due to parental mental health and addiction problems often linked to mobile work. Their challenges are highlighted, along with recommended steps to help address these challenges.

About the authors

Christina Murray, BA, RN, PhD, is an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Prince Edward Island. Her nursing practice has been grounded in public health and community development. Since 2015, Dr. Murray has been leading a program of interdisciplinary, collaborative narrative research focusing on labour migration and its impact on the health of individuals, families, and communities. She was the principal investigator on the Tale of Two Islands study and the Families, Work and Mobility community outreach project and is currently leading a project focused on grandparents raising their grandchildren on PEI. Dr.  Murray is also the recipient of the Vanier Institute’s 2018 Mirabelli-Glossop Award.

Doug Lionais, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University, where he teaches within the MBA in Community Economic Development (CED) program. He received his PhD in Economic Geography from Durham University (UK) after earning a BBA from Cape Breton University. Dr. Lionais’ research focuses on understanding processes of uneven development and the production of depleted communities, local and regional economic development, and forms of alternative economic practice that respond to depletion.

Maddie Gallant, BScN, RN, is a practising obstetrical registered nurse and a passionate advocate for evidenced-based practice and improving patient experiences and outcomes in all areas of health care. Maddie Gallant has played a role in the Tale of Two Islands research study as a research assistant for the duration of the study. She continues to delve into the data uncovered by the study in order to disseminate and translate important findings to other healthcare professionals in the hope of improving patient care for families experiencing labour migration.

 

COVID-19 IMPACTS: Retirees and Family Finances in Canada

Edward Ng, PhD

September 3, 2020

COVID-19 has had a major impact on the labour market, work–life and family finances in Canada. Amid the public health measures and economic lockdown, many organizations and businesses across the country rapidly laid off employees and/or transitioned employees to teleworking. As a result, the unemployment rate increased from 8% to 14% between March and May 2020, reaching the highest figure recorded since comparable data became available in 1976.1 A survey conducted April 10–12, 2020 by Leger, the Association for Canadians Studies (ACS) and the Vanier Institute found that more than one-third of Canadians aged 18 and older were financially impacted due to COVID-19 (i.e. lost their job temporarily or permanently, or experienced pay or income losses).2

Within many families, this context of uncertainty in the labour market can have a major impact on aspirations, such as buying a home, having a child3 or pursuing post-secondary education. Retirement has also been affected, with pre-retirees and retirees alike adapting and reacting to the evolving context to support family. Retired people are in a unique situation, however, when it comes to the financial impact of COVID-19, as they are not in the labour force, and those who are seniors have access to other income supports. As their capacity to provide financial support to family is shaped by their own finances, understanding their unique realities and experiences will help shed light on this aspect of COVID-19 impacts on families in Canada.

Retirement plans shaped by family finances and available supports

While a growing share of Canadians are working past their 50s and beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, the retired population has grown overall as population aging has continued. According to Statistics Canada, the average age at retirement for all workers in Canada was 64.3 in 2019. That said, many older Canadians continue to work well into their 60s and beyond. In 2017, nearly one-third of Canadians aged 60 and older said that they worked (or wanted to work) in the previous year, half (49%) of whom did so “out of necessity.”4

Prior to COVID-19, many Canadians expressed concern about their financial preparedness for retirement. According to the 2019 Canadian Financial Capability Survey, 69% of pre-retired Canadians are preparing financially for retirement, on their own or through a workplace pension plan.5 But more than one-third of surveyed Canadians aged 55 and older reported are concerned they don’t have enough savings (37%) and/or that they will be able to cover health care costs as they age (34%).6

Retirees who are seniors have access to income support through government pension payments, available to all Canadians at age 65 who have lived in the country for at least 10 years. On top of privately arranged retirement schemes and/or personal retirement savings or investments, public income programs for seniors, such as the Old Age Security (OAS) program, the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan, provide senior retirees in Canada with fixed and relatively stable income sources that can help protect them against economic instability, such as the economic shock resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, in response to the financial stress placed on retirees and seniors, the federal government announced additional financial support for seniors as a one-time payment of $500 for individuals who receive both the OAS and the GIS to offset additional costs from COVID-19.7

Retiree investments impacted, but overall family finances less affected

A survey conducted by the Leger, ACS and the Vanier Institute in early May provided one of the first glimpses into the pandemic’s financial impact on retirees.8 It showed that only 1 in 5 retirees9 reported a decrease in income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, compared with close to one half of pre-retirees (47%) (fig. 1).

In fact, the polling data showed that some (7%) of retirees reported difficulty in their capacity to meet financial obligations, such as paying bills, compared with close to 1 in 4 pre-retirees (24%). Similarly, 1 in 20 (5%) retirees reported difficulty in paying mortgage or rent, compared with close to 1 in 5 pre-retirees (18%).

While retirees have access to public income support, many also have access to additional income support through savings or other investments. (In 2015, 50% of seniors in Canada reported receiving income from investments.)10 The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in financial market uncertainties and turbulences that added considerable stress on investors in general, and this is the area where retirees were most adversely affected. The polling data showed that more than half (52%) of retirees reported negative impact on their retirement savings or other investments – though the impact was greater among pre-retirees (59%).

Retirees assisting other family members financially

Family can be viewed as a potential source of insurance against abrupt financial shocks. Since some retirees were less exposed to the pandemic-related economic shocks, they have been a potential source of financial support for their children or younger family members, who may have been more adversely affected. A study on the impact of severe economic recessions found that, during the 2008 financial crisis, 28% of households in the United States reported getting financial help from family and friends.11

How did COVID-19 affect retirees’ ability to assist other family members in Canada? When asked, about 1 in 5 retirees (21%) reported that the pandemic had affected their ability to assist other family members financially. Among the pre-retirees, who were more exposed to the economic shock produced by COVID-19, the rate was 45%. Retirees who received income assistance from their children or grandchildren (some of whom could be pre-retirees) may therefore have also been indirectly affected in this way.

Retirement timing is being affected for one-third of surveyed Canadians

As families continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, data show that many workers are adapting their retirement plans. A recent US survey found that 39% of American workers are changing their retirement timing,12 primarily for financial reasons (e.g. they had to use some of their savings, some of their investments may have lost value during the pandemic, there is less certainty in general about how much money they will need in retirement).

A separate survey from Canada suggests a similar trend may be taking place in Canada, with one-third (33%) of adults who plan to retire saying that they will retire later than planned as a result of COVID-19.13 However, 8% of respondents said they would retire earlier than originally planned, possibly due to wanting to avoid continued uncertainty and turbulence in the labour market (if they are financially able to do so).

While it is too early to draw a clear picture of the diverse ways COVID-19 has impacted retirement in Canada, early data shows that retirees are less financially impacted on average, as pre-retirees seem to have been more exposed to the economic impacts. Nonetheless, surveys show that the increased uncertainty is having an impact on people’s retirement planning, and further research will be important to understanding how this is affecting family finances and well-being more generally.

Edward Ng, PhD, Vanier Institute on secondment from Statistics Canada


Notes

  1. Statistics Canada, “Labour Force Survey, May 2020,” The Daily (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2020). According to the Labour Force Survey, from February to April of 2020, 5.5 million Canadian workers were affected by the COVID-19 economic shutdown, which included a drop in employment of 3 million and a COVID-19-related increase in absences from work of 2.5 million. Link: .
  2. Ana Fostik and Jennifer Kaddatz, “Family Finances and Mental Health During the COVID‑19 Pandemic” (May 26, 2020).
  3. See Ana Fostik, “Uncertainty and Postponement: Pandemic Impact on Fertility in Canada,” The Vanier Institute of the Family (June 30, 2020).
  4. Myriam Hazel, “Reasons for Working at 60 and Beyond,” Labour Statistics at a Glance, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 71-222-X (December 14, 2018). Link: .
  5. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, Canadians and their Money: Key Findings from the 2019 Canadian Financial Capability Survey (November 2019). Link:.
  6. RBC, 2017 RBC Financial Independence in Retirement Poll (February 14, 2017). Link:.
  7. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, “Prime Minister Announces Additional Support for Canadian Seniors,” Government of Canada (May 12, 2020). Link:.
  8. The survey, conducted by the Vanier Institute of the Family, the Association for Canadian Studies and Leger on May 1–3, 2020, included approximately 1,500 individuals aged 18 and older, interviewed using computer-assisted web-interviewing technology in a web-based survey. Using data from the 2016 Census, results were weighted according to gender, age, mother tongue, region, education level and presence of children in the household in order to ensure a representative sample of the population. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (web panel in this case). However, for comparative purposes, a probability sample of 1,512 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.52%, 19 times out of 20.
  9. Retirees are defined as those aged 45 and above who reported being retired in the polling survey, when asked about their current occupation. Pre-retirees are other respondents in the same age group who reported an occupation other than homemaker or a student. Since there is no mandatory retirement age in Canada, among those aged 45 and more, the polling data showed that some 4% of those aged 65 and above were still working, while some 29% of the retirees in the same age group were in fact younger than 65.
  10. Statistics Canada, “Income Sources and Taxes (16), Income Statistics (4) in Constant (2015) Dollars, Age (9), Sex (3) and Year (2) for the Population Aged 15 Years and Over in Private Households of Canada, Provinces and Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census – 20% Sample Data and 2016 Census – 100% Data,” Data Tables, 2016 Census (September 12, 2017). Link:.
  11. National Research Council, “Assessing the Impact of Severe Economic Recession on the Elderly: Summary of a Workshop” (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2011). Link:.
  12. Edward Jones Canada, The Four Pillars of the New Retirement (June 25, 2020).
  13. Ibid.

 

Research Recap: COVID-19 and Employment-Related Mobility in Canada

Gaby Novoa

July 16, 2020

The COVID‑19 pandemic has had a major impact on employment patterns across Canada, with economic lockdown and public health measures enacted in March 2020 affecting an increasingly mobile workforce.

Throughout the pandemic, the On the Move Partnership – a research project involving the Vanier Institute and university partners that explores the impact of employment-related geographic mobility – has published information and insights in their COVID‑19 and the Mobile Labour Force series. This Research Recap highlights some of their work on multiple aspects of the pandemic’s impact, including gender, migrant workers, truck drivers and the impact on coastal fishing communities.

Walking the Empty City: Feminist Reflections on Life Suspended under COVID‑19 

Deatra Walsh, PhD, provides a first-hand account of moving through St. John’s on standstill, amid the COVID‑19 pandemic. She underlines the notion of walking as “a particularly important form of mobility,” an ability that women do not always experience as a freely taken or comfortable action, as unbothered or undisturbed.

Walsh speaks to walking as a coping mechanism, as it offers routine that can contribute to one’s well-being, while all else may feel uncertain and uprooted. In her reflections of the visually empty neighbourhood, she also reflects on life pre-pandemic. Have communities already been social distancing from one another (before it was a mandatory public health measure), turning “inward to our devices and our lives?” she asks. However, she also acknowledges symbols of solidarity – of being alone together – through window art and pot clanging from doorsteps.

Temporary and Precarious Migration Status and the Experience of the Pandemic in Canada’s Health Care Sector: Emerging Themes

Shiva Nourpanah, PhD, and Kerri Neil explore how the pandemic uniquely affects the labour and livelihood of migrant health care workers in Canada. The pandemic has amplified vulnerabilities of senior populations and residents of long-term care homes. Nourpanah and Neil underline how a high proportion of the workers in these facilities are migrant workers and nurses here on temporary work permits. With health care workers already facing high risk of infection and mental health impacts, the precarious nature of their resident status exacerbates these stresses. The authors raise two particular challenges of this complex situation: guidelines for self-isolation reduce a health care worker’s shifts, which in turn can affect their visa requirements regarding the obligatory number of hours they must work; yet, more shifts increase their exposure and risk of contracting the virus.

Moreover, the pandemic has brought the suspension of concrete immigration plans, including sponsorships, family reunification and marriages. These uncertainties only contribute to the mental and emotional toll placed on temporary migrant workers. For these temporary residents who are providing essential work for Canada, their well-being and resident status may be inevitably and adversely affected by the pandemic. However, the article’s authors assert that some of these impacts can be reduced with proper research and policy-making.

COVID‑19 and Coastal Fishing Communities

Gale Burford, PhD, and Barb Neis, PhD, outline the ways in which remote coastline fishing communities face limited health care access, which, when coupled with the interconnectedness of work mobility, raise their own concerns and challenges within pandemic management. While such communities are remote, they are nonetheless connected to national and international markets. With fishing being categorized an essential industry, the mobility of supply chains creates risk of virus spread. This is a risk that can be difficult to avoid, as these communities are also often single industry towns and thus rely on these fishing seasons.

In this article, Burford reflects on a FaceTime call with his sister, who resides in Cordova, Alaska, a coastal fishing town. While the town depends on the income of the fishery, fears of exposure to infection with the coming of migrant labour forces and the consequential strain on health care services were prevalent. These concerns are echoed within coastal communities across the Atlantic Canada. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the fishery season was delayed, and further delays were still called for in order to develop protocols to protect the safety and well-being of workers and their families. The authors note that Employment Insurance can contribute to mitigating the difficulty of weighing health and against the need for employment and income.

The Impact of the COVID‑19 Pandemic on Canadian Truck Drivers

Among the services deemed essential in the COVID‑19 pandemic is transportation and shipping of goods. Trucking is critical in Canada, transporting 90% of food and consumer goods, including necessary medical supplies. Natasha Hanson, PhD, and Kerri Neil underline some of the challenges that truck drivers now face on the road, during the pandemic context, including limited availability of convenient food sources and access to bathroom facilities.

The trucking industry was already facing a labour shortage pre-pandemic. Now, the difficulty of maintaining well-being on the road and the risk to safety amid continued travel has prompted even more drivers to retire or quit. With the reliance on trucking for transportation of necessary goods, but the challenges that the work entails, it has yet to be seen how the pandemic will impact the industry in the long-term.

Visit the On the Move Partnership website for more research and resources.

Gaby Novoa is responsible for Communications at the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Research Recap: Mobile Workers in Alberta During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Gaby Novoa

May 28, 2020

With the designation of the oil sands industry in Alberta as an “essential” service on April 2, 2020, many workers in the industry’s fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforce have since been continuing to travel and to remain on worksites for long periods in often crowded environments – all in a pandemic environment. While these conditions predated the coronavirus outbreak and have been explored in previous research from On the Move, they have new implications that will have an impact on workers, their families, their home communities and employers.

In “COVID-19 and (Im)Mobile Workers in Alberta’s ‘Essential’ Oil Industry,”1 On the Move Partnership co-investigator Sara Dorow, PhD, highlights some of the experiences of these workers, and shares research on the health and social impacts of their working context as the pandemic continues.

Impact of continued travel during pandemic affects public health and family relationships

Continued travel between oil sands worksites in Alberta and workers’ home communities across Canada increases risk of transmission. As of May 2020, more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been traced to one oil sands site, with one-quarter of these cases among people who reside outside of Alberta. However, Dorow explains that virus spread is but one of the current challenges associated with mobile work. FIFO-based industries can strain workers’ relationships with their families, friends and communities. Research has shown that this pressure can have an impact on people’s relationships, as well as many aspects of their physical and mental health.

As travel is restricted or otherwise curtailed as part of public health measures to prevent viral spread, many workers are facing longer rotations and thus longer stays on work camps, away from their families for up to months at a time. Families are adapting in creative ways to stay connected and manage their responsibilities, but it can be difficult.2

The pandemic exacerbates pre-existing difficulties of work camp environments

Dorow emphasizes that pandemic only exacerbates the difficulties of a work camp environment, which FIFO workers have described in interviews “like being in prison” or that it leaves them “feeling like cattle.” Depending on the season and price of oil, camps can be quite packed. Even when they are not as full, camp dwellers live in close quarters, sharing common spaces such as dining halls, gyms and sometimes washrooms, and commute daily in shuttle buses.

This lack of space matters, as research has shown that crowded housing can negatively impact physical health and psyche. Dorow also underlines that essential service on such worksite camps are provided by frontline hospitality, cleaning and care workers – mobile workers who are also part of the rotation to and from camps, and who also experience long periods of immobility while on-site.

FIFO-based industries like the oil sands can make it difficult to socially distance. Moreover, beyond the current pandemic context, such work environments also pose systemic health risks. The strain that mobile work and long worksite durations place on workers’ relationships is also to be acknowledged and further researched. Dorow raises some potential factors that can mitigate these challenges, such as access to healthy food, work buddy programs and work rotations that allow people to return home for longer than only a few days a time. Restructuring and reimagining these sites and systems can help to ensure the safety and well-being of workers, their families and home communities.

Gaby Novoa is responsible for Communications at the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Access the article “COVID-19 and (Im)Mobile Workers in Alberta’s ‘Essential’ Oil Industry” by Sara Dorow, PhD

 


Notes

  1. Research recap article by Sara Dorow, PhD, “COVID-19 and (Im)Mobile Workers in Alberta’s ‘Essential’ Oil Industry,” On the Move (May 20, 2020).
  2. Sara Dorow and Shingirai Mandizadza, “Circuits of Care: Mobility, Work and Managing Family Relationships,” The Vanier Institute of the Family (January 10, 2017).

Families New to Canada and Financial Well-being During Pandemic

Laetitia Martin

May 21, 2020

In 2015, the 193 Member States of the United Nations Organization, including Canada, adopted 17 sustainable development goals. Over a 15-year time frame, the plan aims to “end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.”1 Eradicating poverty is ranked first because of the extreme vulnerability that it causes, especially in a time of crisis such as the pandemic that we are experiencing now.

Given this period of increased vulnerability, it is even more important to monitor the evolving economic situation and well-being of the most disadvantaged families. Whether one thinks of Indigenous, immigrant, single-parent or other types of families facing poverty, analyzing regularly updated data is vital to follow developments in the situation. In this way, our public decision makers will be able to implement effective policies and programs to reduce poverty, even in a time of crisis.

Based on data from the 2016 Census, almost 1 in 3 immigrant children (32.2%), one of the most economically vulnerable groups in the country, lives in poverty.2 What are the economic difficulties currently facing these families?

Three out of 10 immigrants had difficulty meeting their immediate financial obligations

In a time of pandemic, the entire population may experience financial losses, regardless of the prior level of economic vulnerability. Data collected during a recent survey conducted over a six-week period by the Vanier Institute of the Family, the Association for Canadian Studies and Leger show this clearly.3

Regardless of their immigrant status, nearly 4 to 5 out of 10 respondents stated that they had experienced a decrease in their income because of the pandemic. Immigrants were represented to a higher degree, however, among those for whom this decrease in income caused difficulty in meeting their short-term financial obligations (fig. 1). In the first weeks following implementation of social distancing measures, almost 3 out of 10 immigrants (29%) stated that they had difficulty paying their rent or mortgage due to the crisis. This was almost 1 out of 10 persons higher than their Canadian-born counterparts (20%). The gap appears likely to persist over the coming weeks.

Similarly, a greater proportion of foreign-born versus Canadian-born individuals experienced other short-term financial difficulties, such as paying bills on time. These financial stress indicators make the foreign-born population all the more vulnerable when they encounter difficulty meeting their basic needs, such as having a roof over their heads and accessing related public services, the minimum needed for their well-being and that of their family.

More than 1 out of 2 immigrant parents experienced a loss of income

Looking more closely at the economic impact of the crisis on immigrant families, one sees that the negative effects were immediate (fig. 2). In late March, more than 1 out of 2 immigrant parents stated that they had experienced a loss of income because of the pandemic, resulting in a reduced capacity to assist other family members financially. This support might not only have proven even more useful during this difficult time, but its decrease might also have a snowball effect within the most economically vulnerable ethnic communities.

Downward trends of immigrant parents experiencing immediate financial difficulties

On a more positive note, trends observed over recent weeks have shown a decrease in the proportion of immigrant parents who experienced immediate financial impacts. After reaching a high during the first week of April, the proportion of immigrant parents who had difficulty paying their rent or mortgage, as well as those who had difficulty meeting their other financial obligations, decreased by more than 15 percentage points in the following four weeks. While it is too early to determine the precise cause of the decrease, these results suggest that businesses that have adapted in an ongoing effort to maintain services despite distancing rules, coupled with the financial measures put in place by governments, may be helping lessen the economic vulnerability of immigrant families in the immediate term.

Financially vulnerable immigrant families visit the grocery store more often

Beyond direct financial impacts, economic vulnerability can also limit the ability to adopt certain behaviours that promote good health. For example, some parents of immigrant families may have to make difficult choices between the basic needs of their family and the resources they have to reduce their exposure to COVID-19. Furthermore, some economically vulnerable families do not have any credit cards to shop online, cannot pay the added cost imposed by grocery stores for delivery or packaging of items, or do not have the necessary financial resources to buy provisions to last them over several days. Not to mention that it might be more difficult for individuals without a car to transport a large amount of provisions on foot or on public transit.

These constraints might explain why twice as many immigrant parents who experienced immediate financial difficulties (46%) went to the grocery store more than once a week, compared with their Canadian-born counterparts, who had not experienced the same difficulties (23%) (fig. 3). No significant difference was observed between the two groups regarding compliance with other safety measures, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing, which suggests that this increased exposure cannot be explained by a lack of awareness.

In instituting sustainable development goals in 2015, the 193 States around the world recognized that “inequality threatens long-term social and economic development.”4 Often called a land of immigrants, Canada nevertheless remains a country in which immigrant families face a high risk of economic vulnerability. Data collected at the start of the pandemic show that inequalities persist in a time of crisis. Immigrants are harder hit financially in the immediate term than their Canadian-born counterparts.

Six weeks of collecting weekly data would seem to bear witness to a national resiliency or capacity to adapt to this extraordinary situation by mitigating certain negative effects. The downward trend in the prevalence of immigrant families that experienced difficulty paying their mortgage or rent, or meeting their other financial obligations, can be seen as a positive. But if the past weeks have taught us one lesson, it is that the situation changes rapidly in a time of pandemic. It is therefore more important than ever to closely monitor the situation and to be sure to identify, in a timely manner, the needs of the most vulnerable families, be they Indigenous, immigrant, single-parent or other. Eradicating poverty is an even greater challenge in a time of crisis.

Laetitia Martin, Vanier Institute on secondment from Statistics Canada


Notes

  1. United Nations Organization, “Sustainable Development Program,” Sustainable Development Goals. Link: https://bit.ly/35ZOi07.
  2. Statistics Canada, Data Products, 2016 Census, Data Tables, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 98-400-X2016206. Link: .
  3. The survey, conducted by the Vanier Institute of the Family, the Association for Canadian Studies and Leger on March 10–13, March 27–29, April 3–5, April 10–12, April 17–19, April 24–26 and May 1–3, 2020, included approximately 1,500 individuals aged 18 and older, interviewed using computer-assisted web-interviewing technology in a web-based survey. All samples, with the exception of those from March 10–13 and April 24–26, also included booster samples of approximately 500 immigrants. Using data from the 2016 Census,  results were weighted according to gender, age, mother tongue, region, education level and presence of children in the household in order to ensure a representative sample of the population. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (web panel in this case). However, for compahttps://bit.ly/3mQFdPdrative purposes, a probability sample of 1,512 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.52%, 19 times out of 20.
  4. United Nations Organization, “Reduced Inequalities: Why It Matters,” Sustainable Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities. Link: https://bit.ly/3mQFdPd (PDF).

 

Families Struggle to Cope with Financial Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jennifer Kaddatz

April 9, 2020

When it comes to personal and family finances, Canada as a whole has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early estimates indicate that more than 3 million people in this country have applied for the government’s emergency relief and Employment Insurance since March 16, 2020.

The financial downturn has been felt by virtually all families, many indicating that the financial stress is having an impact on their mood, mental health and sleep. People who have immigrated to Canada within the past 10 years and families with children and youth at home are among those most likely to say that they have been challenged financially as a result of the pandemic.

Families see coronavirus as a threat to their financial well-being

According to April 3–5, 2020 survey data1 from the Vanier Institute of the Family, the Association for Canadian Studies and Leger, more than half (53%) of adults aged 18 and older report that the coronavirus outbreak poses a major threat to their personal financial situation, while 36% view the crisis as a minor threat. In contrast, 11% of adults say that the outbreak is not a threat to their finances.

More than 7 in 10 (73%) recent immigrants to Canada (i.e. those who arrived in Canada in the past 10 years) report that their financial well-being is threatened by the pandemic in a “major” way. This compares with 58% of immigrants who came to Canada 10 or more years ago and half (50%) of those born in Canada (fig. 1).

Fig 1. Percentage of the population aged 18 and older who say that the COVID-19 outbreak is a threat to their personal financial situation, by immigrant status.

Adults who say that the pandemic poses a “major threat” to their financial situation commonly report “very often” or “often” feeling anxious or nervous (58%), feeling sad (56%) or having difficulty sleeping (44%) since the beginning of the COVID crisis. Families with children at home were the most likely to report heightened anxiety and reduced sleep (fig. 2).

What is particularly interesting among those who see the outbreak as a “major threat” to their financial situation is that parents of teenagers, rather than parents of younger children, most frequently report feeling anxious or sad “very often” or “often.” It is conceivable that this reflects parents’ concern about youth missing school, having to be home schooled, losing their jobs or work experience, and having an uncertain future with respect to a post-secondary education, in addition to concerns about the overall financial well-being of the family.

Fig. 2. Percentage of the population who view the COVID-19 outbreak as a “major threat” to their financial situation and who “very often” or “often” feel anxious or nervous, feel sad or have difficulty sleeping, by presence of children in the home.

Recent immigrants, low-income families and families with children are disproportionately impacted by income loss

Nearly half (45%) of people in Canada say that their income has decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Income losses are impacting some more than others, however. For example, adults who had reported a total household income, before taxes, under $19,999 in 2019 are more commonly reporting lost income in 2020 as a result of the crisis, at 56%, compared with 37% to 48% of those in higher income groups.

A striking 7 in 10 (68%) recent immigrants say that they have had a decrease in income since the start of the coronavirus crisis, compared with about 4 in 10 earlier immigrants (45%) and Canadian-born adults (43%) (fig. 3).

Families with children and youth at home report a negative impact on their income more frequently than families without anyone under the age of 18 at home. Specifically, 54% of adults with children and youth living in their household indicate that at the moment the current crisis is having a negative impact on their income, compared with 41% of those without children.

Fig. 3. Percentage of the population aged 18 and older who report that their income has decreased as a result of the current crisis, by immigrant status.

Families report decline in retirement savings and other investments

Although decreases in total income due to job loss may have the biggest or most significant impact on families in Canada, the most prevalent negative financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been a loss of wages but rather a decline in retirement savings and other investments. More than half (54%) of adults report that their retirement funds or other investments have been impacted negatively since the current crisis started, and the proportion saying so increases with age (fig. 4).

More than 6 in 10 (63%) of those age 65 and older report a negative impact on their retirement funds or investments, as do 62% of 55- to 64-year-olds and 58% of 45- to 54-year-olds.

Negative financial impacts on retirement savings and other investments are likely just one of several factors influencing feelings of anxiety or nervousness since the beginning of the pandemic. Although 63% of those aged 65 and older reported that their savings are negatively affected, they in fact had the lowest share of those reporting increased anxiety or nervousness compared with other age groups who had experienced negative impacts on retirement and investments (fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Percentage of the population aged 18 and older who report that the current crisis has had a negative impact on retirement savings or other investments, by age and feelings of anxiety or nervousness.

Recent immigrants, young adults and families with children struggle to pay bills and rent or mortgage

Given losses in income and the value of investments, it is not surprising that nearly 3 in 10 adults in Canada say that the COVID-19 pandemic has already had a negative impact on their capacity to pay bills on time (28%) and 2 in 10 to cover their rent or mortgage (22%).

Just over half (51%) recent immigrants are having difficulty in paying bills on time in the current crisis. This compares with 30% of earlier arrivals and 25% of Canadian-born. Nearly half (46%) of recent immigrants say that the crisis has had a negative impact on their ability to pay their rent or mortgage (fig. 5).

Younger people are more likely than those over the age of 45 to report having difficulties in meeting their housing costs, with 31% of those under age 45 reporting difficulty in paying their mortgage or rent, compared with 24% of 45- to 54-year-olds, 17% of 55- to 64-year-olds and only 4% of those aged 65 and older.

About 3 in 10 adults (27%) with children under the age of 18 living in their household saying the COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges to their capacity to pay rent or mortgage, compared with 2 in 10 adults without children in the home. Those with young children, under age 12, were slightly more likely to report this difficulty, at 29%.

Fig. 5. Percentage of the population aged 18 and older who report that the COVID-19 crisis has had a negative impact on their capacity to pay bills on time or to pay their rent or mortgage, by immigrant status.

Not being able to pay bills, rent or mortgage may be having a considerable impact on the mental well-being of many people in Canada. More than 6 in 10 adults who can’t pay their bills (61%), rent or mortgage on time (63%) say that they have been feeling anxious or nervous “very often” or “often” since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Percentage of the population aged 18 and older who report feeling anxious “very often” or “often” since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and report that the COVID-19 crisis had a negative impact on their capacity to pay bills on time or to pay their rent or mortgage.

Jennifer Kaddatz is a Senior Advisor at the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Note

  1. The survey included approximately 1,500 individuals aged 18 and older, plus a booster sample of 500 immigrants, interviewed using computer-assisted web-interviewing technology in a web-based survey. Using data from the 2016 Census, results were weighted according to gender, age, mother tongue, region, education level and presence of children in the household in order to ensure a representative sample of the population. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (web panel, in this case). However, for comparative purposes, a probability sample of 1,512 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.52%, 19 times out of 20.

 

A Snapshot of Family Caregiving and Work in Canada

At some point in our lives, there is a high likelihood that each of us will provide care to someone we know – and receive care ourselves. Family members are typically the first to step up to provide, manage and sometimes pay for this care.

Families are highly adaptable and most of the time people find ways to manage their multiple work and family responsibilities, obligations and commitments. However, juggling work and care can sometimes involve a great deal of time, energy and financial resources, and employers can play an important role in facilitating this care through accommodation, innovation and flexibility.

In , we explore some of the family realities and trends that shape the “landscape of care” across the country. This resource highlights how our family, care and work responsibilities intersect, interact and have an impact on each other.

Highlights include:

  • 28% of Canadians (8.1M) report having provided care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging need in the past year.
  • Three-quarters of family caregivers (6.1M) were employed at the time, accounting for 35% of ALL employed Canadians.
  • Most (83%) surveyed caregivers say their experience was positive, and 95% say they are effectively coping with their caregiving responsibilities.
  • 44% of employed caregivers report having missed an average 8–9 days of work in the past 12 months because of their care responsibilities.
  • More than one-third of young carers (36%) arrived to work late, left early or took time off due to their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Employers across Canada lose an estimated $5.5 billion annually in lost productivity due to caregiving-related absenteeism.
  • Research shows that caregiving provides a variety of benefits to caregivers, including a sense of personal growth, increased meaning and purpose, strengthened family relationships, increased empathy and skill development.

 

Reconciling care and work requires understanding, respect and recognition from employers that sometimes an employee’s family circumstances need focused attention. Research shows that family caregivers and their employers benefit from policies that are inclusive, flexible and responsive, and when employees have a clear understanding of the process for handling individual requests for accommodation and customizing work arrangements.

For nearly all Canadians, caregiving is inevitable at some point over the course of their lives. Care is not always predictable and does not always arise outside working hours. Open communication and creative approaches to harmonizing work and care in a flexible manner benefits employees, employers, the economy and society.

Download from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

 

Work, Care and the Carer-Inclusive and Accommodating Organizations (CIAO) Standard

Emily Beckett

At some point in their lives, most Canadians will provide some type of care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging need. Nearly 3 in 10 Canadians (28%) provided care in 2012,1 with age-related needs cited as the single most common reason for care requirements. With more seniors in Canada than ever – 6.6 million in 20192 – and projections showing that the number requiring care will likely double by 2031,3 this population aging means a growing share of Canadians will be stepping up to provide, arrange and sometimes pay for care in the years to come.

While research shows that caregiving can have can positive impacts on caregivers, including (but not limited to) reported personal growth,4 stronger family relationships5 and increased empathy,6 it can also affect their work–family quality and well-being – a topic of growing importance to working caregivers, employers and society.7

Most family caregivers are working caregivers

Nearly three-quarters of caregivers in Canada (6.1 million) are “working caregivers,” who accounted for more than one-third (35%) of Canada’s paid labour force in 2012.8 For some of these people, their time spent providing care amounts to a part-time job’s worth of hours in addition to their paid work, resulting in an “extended workday”: approximately 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men in 2012 reported spending 20 hours or more per week providing care on top of their work hours.9

Difficulties reconciling family caregiving with work responsibilities can have negative consequences for employees, employers and the economy. This can include frequent absences (44% of surveyed working caregivers report missing an average 8 to 9 days of work in the past year as a result of their caregiving responsibilities10) and a variety of indirect costs to employers, such as lost productivity, employee replacement costs and training.

Research shows that Canada loses the equivalent of 558,000 full-time employees every year from the workforce due to the conflicting demands of paid work and care,11 and an estimated 50% of working caregivers are between the ages of 45 and 65, representing the most experienced share of the paid labour market.12 Furthermore, employers across the country lose an estimated $5.5 billion per year due to caregiving-related absenteeism.13

A caregiving standard supports employers in supporting employees

To manage, mitigate and ideally prevent these negative impacts, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Groupa 100-year-old, not-for-profit and non-governmental organization that develops standards to ensure the health and safety of Canadians – collaborated with McMaster University to develop the Carer-Inclusive and Accommodating Organizations (CIAO) Standard.

Released in 2017, the CIAO Standard is an evidence-based, professionally verified framework for workplaces in Canada to support their employees who provide informal caregiving. Its aim is to avoid some of the negative physical and mental health outcomes for employees and their families that can result from role overload while they provide care.

The CIAO Standard was developed through rigorous consultation with a technical committee of experts representing a balanced number of volunteers from government, labour, employers and academia. These stakeholders refined the seed document of the standard, after which an extended public review was performed for critical feedback. The review revealed the value of the standard as an educational tool for employers.

“Even for organizations that don’t apply for the standard,” says Vanier Institute CEO and project advisory team member Nora Spinks, “using the rigorous process for education purposes or for planning and program design can be an effective organization developmental tool.”

Available at no cost from the CSA website, the CIAO Standard was created to offer workplaces a guide to minimizing the negative outcomes of conflict between caregiving and work responsibilities with a guaranteed minimum level of support and protection that goes beyond what’s offered by traditional employee assistance programs (EAPs). It allows employers to select the most appropriate elements for the context of their organization, as the effectiveness of certain standards may depend on the size of the workplace. CIAO provides case examples and stories to show employers how the standards can be implemented in their workplace. In addition to the CIAO Standard, the CSA Group also released the accompanying Implementation Guide: B701HB-18 – Helping worker-carers in your organization.

A caregiving standard can foster employee recruitment and retention

CIAO also addresses the hazards and risks that can be associated with caregiving and how they can affect well-being in the workplace. Since caregiving can be intensive, caregivers can experience increased stress or distraction in their jobs, as well as greater time stress as they accommodate the responsibilities of caregiving.

Depending on their line of work, the consequences of caregiver fatigue at work can vary, as it can lead to reduced vitals skills, such as decision making, communication, productivity or performance, attention, reaction time and ability to handle stress.14 These effects can lead to miscommunication, missed deadlines or lower work performance, or even increased physical risk for workers, their colleagues and clients or customers.

Psychologically safe workplace: A compatible and complementary standard

A psychologically healthy and safe workplace recognizes and eliminates or mitigates exposure to chronic stress. The world of work in Canada is evolving, and both employers and employees are more able and willing to recognize physical and psychological hazards in the workplace. Knowing that a workplace has a set of standards in place can be a determining factor in whether an employee chooses to stay or decides to leave as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.

In 2013, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) developed a standard for Canadian workplaces to support the mental health of employees. Similar to CIAO, the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace is a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources intended to guide organizations in supporting their workforce.15 These standards are complementary to the caregiving standard, and organizations can use either or both.

The standards are voluntary, but if they are part of education and awareness training, they can become adopted by the mainstream in workplaces and can help reduce absences, early retirement or quitting. The CIAO Standard fits with existing programs such as EAPs, fitness, medical, family or sick leave and work accommodations.16

A caregiving standard contributes to the growing body of well-being standards in Canada

Similar types of standards have been developed in recent years. In 2010 in Quebec, the Work–Family Standard was released for private and public organizations as a reference on requirements to support work–family quality.

The standard includes guidelines on flexibility in the organization and scheduling, vacation time, flexibility in the workplace and the goods and services provided in the workplace. The goal is to make work–family balance a staple in human resources management in organizations. The Bureau de normalization due Quebec (BNQ) offers certification for employers who apply this standard to their organization.17

Supporting employed carers going forward

The world of work is changing, and workplaces are better equipped to support their employees than ever, supported by a growing body of tools and resources. With the continuous population aging in Canada, more Canadians are going to balance caregiving and work in the years to come. By offering flexible hours at work, accompanied by education, open communication and understanding, workplaces can mitigate the loss of employees and productivity and support caregivers and their families during a transitional period in their lives. As workplaces and employees continue to work to harmonize work and family responsibilities, resources such as the CIAO Standard will play an increasingly important role in supporting working caregivers in Canada.

The Carer-Inclusive and Accommodating Organizations Standard is available on the CSA Group website.

Emily Beckett is a professional writer living in Ottawa, Ontario.

 


Notes

  1. New data on caregiving in Canada will be released by Statistics Canada in 2020.
  2. Statistics Canada, “Canada’s Population Estimates: Age and Sex, July 1, 2019,” The Daily (September 30, 2019). Link: .
  3. Chair in Gender, Health and Caregiver-Friendly Workplaces, Webinar: New CSA Standard & Handbook (April 5, 2018).
  4. American Psychological Association, “Positive Aspects of Caregiving,” Public Interest Directorate Reports (January 2011). Link: .
  5. Richard Schulz and Paula R. Sherwood, “Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving,” Journal of Social Work Education, 44:sup3, 105–113 (September 2008). Link: .
  6. Diane L. Beach, “Family Caregiving: The Positive Impact on Adolescent Relationships,” Gerontologist, 37:2 (1997). Link:.
  7. Learn more about the impact of caregiving on family life and work in A Snapshot of Family Caregiving and Work in Canada.
  8. Employment and Social Development Canada, “When Work and Caregiving Collide: How Employers Can Support Their Employees Who Are Caregivers,” Report from the Employer Panel for Caregivers (January 27, 2016).
  9. Maire Sinha, “Portrait of Caregivers, 2012,” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 89-652-X (September 2013). Link:.
  10. Janet Fast, “Caregiving for Older Adults with Disabilities: Present Costs, Future Challenges,” Institute for Research on Public Policy Study (December 2015). Link:.
  11. Ibid.
  12. CSA Group, B701-17 – Carer-inclusive and Accommodating Organizations (August 2017). Link:.
  13. Ceridian, “Double Duty: The Caregiving Crisis in the Workplace,” Results and Recommendations from Ceridian’s Working Caregiver Survey (November 5, 2015). Link:.
  14. Chair in Gender, Health and Caregiver-Friendly Workplaces.
  15. CSA Group, CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013 – Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (January 2013). Link: https://bit.ly/2RmKsZB.
  16. Chair in Gender, Health and Caregiver-Friendly Workplaces.
  17. BNQ, BNQ 9700-820: Work-Family Balance (2016). Link: https://bit.ly/2YjNeAd.

 

Modern Family Finances: Military and Veteran Families in Canada

Canada’s military and Veteran families are diverse, resilient and strong, and they make significant contributions to society as they manage their work and family responsibilities.

Research shows that military and Veteran families share many of the same financial stressors as civilian families, including changes in family income and/or employment, disruptions or unexpected expenditures (e.g. out-of-pocket medical expenses, foreclosures) and major life events (e.g. marriage, divorce, childbirth).

However, employment with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) brings with it the realities of military life, including a greater degree of mobility, separation and risk. These factors contribute to the uniqueness of military family life, and they can have a positive impact on family finances (e.g. benefits, relatively stable full-time employment and income), as well as negative impacts (e.g. costs associated with relocation and deployments, career sacrifices for partners of serving CAF members, difficulties for Veterans transitioning to civilian life and the civilian workforce).

This edition of Modern Family Finances explores military and Veteran families in Canada, focusing on the unique realities and experiences that impact their income and expenditures, savings and debt, and wealth and net worth.

Highlights include:

  • In 2018, more than four in 10 CAF members (43%) reported having some financial problems, with 10% citing this as the most significant problem they faced in the past year.
  • In 2018, among CAF members who had been posted to a new location, nearly six in 10 (57%) said that their financial situation had worsened, with a change in the cost of living cited as the main reason.
  • In 2016, the Veteran population in Canada was less likely to be in the paid labour force (28%) than civilians (20%).
  • In transitioning to civilian life, research shows that female Veterans experience a significantly higher average decline in income (a decline of 21% between their pre-release year and the first three years afterwards) than male Veterans (a decline of 1%).
  • Research shows that in the workplace, Veterans are nearly three times more likely than the general working population to report having long-term physical or mental health conditions or a health-related activity limitation at work (35% and 13%, respectively).

Research by Gaby Novoa and Nathan Battams

Source information available on the PDF version of this resource.

Facts and Stats: Working Seniors in Canada (2019 Update)

A growing number of seniors in Canada today are choosing to remain in – or return to – the paid labour market to manage their multiple financial responsibilities and, for some, to provide support to younger generations. As seniors and their families adapt their financial management strategies, expectations and aspirations in response to this ever-changing environment, they in turn are reshaping workplaces, Canada’s workforce, modern retirement and the economy at large.

To explore the relationship between seniors and family finances, we’ve created a fact sheet that gathers statistics from a variety of sources about seniors, their economic well-being and their evolving relationship with the paid labour market.

Highlights include:

  • According to the 2016 Census, 1 in 5 seniors in Canada worked at some point in 2015, 30% of whom worked full-year and full-time.
  • In 2016, the average retirement age in Canada was 63.8 years – a slow but steady increase from a low of 60.9 years in 1998.
  • In 2017, surveyed Canadians aged 60 and older who worked or wanted to work were nearly split on the question of whether it was “out of necessity” (49%) or “out of choice” (51%).
  • Nearly 3 in 10 surveyed working seniors surveyed in 2018 (28%) reported that they provide financial support to their children.

Download .

 

Report: Symposium on Women and the Workplace

In May 2019, the Vanier Institute of the Family participated in a two-day symposium hosted by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, where 240 leaders and champions of workplace gender equality and diversity from across Canada shared and discussed leading practices to inspire and advance women’s participation in the workplace.

A report based on these catalytic conversations is now available, and it provides strategies and resources employers can use to advance women’s participation in the workplace with a focus on three key components to advancing workplace gender equality and diversity in Canada:

  • Increasing awareness about gender equality and challenging widespread myths
  • Changing structures instead of people
  • Adopting an intersectional approach to gender equality in the workplace

Women and the workplace – How employers can advance equality and diversity – Report from the Symposium on Women and the Workplace is now available on the ESDC website (also available in PDF format).

 

A Snapshot of Grandparents in Canada (May 2019 Update)

Canada’s grandparents are a diverse group. Many of them contribute greatly to family functioning and well-being in their roles as mentors, nurturers, caregivers, child care providers, historians, spiritual guides and “holders of the family narrative.”

As Canada’s population ages and life expectancy continues to rise, their presence in the lives of many families may also increase accordingly in the years to come. With the number of older Canadians in the workforce steadily increasing, they are playing a greater role in the paid labour market – a shift felt by families who rely on grandparents to help provide care to their grandchildren or other family members. All the while, the living arrangements of grandparents continue to evolve, with a growing number living with younger generations and contributing to family households.

Using newly released data from the 2017 General Social Survey, we’ve updated our popular resource A Snapshot of Grandparents in Canada, which provides a statistical portrait of grandparents, their family relationships and some of the social and economic trends at the heart of this evolution.

Highlights:

  • In 2017, 47% of Canadians aged 45 and older were grandparents, down from 57% in 1995.1
  • In 2017, the average age of grandparents was 68 (up from 65 in 1995), while the average age of first-time grandparents was 51 for women and 54 for men in 2017.2, 3
  • In 2017, nearly 8% of grandparents were aged 85 and older, up from 3% in 1995.4
  • In 2017, 5% of grandparents in Canada lived in the same household as their grandchildren, up slightly from 4% in 1995.5
  • In 2017, grandparents who were born outside Canada were more than twice as likely as Canadian-born grandparents to live with grandchildren (9% and 4%, respectively), the result of a complex interplay of choice, culture and circumstance.6

Published on May 28, 2019

1 Statistics Canada, “Family Matters: Grandparents in Canada,” The Daily (February 7, 2019). Link: .
2 Ibid.
3 No comparator provided because this is the first time the question has been asked in the General Social Survey.
4 Ibid.
5 Statistics Canada, “Family Matters: Grandparents in Canada.”
6 Ibid.

Mother’s Day 2019: New Moms Older, More Likely to Be Employed Than in the Past

May 12, 2019 is Mother’s Day, a time to recognize and celebrate the millions of women in Canada who are raising (and co-raising) future generations, often while managing multiple roles at home, in their workplaces and in their communities. The complex relationship between women, work and family across the country has evolved significantly across generations, as new moms are older and more likely to be employed than in the past – trends that are reflected in data recently released from Statistics Canada.

According to recent Vital Statistics data, women across the country are increasingly waiting longer to have children – in fact, the fertility rates of women in their early 20s and late 30s flipped over the past 20 years. Many are instead focusing first on pursuing post-secondary education and career development – continuing a long-term trend observed over the past several decades.

  • In 2017, the fertility rate in Canada for women aged 20 to 24 stood at 36 live births per 1,000 women, down from 58 per 1,000 in 2000.1
  • In 2017, the fertility rate in Canada for women aged 35 to 39 was 56 live births per 1,000 women, nearly double the rate in 2000 (34 per 1,000).2
  • In 2016, the average age of first-time mothers was 29.2 years, up from 27.1 years in 2000.3

Most of these new moms are (and remain) in the paid labour force at the time of birth or adoption of their newborn, often utilizing community supports to facilitate work and family responsibilities.

  • In 2016, the employment rate of mothers whose youngest child was aged 0 to 2 was 71%, up from 66% in 2001. As in previous years, this rate was higher in Quebec in 2016 (80%).4
  • In 2017, 79% of recent mothers across Canada had insurable employment, 90% of whom received maternity and/or parental benefits.5
    • As in previous years, recent moms in Quebec were more likely to have insurable employment (97%) and to have received benefits than their counterparts in the rest of Canada (91%).
  • In 2016–17, women accounted for 85% of all parental benefits claims made, down from 89% in 2002.6, 7

Since December 2017, new and expectant parents have been provided with more flexibility regarding the timing and duration of the benefit period.

  • New and expectant parents are now able to choose an extended parental benefits option, which allows them to receive their EI parental benefits over a period of up to 18 months at a benefit rate of 33% of average weekly earnings. Compared with the standard parental benefits option, this extends the duration of the benefit period but decreases the benefit rate, which stand at 12 months and 55% of average weekly earnings, respectively.8
  • Expectant mothers are also now able to access benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date – four weeks earlier than the previous eight-week limit (no additional weeks are available).9
  • In 2017, among recent mothers who had worked as an employee within the previous two years, more than 1 in 5 took or planned to take more than 12 months away from work (21%).10

 


Published on May 8, 2019

Notes

1 Statistics Canada, Crude Birth Rate, Age-specific Fertility Rates and Total Fertility Rate (Live Births) (Table 13-10-0418-01), page last updated May 2, 2019. Link: .

2 Ibid.

3 Claudine Provencher et al., “Fertility: Overview, 2012 to 2016,” Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 91-209-X (June 5, 2018). Link: .

4 Martha Friendly et al., “Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada 2016,” Child Care Research and Research Unit (CRRU) (April 2018). Link:.

5 Statistics Canada, “Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2017,” The Daily (November 15, 2018). Link:.

6 Employment and Social Development Canada, “New Five-Week Employment Insurance Parental Sharing Benefit One Month Away,” News Release (February 18, 2019). Link: .

7 Canada Employment Insurance Commission, Employment Insurance 2002 Monitoring and Assessment Report (March 31, 2003). Link: .

8 Learn more in “Webinar Content: Changes to EI Special Benefits,” Transition (January 24, 2018). Link: https://bit.ly/302utBQ.

9 Ibid.

10 Statistics Canada, “Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2017.”

Work and Family: The Impact of Mobility, Scheduling and Precariousness

Elise Thorburn, PhD (Memorial University)

There is an immense shift underway in the workforce across Canada that is clear to many people who are working and to those who are looking for work. In recent years, there has been a rise in unstable and precarious employment, as well as a growing number of jobs with long commuting times and those involving long travel times during work. Furthermore, the use of shift-scheduling technology – which automates labour distribution in a workplace – is increasing across a variety of sectors. These evolving contexts can have a significant impact on workers and their families.

The use of shift-scheduling technology – which automates labour distribution in a workplace – is increasing across a variety of sectors.

A recent study conducted as part of the On the Move Partnership1 surveyed and interviewed union representatives and union members in Canada to explore how they manage unpaid family care responsibilities along with their often erratic work schedules and long or arduous commutes. The goal was to explore how these workers reconcile the rhythms of work and life in increasingly mobile and precarious sectors, and what unions are doing to foster harmony for these workers and their families.

Research from On the Move has shown that a large but difficult-to-document number of Canadians work in municipalities, provinces and even countries far from their homes and families, and their employment-related mobility often follows complex and nuanced patterns.2 These workers often invest considerable time and other resources managing and negotiating the impacts of this mobility.

This study focused on two particular types of mobility:

1. Lengthy and/or complex commuting, such as jobs that involve travelling an hour or more each way per day to the place of work (including the time it takes to drop off or pick up children, spouses, parents, etc.).

2. Mobility during/for work, such as jobs in which workers move around from worksite to worksite throughout the day, as with personal support workers or homecare nurses.

These categories aren’t exclusive; for some workers, these two categories – long commutes and mobility throughout the day – overlap. Study participants were all in the Greater Toronto Area, and they either worked in or represented employees within in the home health care sector, the airport and airline sector, or the higher education sector. While these workplaces differ greatly in the wages, skill sets and demographics of the workers, their diversity serves to highlight how the issues presented here can appear in different settings with different employee characteristics.

Unpaid idle time can represent “time taken from family”

One of the impacts of modern shift-scheduling practices and mobility is a greater amount of unpaid idle time for these diverse types of workers: time when they are not at home but not officially on the clock. Many of them referred to this as time taken from family, and it can have an impact on family finances. For example, if an employee was paying for child care but stuck with unpaid idle time, it could actually result in negative earnings. One airport worker, for example, recalled being scheduled for a shift that began at 2:30 a.m., but the last bus to leave from his neighbourhood to work left at midnight. Therefore, he regularly arrived at work an hour or more before his start time to ensure he was on time, and would then sleep or wait around at the airport – unpaid – until his shift began.

Home health care workers with long waits between clients also experience unpaid idle time, as reported by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Barbara Neis.3The workers in their study were paid only for direct care time and the travel time between clients, regardless of how long they had to wait between scheduled visits. For example, one personal support worker said:

I start at 9:30 in the morning, work with a client for two hours, and then wait until 1:30 to see another client. When it’s not cold outside I sometimes sit on a park bench, but most of the time I find a Tim’s or a mall to sit in. I don’t have money to buy coffee at Tim Hortons every day while I wait for another shift to begin, but I am too far from home to go back there.

Her mobility between clients pulled her far from her home in her unpaid time, and for workers like her with children in daycare or with babysitters, that two hours of unpaid time between patients represented even greater negative earnings.

Aside from lost or negative earnings, idle time also represents unpaid time away from family. Some workers reported trying to resolve this lost family time by multi-tasking – for example, some parents of older children often “parent by phone” during long commutes, in idle time between clients or as they moved between worksites. One union representative in the home health care sector spoke of a member who texted constantly with her daughter throughout the workday. Another spoke of workers talking to their children about general life issues through meal preparation, homework and while commuting. During long commutes or drives between clients, the phone becomes a lifeline to more engaged parenting for many, helping to alleviate some of the stress of “leaving your children alone when you would not otherwise,” as one worker put it.

Aside from lost or negative earnings, idle time also represents unpaid time away from family.

University workers in the study reported that long commutes to rigidly scheduled classes can serve as time to catch up on sleep or to engage in preparatory work, reading or marking student papers. One university worker with a very young child, whose commute often stretched to more than 3.5 hours, said that the travel time by train was often the only time he could find to catch up on uninterrupted sleep. That said, he and other university workers also found that the long commutes and rigid schedules were the cause of significant mental health issues and troubled familial and social relationships.

Mobility and scheduling can affect employee and family well-being

The mental health ramifications of precarious work, as well as work with extended commuting and demands of child care, are well documented.4 The convergence of scheduling and mobility, paired with the responsibilities of family, had a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of interviewed university workers (e.g. stress, fatigue, anxiety). One said that his mental health was severely impacted by the pressures of the commute and the schedule, causing things at home to become “bad.” He noted, “I was feeling so very desperate earlier in the fall, even just seeking therapy became difficult.” The convergence of scheduling, onerous mobility and family care responsibilities made finding the time and energy needed to manage his mental health was an insurmountable task. The schedule and commute mitigated the rejuvenating aspects of his work, and he said exhaustion was very common by the end of the term. As well, maintaining his social circle outside of his immediate family was almost impossible and, he noted, “It [took] intense planning to even schedule a haircut.”

Accessing child care – quality, affordable child care that works for non-traditional schedules – is a major issue for mobile workers.

Another university and union worker noted that the time spent on transit exacerbated exhaustion and made the transition for children from daycare or school to home that much more fraught. “You are tired and cranky, and so is your child,” she said, and “you are never really able to honour the schedule of your child or yourself, which leads to you feeling guilty and just bad.” The need to always be up early and rushing to a long and onerous commute also caused her to have residual anxiety issues – issues she says stayed with her long after she left that particular job. “I always feel like everything is being done at the last minute and I’m constantly anxious about that,” she explained. The anxiety that she felt had an effect on her children, she believed, giving them their own sense of urgency or anxiety, and the feeling that the adults around them – those that are caring for them – are constantly in a state of heightened stress. This mirrors what Stephanie Premji found in her research on precarious immigrant workers in Toronto – the worry about work-related economic insecurity caused the children of these precarious workers to become depressed and it contributed to familial stress.5

Other union representatives and workers I spoke to also noted that family responsibilities and mobility paired with schedules that are out of one’s control increased their unpaid caring labour in the home, which in turn contributed to social isolation and the loss of support networks. They also spoke of their frustration in being unable to address or alter the situation they felt trapped in – they could not move closer to their workplace because it may often change, for example, or because they could not afford to live in areas with better employment opportunities. Other On the Move researchers have found that many aren’t able to overcome these barriers and improve their labour market experiences (and hence mental health) over time.

Non-standard work hours often don’t align with child care availability

All of the worksites in this study operate on non-traditional, often 24-hour schedules. Non-standard work hours include a variety of now-common schedule possibilities and working patterns – from slightly extended hours (beginning from 6 a.m. and ending around 7:30 or 8 p.m.) to later shifts (e.g. those that last until 11 p.m. or later) as well as full overnights and weekends.6

Non-standard hours of work have been steadily increasing in Canada, and Statistics Canada reports that the period from 2005 to 2015 saw a growing shift from traditional to more flexible, non-standard work schedules.7 Yet both transit systems and child care centres have been set up to meet the needs of a standard 9-to-5 work schedule, and have done little to change over this same time period. Many of the interviewed workers and union representatives said that the standard hours of transit and child care conflicted with the rhythms of their workplaces, meaning that daycare centres – formal, regulated and licensed to ensure quality and safety – were not an option for them.

Accessing child care – quality, affordable child care that works for non-traditional schedules – is a major issue for mobile workers. For many low-income, precarious workers on non-standard schedules, informal child care providers are the only accessible option. Such providers may be available by negotiation at a moment’s notice and during non-traditional hours, leading to situations of “trickle-down precarity.” These workers may also supplement child care providers with occasional help from family, friends and neighbours, or rely entirely on them – one union representative and worker at Toronto Pearson International Airport noted that his wife’s parents moved into their home for five years to care for their young children while he and his wife worked non-standard schedules for an airline.

For many immigrant workers, the social support systems they may have had in their home countries are absent, and thus accessing child care becomes a significant source of anxiety.

However, this reliance on family is not an option for everyone. For many immigrant workers, the social support systems they may have had in their home countries are absent, and thus accessing child care becomes a significant source of anxiety, especially as mobility and scheduling disrupt the rhythms of necessary care work in their home.8 Even with formal child care, long commutes and worker mobility paired with unpredictable or non-standard schedules can have emotional and mental health impacts on workers who engage in unpaid caring labour at home. One worker noted that her schedule and commute paired with traffic meant she was often arriving very close to the daycare’s closing time and, she noted, “There is the horrible shame of being the last person to pick your kids up.”

This was especially acute for women workers, who felt that their tardiness to collect children from care was a reflection of their quality as a parent. This shame and even fear is not entirely unwarranted: while most daycares have fines for picking children up after closing time – often in the range of $1 per minute – in 2016, a daycare in Etobicoke, Ontario instituted fines as high at $300 per hour, as well as a possible call to Children’s Aid Society if no parents or emergency contacts could be reached.9

One worker noted that punitive measures such as these are an enormous source of stress for her as she commutes between worksites on the subway, because while underground she has no cellphone access. She continually fears a subway delay or breakdown, since she would not be able to call and alert the daycare if she was going to be late. For her, this is a source of anxiety and stress that does not end when her commute does, but that carries with her into her interactions with her children and at home. Thus, to add to the sense of shame, anxiety and stress associated with mobility, family and non-standard schedules, the possibility of losing access to one’s children entirely is introduced, as well as the potential complication to immigration applications if Children’s Aid Society is ever involved.

Non-standard work scheduling can be complex and time-consuming

The challenges of non-standard work schedules, mobility and limited incomes, and the friction between schedules and child care, means that workers often spend unpaid time outside of work scheduling and coordinating work and family responsibilities, which further encroaches upon family time. In her research on call centre workers in Quebec, Karen Messing found that parents made use of eight different babysitting resources to fill caregiving needs over a two-week period, and spent considerable unpaid leisure time trying to switch shifts with co-workers to make up for the rest.10

When some workers cannot harmonize their schedules, commutes and family responsibilities, the only option may be to take fewer shifts or remain in casual positions – even if they are entitled to a full-time or permanent job.

When some workers cannot harmonize their schedules, commutes and family responsibilities, the only option may be to take fewer shifts or remain in casual positions – even if they are entitled to a full-time or permanent job. Some union representatives said their members in the home health care sector, for example, “choose” to remain in more precarious positions, because family life simply cannot be coordinated around work life. But as one mentioned, “It’s a tricky thing to say when it’s a choice and when it’s an obligation.” Another union representative said, “I’ve seen people quit entirely over this,” and reiterated that if not quitting, remaining casual was often a way that workers sought to assert more control over their work schedule and life.

Questions remain on mobility and the “duty to accommodate”

One avenue to support those balancing work and family responsibilities has been the human rights codes. In the Canadian Human Rights Act and in all provincial acts aside from New Brunswick (where reviews to add the ground are ongoing), “family status” is considered a prohibited ground for discrimination.11 This means that employers have a “duty to accommodate,” which means that employers “have an obligation to adjust rules, policies, or practices to enable you to participate fully.”12 But “family status” and “duty to accommodate” are ill-defined across the human rights acts and codes in Canada, and accommodation does not guarantee a new or similar position with similar wages for a worker, or reassignment to a job with similar duties and a more amenable schedule. As well, accommodation requests can be rejected due to “undue hardship” on the part of the employer, the definition of which is equally vague.

Awareness of the duty to accommodate as an avenue for mitigating the impacts of scheduling on work and family was low among workers and union representatives, and few had tried to use the legislation. Among those who had attempted to make use of family status accommodations, some representatives for home health care workers, for example, said that the legislation had not been particularly useful to them, suggesting that its relative lack of usefulness “speaks to certain biases within the document around what people’s relationships to the employer are.”

One union representative in the study explained that a member of their union had been moved from her position due to layoffs in the organization. The new position the member was bumped into required hours and commuting times that would not allow her to be home for her child either before or after school. As a single parent, newly immigrated and without extended family in the country, she had no one to share caregiving responsibilities with, and so her union made an accommodation request on her behalf. The employer made an undue hardship claim, and then offered the member a different position with significantly reduced hours. Weighing her hourly wage against the cost of child care before and after school meant that the original job with more hours wasn’t going to be financially worth it, so in the end, the member simply “didn’t have a choice,” according to the union representative. As a result, the member “had to take the reduced hours and now struggles financially.” Another union representative with a similar case said that this is “an example of how the system means well but operates on the basis of older forms of employment relationships.”

It remains unclear how mobility specifically converges with human rights code recommendations around the duty to accommodate.

Further, it remains unclear how mobility specifically converges with human rights code recommendations around the duty to accommodate. Can a homecare worker or any other worker request a schedule that takes commute time and work time in relation to family status into account? Can a worker cite rush-hour traffic or winter travel or transit delays and overcrowding as part of a duty to accommodate application? Can poor transit options converging with inconvenient schedules be grounds for a request for accommodation? Can workers cite the likelihood of commuting times from certain work schedules causing increased child care late-pickup fees? These are questions that have no clear answer in the current human rights legislation but are serious concerns for workers today.

Unions adapting to evolving work and family contexts

What emerges from this research is that workers in jobs across multiple sectors have complex lives and multiple, evolving demands on their time. The voices of union representatives and workers presented here highlight the need for labour representatives to begin to consider mobility and care work as an aspect of their negotiations, especially as it converges with increasingly erratic, unpredictable and around-the-clock work schedules.

What emerges from this research is that workers in jobs across multiple sectors have complex lives and multiple, evolving demands on their time.

Several union representatives who were involved in collective bargaining said that they often felt at an impasse, unsure of how to deal with the impacts of work on their members’ after-work lives. Because there seemed little in the way of other options, most union representatives put the focus on increasing wages for workers, so as to alleviate some of the stressors of mobility and unpaid care work. But a focus on wages to the exclusion of other options may allow untenable situations for some workers to persist.

There are some interesting examples of possible models for unions to consider. One worker who was active in his union said that all gains cannot be won at the bargaining table, and that workers and unions need to build relationships with non-unionized workers, their neighbours and community members, and community-based organizations to help build holistic solutions to the problems mobile workers on erratic schedules with caregiving responsibilities face. He cited the example of the Toronto Airport Workers Assembly (TAWC), which is made up of unionized and non-unionized airport workers, and partnered with community environmental and transit groups to ultimately win a reduced rate on the UP Express train line to the airport. Originally priced at $27.50 per ride, the efforts of the TAWC in alliance with community partners contributed to the decision to lower the price to $3.50 for airport workers and $12 for regular riders.

As well, the Ontario Human Rights Code recommends considering inclusive design in workplaces.13 Usually understood as “Universal Design,” inclusive design asks employers to consider the ways that workplaces can become more family-friendly. How are schedules, workloads and descriptions of work designed, and how can the beneficial elements of mobile work on flexible schedules be emphasized while the negative impacts are mitigated? How might inclusive design be implemented within collective agreements is a question union leaders could begin to consider as the landscape of work continues to shift and change.

Elise Thorburn is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brock University and a researcher with the On the Move Partnership. On the Move is a research project involving the Vanier Institute of the Family and universities across Canada and abroad investigating workers’ extended travel and related absence from their places of permanent residence for the purpose of (and as part of) their employment.


Published on August 21, 2018

 

Notes


  1. The On the Move Partnership (OTM) is a project of the SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research at Memorial University. It is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council through its Partnership Grants funding Opportunity, Innovate NL, CFI and multiple universities and community partners. This research was also supported by an internship with the Vanier Institute of the Family.
  2. Learn more on the On the Move Partnership website. Link: .
  3. Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Barbara Neis, “On the Move and Working Alone: Policy Implications of the Experiences of Unionised Newfoundland and Labrador Homecare Workers,” Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 13(2) (January 2016). Link:.
  4. Stephanie Premji, “‘It’s Totally Destroyed Our Life’: Exploring the Pathways and Mechanisms Between Precarious Employment and Health and Well-being Among Immigrant Men and Women in Toronto,” International Journal of Health 48(1) (January 2018). Link:
  5. Ibid.
  6. Shani Halfon and Martha Friendly, Work Around the Clock: A Snapshot of Non-Standard Hours Child Care in Canada (Toronto: Childcare Resource and Research Unit, 2015). Link: https://bit.ly/2K4vyDZ.
  7. Statistics Canada, “Labour in Canada: Key Results from the 2016 Census,” The Daily (November 29, 2017). Link: .
  8. See Stephanie Premji, “Precarious Employment and Difficult Daily Commutes,” Relations Industrielles / Industrial Relations, 72(1) (January 2017).
  9. Amanda Ferguson, “Etobicoke Daycare Hikes Late Fees for Parents Who Don’t Pick Up Kids on Time” City News Toronto (October 4, 2017). Link:.
  10. Karen Messing, Pain and Prejudice: What Science Can Learn About Work from the People Who Do It (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2014).
  11. Learn more with Family Caregiving in Canada: A Fact of Life and a Human Right (Vanier Institute of the Family, 2016).
  12. Canadian Human Rights Commission, What Is the Duty to Accommodate? (n.d.). Link:.
  13. Ontario Human Rights Commission, Inclusive Design and the Duty to Accommodate (Fact Sheet) (n.d.). Link: .

Infographic: Fathers and Work in Canada

Most fathers in Canada are in the paid labour force, and research shows that a growing share are involved in their child’s early years, and are more likely to assume household management responsibilities than in the past. As fathers manage multiple responsibilities at home, at work and in their communities, parental leave and flexible work arrangements can play an important role in facilitating their growing role in family life.

Using current Census and Labour Force Survey data, our new infographic provides a statistical glance at evolving work–family experiences for fathers in Canada.

Highlights include:

  • In 2016, 91% of fathers in couples and 82% of lone fathers were employed.1
  • In 2016, new and expectant fathers inside Quebec were roughly 6 times as likely to report having received (or were intending to claim) parental benefits than fathers in the rest of Canada (80% and 13%, respectively).2
  • As of June 2019, new and expectant fathers in eligible two-parent families3 will have access to a new “use-it-or-lose-it” employment insurance (EI) parental sharing benefit, which they can take at any point following the arrival of their child.4
  • In 2016, when asked whether they had asked for flex work in the past five years, 73% of surveyed Canadians said they had.5
  • In 2012, full-time working fathers with a flexible schedule were more likely to report satisfaction with their work–life balance (81%) than those without a flexible schedule (76%).6

 

 

Notes


  1. Statistics Canada, “Father’s Day… By the Numbers,” The Daily (page last updated June 28, 2017). Link: .
  2. Employment and Social Development Canada, Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the Fiscal Year Beginning April 1, 2016 and Ending March 31, 2017 (page last updated June 5, 2018). Link: .
  3. Including adoptive and same-sex couples.
  4. To learn more about pending changes to parental leave, see Canada’s New Parental Sharing Benefit, a backgrounder from the Department of Finance Canada (n.d.). Link: .
  5. Employment and Social Development Canada, “When Work and Caregiving Collide: How Employers Can Support Their Employees Who Are Caregivers,” Report from the Employer Panel for Caregivers (February 16, 2015). Link: .
  6. Statistics Canada, “Satisfaction with Work–Life Balance: Fact Sheet,” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 89-652-X (April 14, 2016). Link: .

Modern Mothers in Canada “Making It Work”

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, a time when Canadians of all ages recognize and honour mothers, grandmothers and, increasingly, great-grandmothers. As women across Canada – including new and expectant mothers – continue to increase their presence in the workforce, families, communities and policy-makers are adapting and reacting to provide flexibility for working moms.

Flexible workplaces helping working moms manage caregiving responsibilities

New and expectant mothers in Canada are increasingly engaged in the workforce, many of whom also provide care to ill and injured family members. Research shows that workplace flexibility is helping moms manage their multiple responsibilities, which in turn can have a positive impact on family well-being.

  • In 2016, the labour force participation rate of mothers whose youngest child was under age 6 was 73%, more than double the rate in 1976 (36%).1
  • In 2012, 72% of surveyed women said they were satisfied with their work–life balance – the rate was significantly higher for those with a flexible schedule (75%) than for those without a flexible schedule (63%).2
  • In 2012, 3 in 10 women were caregivers, 1 in 6 of whom spent 20 or more hours per week providing care.3
  • In 2012, 63% of working mothers who were also caregivers said they were satisfied with their work–life balance (compared with 73% among fathers).4

New benefit options providing flexibility to new and expectant working mothers

A number of changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits5 program went into effect December 3, 2017, providing more flexibility to working mothers (and fathers) through more options regarding the timing and duration of the benefit period.6

  • Parents can now choose an extended parental benefits option, which allows them to receive their EI parental benefits over a period of up to 18 months at a benefit rate of 33% of average weekly earnings. This extends the duration of the benefit period but decreases the benefit rate, which stand at 12 months and 55% of average weekly earnings, respectively.7
  • Expectant mothers are also now able to file for benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date – four weeks earlier than the previous eight-week limit (no additional weeks are available).

 

Notes


  1. Canadian Institute of Child Health, “Module 8, Section 2: Labour Force Participation Rate,” The Health of Canada’s Children and Youth: A CICH Profile (2018). Link: .
  2. Statistics Canada, “Satisfaction with Work–Life Balance: Fact Sheet,” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 89-652-X (page last updated August 12, 2016). Link: .
  3. Maire Sinha, “Portrait of Caregivers, 2012,” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 89-652-X (page last updated November 30, 2015). Link:.
  4. According to Statistics Canada, this is in part because “women are more likely than men to provide care to a family member or friend suffering from a long-term health condition. In addition, those caregivers provide more hours of care on average.” Link:.
  5. These changes do not apply in Quebec, which has followed the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) since 2006.
  6. Qualifying standards remain in place: workers require 600 hours of paid employment in the previous year to be eligible, and benefits are generally paid at 55% of average weekly earnings, up to a cap. As of January 1, 2018, the maximum yearly insurable earnings is $51,700 (a maximum amount of $547 per week). Link: .
  7. The potential overall benefit hasn’t changed: they either can be used up over 12 months or the same amount of money can be stretched out over 18 months. Parents must choose between the standard or extended option when they first apply for EI benefits, and are “locked in” once they do so.

Families in Canada Interactive Timeline

Today’s society and today’s families would have been difficult to imagine, let alone understand, a half-century ago. Data shows that families and family life in Canada have become increasingly diverse and complex across generations – a reality highlighted when one looks at broader trends over time.

But even as families evolve, their impact over the years has remained constant. This is due to the many functions and roles they perform for individuals and communities alike – families are, have been and will continue to be the cornerstone of our society, the engine of our economy and at the centre of our hearts.

Learn about the evolution of families in Canada over the past half-century with our Families in Canada Interactive Timeline – a online resource from the Vanier Institute that highlights trends on diverse topics such as motherhood and fatherhood, family relationships, living arrangements, children and seniors, work–life, health and well-being, family care and much more.

View the Families in Canada Interactive Timeline.*

 

Full topic list:

  • Motherhood
    o Maternal age
    o Fertility
    o Labour force participation
    o Education
    o Stay-at-home moms
  • Fatherhood
    o Family relationships
    o Employment
    o Care and unpaid work
    o Work–life
  • Demographics
    o Life expectancy
    o Seniors and elders
    o Children and youth
    o Immigrant families
  • Families and Households
    o Family structure
    o Family finances
    o Household size
    o Housing
  • Health and Well-Being
    o Babies and birth
    o Health
    o Life expectancy
    o Death and dying

View all source information for all statistics in Families in Canada Interactive Timeline.

 

* Note: The timeline is accessible only via desktop computer and does not work on smartphones.


Published February 8, 2018

Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada (January 2018)

Much like families themselves, family finances in Canada is a topic characterized by diversity, complexity and perpetual evolution. Family income is no exception. 2016 Census data shows that households across Canada receive income from a variety of sources, and these economic arrangements change over time as families adapt and react to social, economic, cultural and environmental forces.

The complex and multi-faceted nature of family finances can make it a difficult topic to fully comprehend. No measure of family finances exists in isolation, and all are interconnected: if a family’s income is too low, then it may be impossible for them to build savings; if expenses are too high, debt may be just around the corner; if debt is too high, it can reduce family wealth – and so on. However, much can be learned about the whole of finances by examining the topic through a family lens.

Every family household has its own unique constellation of income sources that they manage to fulfill their obligations at home and in their communities. These arrangements typically aren’t static – they evolve throughout the life cycle as family circumstances change, along with the resources available to them.

To explore this topic in further detail, the Vanier Institute has published .

Highlights include:

  • In 2015, the total median household income in Canada was approximately $70,300 before taxes ($61,300 after taxes), and $34,200 before taxes (just under $30,900 after taxes) for individuals.
  • Household income included revenue from a variety of sources, including employment income (approximately 71% of Canadians received employment income), investments (30%), CPP/QPP benefits (23%), OAS/GIS benefits (18%), the Canada Child Tax Benefit (11%), Employment Insurance benefits (9%), social assistance (5%) and more.
  • Incomes are lower than the national average and low-income rates are higher for women; First Nations, Inuk (Inuit) and Métis people; immigrants (particularly for recent immigrants and non-permanent residents); visible minorities; and persons living with disabilities.
  • In 2015, nearly one-third (32%) of married or common-law couples in Canada received “fairly equal” incomes, although, on average, women earned an estimated $0.87 for every dollar earned by men.
  • Debt is consuming a smaller share of household income than in previous decades, with the share of income devoted to servicing the interest on household debt falling from 10.8% in 1991 to 6.4% in 2015.
  • One in five (19.8%) seniors in Canada (1.1M) reported that they worked at some point in 2015 – nearly twice the rate recorded in 1995 (10.1%).
  • Many Canadians of all ages plan to keep working to ensure sufficient income as seniors, with more than one-third (36%) reporting in 2014 that ongoing employment earnings are a part of their financial retirement plan.

Income in Canada is a part of the Vanier Institute’s Modern Family Finances series, which addresses particular topics such as income and expenditures; savings and debt; and wealth and net worth. Subsequent editions in this series will focus on unique experiences such as family finances among military and Veteran families, families on the move, and families living with disability.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Infographic: Canada’s Families on the Farm

Family farms have played a significant role in Canada’s history, both in terms of the contributions that agriculture has provided in the development of local and provincial economies, and with regard to the role farming has played in shaping community and familial identities. Farming has a strong impact on the lives of families involved in the practice, as it is a unique experience that ties together notions of home, work, culture and kinship.

The evolution of farm families in Canada reflects some of the broader trends that are shaping the “family landscape” across the country, such as population aging, smaller families, a growing share of women in the labour force, the increased use of technology at work and a diversification of family income sources.

To explore Canada’s farm families, the Vanier Institute of the Family has published an infographic that features data from the 2016 Census of Agriculture.

Highlights include:

  • Canada was home to more than 193,000 farms in 2016, down 5.9% from 2011.
  • Canada was home to nearly 102,000 farm families in 2013, and the number of farm families decreased every year over the prior decade.
  • The average age of farm operators increased from 47.5 years in 1991 to 55 years in 2016.
  • The number of farm families with two family members rose from 43% in 2003 to 51% in 2013, while the share with five or more fell from 19% to 14%.
  • 8.4% of all farms across Canada in 2016 reported having a written succession plan, and a family member was identified as the successor for 96% of these farms.
  • In 2015, 57% of operators aged 60 and over were on farms that reported the use of technology, compared with 81% for those under the age of 40.

 

Learn more in “Families on the Farm: A Portrait of Generations and Migrant Workers in Canada,” a chapter prepared by the Vanier Institute for Deep Roots, published by the United Nations as part the International Year of Family Farming.

 


Published on January 16, 2018

Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada

Canada’s population is rapidly aging, which means a growing number of seniors across the country are managing household finances in an evolving economic climate. In this context, many are choosing to remain in – or return to – the paid labour market to manage their financial responsibilities, while others focus on other diverse income sources to meet their needs.

As seniors and their families adapt their financial management strategies and their aspirations in response to this ever-changing environment, they in turn are reshaping workplaces, retirement and the economy at large. To explore the relationship between seniors and family finances, we’ve published , which brings together statistics from a variety of sources about seniors and their economic well-being, including data about employment, income, retirement and debt among this age group.

Highlights include:

  • In 2016, the average retirement age in Canada was 63.6 years – a slow but steady increase from a low of 60.9 years in 1998.
  • More than one-third (36%) of Canadians in the labour force say that ongoing employment earnings are a part of their financial retirement plan.
  • In 2015, 3 in 10 seniors in Canada reported having employment income, with significantly higher rates among Inuit seniors (46%).
  • In 2015, nearly 1 in 7 seniors lived with low income – nearly four times the rate in 1995. Rates were higher among senior women (17%, vs. 12% among senior men), recent immigrant seniors (22.2%) and seniors reporting an Aboriginal identity (21.5%).
  • In 2015, nearly 1 in 5 seniors in Canada had “unaffordable” shelter costs, spending more than 30% of average total monthly income on housing.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 of surveyed seniors in Canada (37%) say they plan on leaving an inheritance to a grandchild.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

 

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Published on November 30, 2017

A Snapshot of Men, Work and Family Relationships in Canada

Over the past half-century, fatherhood in Canada has evolved dramatically  as men across the country adapt and react to social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts. Throughout this period, men have had diverse employment experiences as they manage their multiple roles inside and outside the family home. These experiences have been impacted by a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) cultural norms and expectations, family status, disability and a variety of demographic characteristics, as well as women’s increased involvement in the paid labour force.

While many fathers in previous generations acted exclusively as “traditional” breadwinning father figures, modern fathers are increasingly likely to embrace caring roles and assume more household management responsibilities. In doing so, dads across Canada are renegotiating and reshaping the relationship between fatherhood and work.

Highlights include:

  • Men are less likely than in previous generations to fulfill a breadwinner role exclusively. In 2014, 79% of single-earner couple families with children included a breadwinning father, down from 96% in 1976.
  • Men account for a growing share of part-time workers. One-quarter (25%) of Canadians aged 25 to 54 who worked part-time in 2016 were men, up from 15% in 1986.
  • The proportion of never-married men is on the rise. In 2011, more than half (54%) of men in Canada aged 30 to 34 report never having been married, up from 15% in 1981.
  • Canada is home to many caregiving men. In 2012, nearly half (46%) of all caregivers in Canada were men, 11% of whom provided 20 or more hours per week of care.
  • Many men want to be stay-at-home parents. Nearly four in 10 (39%) surveyed men say they would prefer to be a stay-at-home parent.
  • Many men engage in household work and related activities. Nearly half (45%) of surveyed fathers in North America say they’re the “primary grocery shopper” in their household.
  • Flex at work can facilitate work–life balance. More than eight in 10 (81%) full-time working fathers who have a flexible schedule say they’re satisfied with their work–life balance, compared with 76% for those without flex.

 

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

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A Snapshot of Women, Work and Family in Canada

Canada is home to more than 18 million women (9.8 million of whom are mothers), many of whom fulfill multiple responsibilities at home, at work and in the community. Over many generations, women in Canada have had diverse employment experiences that continue to evolve and change. These experiences have differed significantly from those of men, and there is a great deal of diversity in the experiences among women, which are impacted by a variety of factors including (but not limited to) cultural norms and expectations, family status, disability and a variety of demographic characteristics.

To explore the diverse and evolving work and family experiences of women in Canada, the Vanier Institute of the Family has created . This publication is a companion piece to our Fifty Years of Women, Work and Family in Canada timeline, providing visually engaging data about the diverse work and family experiences of women across Canada.

Highlights include:

  • The share of all core working-aged women (25 to 54 years) who are in the labour force has increased significantly across generations, from 35% in 1964 to 82% in 2016.
  • Employment rates vary among different groups of core working-aged women, including those who are recently immigrated (53%), women reporting an Aboriginal identity (67%) and those living with a disability (52% to 56%, depending on the age subgroup).
  • On average, women without children earn 12% more per hour than those with children – a wage gap sometimes referred to as the “mommy tax.”
  • Nearly one-third (32%) of women aged 25 to 44 who were employed part-time in 2016 said that they were working part-time because they were caring for children.
  • 70% of mothers with children aged 5 and under were employed in 2015, compared with only 32% in 1976.
  • In 2013, 11% of all recent mothers inside Quebec and 36% in the rest of Canada, respectively, did not receive maternity and/or parental leave benefits – a difference attributed to the various EI eligibility regimes in the provinces.
  • 72% of all surveyed mothers in Canada report being satisfied with their work–life balance, but this rate falls to 63% for those who are also caregivers.
  • 75% of working mothers with a flexible work schedule report being satisfied with their work–life balance – a rate that falls to 69% for those without flexibility.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Download from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

 


Published on May 9, 2017

Employment Mobility and Family Gentrification in Montreal

Steven High (Concordia University)
Lysiane Goulet Gervais (Concordia University)
Michelle Duchesneau (Concordia University)
Dany Guay-Bélanger (Carleton University)

As Canada’s economy evolves, along with the opportunities and constraints it provides, family members adapt to fulfill their responsibilities at home and at work. For many family members, this can involve travelling long distances for work and being away from home for days, weeks or even months at a time. Since 2012, the On the Move Partnership1 has been exploring this phenomenon of employment-related geographic mobility (E-RGM) and has found that more Canadians than ever before are regularly commuting to work over longer distances in “complex and nuanced” patterns.2

Most people think of rural work environments such as northern gas and oil or mining worksites when examining the impact of mobile work and rarely consider Canada’s inner-city regions, yet these emerging labour patterns are shaping the social and economic environments of communities of all kinds.

As part of the On the Move Partnership, we have explored the impact of mobile work in urban centres through extensive interviews over the past two years with Canadians engaged in mobile work, which ranged from extended daily commutes to extended travel across Quebec and around the world. The workers and families in this study were living in Montreal’s Southwest neighbourhoods of Little Burgundy, Saint-Henri and Pointe-Saint-Charles. Once heavily industrialized, these inner-city areas experienced social and economic change as a result of the rapid deindustrialization and out-migration that occurred during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. This was followed by a period of family gentrification, as middle-class people moved into the areas with their loved ones.

Families “localize” resource access to manage responsibilities despite absences

Our interview findings suggest that there is a connection between employment mobility and family gentrification. Families with sufficient financial resources are choosing to live in inner-city neighbourhoods in order to “localize” other aspects of their lives. This localization includes (but is not limited to) ensuring that community resources such as neighbourhood daycares and schools, playgrounds, stores and public transportation (especially the city’s metro system and the airport express bus) are readily accessible to households in which a family member is engaged in mobile work.

One parent’s mobility often leads to the relative immobility of other family members, who then often become more dependent on proximity to community resources.

Proximity to the central city serves to counterbalance the prolonged absences of family members resulting from work-related mobility. Among two-parent families, since this mobility results in an absence from the family home, one parent’s mobility often leads to the relative immobility of other family members, who then often become more dependent on proximity to community resources.

Mobile work adds complexity to family life and relationships

In this study, interviewed parents shared their reflections on the impact of mobile work on their children and on family life. One mother, Imane,3 expressed concern about the impact of the work-related mobility on her children’s physical health: “The funny thing is that young kids tend to stress without letting you know. And the only way that they let you know is that they get sick. So, when he travels a lot, they get sick a lot. It is their way of saying that they are not happy about this situation.”

“… young kids tend to stress without letting you know. And the only way that they let you know is that they get sick. So, when he travels a lot, they get sick a lot. It is their way of saying that they are not happy about this situation.” (study participant)

Family members engaged in mobile work expressed concerns about managing their parenting roles when they are often away from home. Some shared feelings of sadness and a longing to be more involved in their children’s lives and frustration around having to schedule their children’s activities according to their travel plans – something that surfaced repeatedly in the interviews.

One mobile-working mother, Kate, told us that returning home after being away for weeks at a time made her feel as though she had missed large chunks of her son’s development and growth. With both Kate and her partner, Russell, being mobile workers, even when one is home, the other is frequently away. Life in not quite the same in those moments, she says, “Whether it is Russell or whether it is me, we are always waiting a little bit to live.”

Among our interviewees, Imane had the most to say about the impact of mobile work on family life. If her interview had a recurring theme, it would be that her family life in the context of mobile work is “complicated.” Asked about the effect of her husband’s travels on the family, she replies, “That’s kind of complicated, because we need help with the kids. I have to get the girls ready.” The eldest is sent to school with friends, while Imane takes her youngest to daycare. She picks them up at the end of the day and prepares dinner without her partner being there. “It’s not just taking care of the kids, it’s doing everything like taking care of the home yourself, doing groceries, meals, plus the activities, the school and daycare. Life gets complicated.” Her husband’s absence leaves her with little flexibility and a significantly increased family workload. “I can’t even get sick,” she says.

Parents who stay “back home” adapt to accommodate their partners’ mobility

As she is self-employed, Imane usually has to work after the kids are asleep: “But when he’s away, I am so tired that I can’t really work when the girls sleep.” As a result, her own work is often left undone, something she finds stressful. Luckily, Imane’s mother lives in Montreal and helps manage family roles and responsibilities, such as cooking, laundry or picking up the girls. She stressed the importance of maintaining a routine, even when her husband is away for extended periods: “Life doesn’t change when he is away… [so] we continue living our life as usual.” Summing up things, Imane says, “You continue the routines and the busy schedule of having kids.”

Family life moves on even when a parent is away at work. One mobile worker, Pierre, explained that travelling for work wasn’t an issue before his daughter was born. Now, he is concerned about spending time with her, since his long commutes mean that when he leaves and arrives from work she is usually asleep. He is also worried that travelling for work will affect his capacity to take on his share of familial responsibilities. Several interviewees also said that they used to travel as a family when one of them had to work away from home, but that they stopped once their children reached school age. Imane’s family used to travel together but didn’t want to take the children out of school too often, so they now only rarely accompany their father when he travels for work.

Families use technology to maintain and manage family relationships

Families are increasingly using technology and new media to bridge the distance and remain present in family life. While not all families have access to these tools, these “virtual intimacies” are a growing reality and can help provide continuity in family rituals and relationships in the context of family absences.4

“Virtual intimacies” are a growing reality and can help provide continuity in family rituals and relationships in the context of family absences.

A number of study participants spoke of the importance of FaceTime, Skype and other social media in maintaining a connection to home while away. For example, while he’s away, Russell “continues to participate in some of the rituals of life with a child, such as bedtime stories and goodnight songs via Skype.” His partner, Kate, elaborates, “This didn’t exist before, 12 years ago, let’s say. It wasn’t possible – it was phone bills through the roof [laughs]. Nowadays, it is possible to communicate for a small charge or no cost at all; it really, really, really helps to save the day.” Imane says that when her husband travels internationally, communication can be difficult. If he is in India or Pakistan, there is a 10- or 11-hour difference, which can make it hard to find the right time to connect. Also, she says that “the girls don’t like the phone so much, so yeah, it’s not easy.” Her eldest would “barely say ‘Hi, I’m good, everything’s good. Here’s Mom.’” At only 3 years of age, her youngest child doesn’t really speak on the phone yet.

Children notice routine changes resulting from mobility

In order to gain an intergenerational understanding of how work mobility affects family life, we interviewed four children ages 5 to 7 as part of the study. Much of what these children shared reinforced what the parents said, while other elements of the interviews revealed a different perspective. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the children mainly recall the disruptions in their routine.

They fondly remember staying up late or eating certain foods as joyous occasions when the travelling parent is away. June talked about being sad that her mom, Laura, was away but also appreciates the extra time with dad and the extra privileges she receives, “I’m sad when mom is gone, but I am also happy because I get to stay up late.” Some of the children remember receiving and giving gifts upon return and other people caring for them: grandparents, family friends and others.

Families adapt to fulfill their responsibilities

By focusing on three different locations, our place-based approach to the issue of employment mobility allowed us to view mobility from another perspective. This approach highlighted some of the impacts on family life while considering the full spectrum of mobile work, from extended daily commuters to regular travellers who leave home for extended periods. It also encouraged us to consider the relationship between employment mobility and family fixity (aspects of family life that are geographically bound or fixed), particularly as it plays out in “local” processes of urban gentrification. Our research highlighted that while families experience a number of impacts resulting from mobile work, they evolve and adjust in diverse ways – including living close to community resources, adapting family relationships and using technology – to manage their multiple responsibilities.

 

Notes

  1. On the Move is a cross-sectoral partnership involving 40 researchers from 17 disciplines and 22 universities across Canada and around the world that is funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
  2. Michael Hann, Deatra Walsh and Barbara Neis, “At the Crossroads: Geography, Gender and Occupational Sector in Employment-Related Geographical Mobility,” Canadian Studies in Population, 41:3–4 (2014).
  3. First names have been changed to ensure privacy.
  4. R. Wilding, “‘Virtual’ Intimacies? Families Communicating Across Transnational Contexts,” Global Networks 6:2 (February 28, 2006), doi:10.1111/j.1471-0374.2006.00137.x.

 


Steven High is a Professor of History at Concordia University and co-founder of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling.

Lysiane Goulet Gervais recently graduated from Concordia University’s art therapy program with a master’s degree.

Michelle Duchesneau is a graduate student at Concordia University’s School for Community and Public Affairs.

Dany Guay-Bélanger is currently working toward a master’s degree in the public history program at Carleton University.

Photo: New condominium complexes now line Montreal’s Lachine Canal. Photograph by David W. Lewis.

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Published on April 25, 2017

 

Infographic: Women, Caregiving and Work in Canada

Caregiving is a fact of life and a common family experience in Canada. At some point in their lives, most family members have provided – or will provide – care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging need. However, Canadians don’t share a single narrative or caregiving experience, as social, economic, cultural and environmental factors shape who is expected to provide care, what kind of care they provide and the consequences of managing caregiving in addition to paid work.

And while the gap between women and men has lessened over the past generation, caregivers have historically been disproportionately women, and this remains true today. Research also shows that on average, women in Canada devote more time to caregiving tasks than men and are more likely to experience negative consequences as a result of their caregiving.

Our new infographic explores family caregiving and work in Canada with a focus on women.

Highlights include:

  • 30% of all women in Canada reported that they provided care in 2012.
  • Women aged 45 and older reported having spent an estimated 5.8 years providing care throughout their lives, compared with 3.4 years for men.
  • Women are significantly more likely than men to report having spent 20 hours or more per week providing care (17% and 11%, respectively).
  • An estimated 72% of women caregivers aged 45 to 65 in Canada are also employed.
  • Women reported experiencing a variety of employment impacts as a result of their caregiving responsibilities: 30% reported missing at least one full day of work; 6.4% retired early, quit or lost their paid job; and 4.7% turned down a job offer or promotion.
  • Estimates show that women caregivers in Canada lost an aggregated $221 million in wages annually between 2003 and 2008 due to absenteeism, reducing work hours or leaving employment entirely.
  • Among women caregivers who have access to flexible work arrangements, half (47%) feel they cannot utilize these options without it having a negative impact on their careers.

 

Download the infographic from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Circuits of Care: Mobility, Work and Managing Family Relationships

January 10, 2017

Sara Dorow, PhD, and Shingirai Mandizadza, PhDc

Fort McMurray and the oil sands industry of northern Alberta have become a quintessential destination for long-distance labour commuters: workers who regularly travel from and to a distant home base on rotational work schedules, usually of a week or more, and who more often than not stay in work camps located near bitumen extraction and processing projects. They come from as far away as Halifax and Detroit to work at jobs ranging from safety coordination to pipe maintenance to camp catering. In 2015, the more than 100 work camps in the area had the capacity to house some 70,000 workers.1

Such “mobile work” involves some fairly complex dynamics of support, as workers and their families care for each other at home and then across distances; as camp staff provide for the food, sleep and leisure needs of workers; and as camp staff and oil workers (both of whom are “mobile”) devise forms of self-care within and across all of these spaces. Interviews with more than 75 mobile workers in four work camps in the region have revealed a nexus of care involving relationships that are stretched out across the distances of the labour commute while simultaneously intensified on each end of the commute, at home and in camp.

Communication helps to ease emotional challenges of being away from family

How do workers manage familial networks while away from home on their work rotations? Staying connected through phone calls, texts or video chats is, of course, a key feature of the practices that help to sustain the worker and maintain family relations. First and foremost, these communications help to ease the emotional challenges of being in camp and away from family, and they contribute to making time in between shifts bearable. A camp housekeeper told us that she talked to her son and daughter every day “to try to stay sane,” while a trades worker from Eastern Canada used a more colourful description: trying not to go “shack wacky.”

Staying connected through phone calls, texts or video chats is … a key feature of the practices that help to sustain the worker and maintain family relations.

Communications were thus, in many ways, about managing the time away from home. Sometimes this involved counting down the rotation together. As one male camp cook put it, “What I do with my wife is, for instance,] [each day when we talk] we will count down the days till I’m coming back.” For some workers, schedules for making contact are followed rigorously, at the same time every day. A construction worker named Derek called his wife four times a day. And for Phyllis, a camp housekeeper, the fact that she could regularly call her husband and “see” her grandchildren made everything “all good.”

One young trades worker from Eastern Canada, when asked as he sat alone eating dinner if he would be interested in a short interview, glanced at his phone and said he wouldn’t have much time: this was the only window of time during the day – after his shift in Alberta and right before her bedtime in Newfoundland – when he and his girlfriend were both free to talk. Sure enough, two minutes later his phone rang.

Talk of time also included planning together how it would be spent when workers returned home on their days off. Tim, who talked about “pushing through” his seven days, said that when talking to friends and family on the phone, “We try to line up some stuff to do for that week off, so I’ll have something to look forward to when I go home.”

Communication facilitates remote parenting and alleviates “FOMO”

A second and related facet of long-distance communication is the quest to keep current on what is happening in the lives of family and friends far away, often driven by FOMO (fear of missing out).

One seasoned housekeeper pointed to the crucial rhythms of keeping information flowing with her adult children and grandchildren: “I might go two to three days without talking to them, you know, which is not a big deal. They know mom’s fine and everything else, but, I mean, after the third day, something’s gotta be new, you know? Like, the other day, they went for a bike ride, so they got to tell me everything about the bike ride they went on – my daughter and my granddaughter – so, she was just, you know, excited. Something new to tell me.”

For those with children, communicating across the distance served yet a third purpose: remote parenting. An ironworker in a joint custody arrangement described the series of activities across space and time that were enfolding around his teenage daughter’s tendency to skip school. A phone call from the school led to a phone conversation with his daughter, which paved the way for the conversation they would have face to face when he returned. With a mortgage, a truck, and a daughter and ex-wife to support, mobile work in the oil sands seemed his only option, and this, in turn, brought practical ways of stretching out and intensifying relations of care while away and at home.

“Too much” communication can be distracting

However, managing and maintaining one’s mental health and well-being in camp can also mean keeping long-distance family and social relations “in their place.” For a portion of these workers, and more commonly for men in the trades, family life was a distraction that needed to be held at bay if one was to stay in work mode. Sometimes it was the heartache of being too regularly reminded of distance from family that was distracting.2

Ricky, a day labourer from Eastern Canada who often stayed in camp for months on end, described how painfully bittersweet it was to watch families enjoying time together when he drove into the city of Fort McMurray on weekends. And for others, it was the headache of dealing with ongoing family matters at a distance that was distracting. Omar, a camp custodial worker, described how stressful things could be in his home and family life. Drawing his hands up alongside each side of his head to mimic blinders, Omar said that when he was on rotation, “It’s just about work.”

Community “back home” helps workers manage family responsibilities

Mobile workers sometimes dealt with the problem of distance through forms of reciprocity and exchange with friends, neighbours or extended family back home. For male long-distance commuters with families, these arrangements helped to ease concern about how family back home would cope while they were away for weeks at a time. One trades worker described how a male friend back home helped his wife with chores such as yard work during his two-week rotation; he then reciprocated by carrying out maintenance and home repairs for the friend after he returned home from rotation.

Mobile workers sometimes dealt with the problem of distance through forms of reciprocity and exchange with friends, neighbours or extended family back home.

In some instances, it was spatial rearrangements of care work back home that accommodated mobile work. Marco, a construction manager, relocated his young family to the Caribbean to take advantage of the favourable weather and the cheaper childcare. Together, these factors made life easier for his wife during his long absences and easier for him on his return home.

While there are not many women with young or school-age children participating in mobile work in the oil sands, it was often the care of grandparents and especially grandmothers that made mobile work a viable option. A housekeeper named Martha felt that being away for three weeks at a time from her two school-age children back in Nova Scotia was “worth it because I’m making more money here than back home.” It was also doable because her parents, who lived nearby, actually moved into her home with the children while she was away.

Flexible circuits of care help accommodate employee mobility

These circuits of care help us see that a big part of managing and surviving camp life is about maintaining long-distance familial and social networks. It’s these relationships of care and support that help oil sands workers to manage their multiple responsibilities.

Our research thus addresses some of the existing research on long-distance labour commuting and family in ways that we hope open up further inquiry. First, we start from the perspective of mobile workers while they are away from home. Second, we include both resource sector workers and service sector workers, thus broadening the gendered scope of analysis and complicating the normative imagery of mobile work (man on the move, wife and children back home). And finally, we do not assume that mobility has only or mostly negative impacts on care or family relations. Such arrangements can have both advantages and disadvantages for workers and their families3 and entail a mix of transformations and entrenchments of gender and family arrangements of care.4

A team of research assistants contributed to this project. We especially acknowledge and thank Marcella Cassiano (PhDc) for conducting many of the interviews in work camps.

Notes

  1. Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, “The Municipal Census 2015 Report” (2015).
  2. Christopher Jones and Chris Southcott, “Mobile Miners: Work, Home, and Hazards in the Yukon’s Mining Industry,” The Northern Review 41 (June 15, 2015).
  3. Mark Shrimpton and Keith J. Storey, The Effects of Offshore Employment in the Petroleum Industry: A Cross-National Perspective (Washington, DC: US Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Environmental Studies Program, 2001).
  4. Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Kamalini Ramdas, “Gender, Migration, Mobility and Transnationalism,” Journal of Applied Statistics 21:10 (November 2014).

About the On the Move Partnership

The On the Move Partnership is a research initiative that includes the Vanier Institute of the Family and 40 researchers from across Canada and around the world. This project is investigating how employment-related geographic mobility (E-RGM) affects households and communities, and how it influences and impacts prosperity across Canada. To learn more about the On the Move Partnership, visit our project page.

Sara Dorow, PhD, is Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Alberta, where she teaches and conducts research in the areas of globalization, race and culture, gender and family, qualitative methods and the idea of community. She currently heads the Alberta team for the On the Move Partnership.  

Shingirai Mandizadza is a Sociology PhD candidate at the University of Alberta. She currently works with Sara Dorow in the On the Move Partnership on a project that explores the gendering of work-related mobility in the oil sands of northeast Alberta.

A Snapshot of Workplace Mental Health in Canada

At some point in our lives, we are all affected by mental illness, whether through personal experience or that of a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague. Mental health conditions can have a significant impact on individuals, but they can also “trickle up” to have a detrimental effect on workplaces, communities, the economy and society at large – no one remains untouched. It is therefore vital that support for mental health be multi-faceted and every bit as prevalent as the conditions it seeks to address.

Stigma remains a major barrier to care for those living with a mental illness, many of whom are receiving, and benefiting from, care and support from their families.

This edition of the Vanier Institute of the Family Statistical Snapshots series explores mental health, families and work – three key parts of our lives that intersect and interact in complex ways that affect our well-being.

Highlights include:

  • 4 in 10 Canadians have a family member with a mental health problem.
  • At least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems in any given week.
  • Mental illness accounts for an estimated 30% of all disability claims and 70% of disability costs.
  • Stigma remains an issue, with 1 in 5 surveyed Canadian employees saying they believe that whether or not someone becomes mentally ill is “fully within their control.”
  • 4 in 10 surveyed Canadian employees say they would not tell their manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem.
  • More than 7 in 10 Canadians who are affected by a family member’s mental health problem provided care to them, and 68% say they are not embarrassed about their family member’s mental health condition.

 

Download from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Understanding the Impact of Fort McMurray Wildfires on Foreign National Family Caregivers

The recent wildfire in northern Alberta, which began in early May and has only recently been brought under control, has had a profound impact on Fort McMurray and its surrounding communities. Approximately 2,400 buildings were destroyed, including many family homes and businesses, and the fire ravaged nearly 600,000 hectares of land. Many of the families in the region have experienced significant trauma due to their losses, the evacuation of more than 80,000 people and the overall impact on the community.

Live-in caregivers (foreign nationals living in Canadian homes and employed to provide child or adult care) working in and around Fort McMurray have been strongly affected by these events. These people comprise a unique and important workforce that is highly educated and experienced, and are “crucial to bridging work–family relations for their employers, especially those who work in the oil sands industry,” notes Dr. Sara Dorow, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Alberta in Live-in Caregivers in Fort McMurray: A Socioeconomic Footprint.

Dorow explores the impact of the wildfire on the caregiver workforce in a new study, Caregiver Policy in Canada and Experiences after the Wildfire: Perspectives of Caregivers in Fort McMurray, which reports on findings from an online survey of 56 live-in caregivers working in and around Fort McMurray.

Key findings include:

  • Caregiver evacuees are experiencing emotional and financial stress as a result of uncertainty with regard to their continued employment and housing – realities that are “tied together” through dependency on a single employer.
  • The fire has caused stress over the disruption to their pathway to permanent residency, which requires the completion of 24 months or 3,900 hours of work.
  • Despite these experiences, many expressed gratitude for the emergency relief funds and donations they have received from employers, friends, family and the community. Few report having applied for Employment Insurance.

The study was carried out as part of On the Move, a research partnership that includes the Vanier Institute of the Family and 40 researchers from across Canada and around the world. This partnership investigates how employment-related geographic mobility (E-RGM) affects households and communities, and how E-RGM influences and impacts Canadian prosperity.

Timeline: Fifty Years of Men, Work and Family in Canada

Over the past half century, fatherhood in Canada has undergone a significant evolution as men are increasingly sharing the “breadwinning” role, embracing caring responsibilities and integrating their responsibilities at home, at work and in their communities.

To explore these trends and the social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts that shape – and are shaped by – fatherhood and family relationships, we’ve created a 50-year timeline for Father’s Day 2016. Some highlights include:

  • More fathers are taking time off to care for their newborn children. More than one-quarter (27%) of all recent fathers in Canada reported in 2014 that they took (or intended to take) parental leave, up from only 3% in 2000.
  • The number of “stay-at-home” fathers is on the rise. Fathers accounted for approximately 11% of stay-at-home parents in 2014, up from only 1% in 1976.
  • Fathers of young children are absent from work more frequently for family-related reasons. Fathers of children under the age of 5 report missing an average 2.0 days of work in 2015 due to personal or family responsibilities, up from 1.2 days in 2009.
  • Fewer “lone fathers” are living in low income. In 2008, 7% of persons in lone-parent families headed by men lived in low income, down from 18% in 1976.
  • Fathers are increasingly helping with housework. Men who report performing household work devoted an average 184 minutes on these tasks in 2010, up from 171 minutes in 1998.
  • Fathers with flex are more satisfied with their work–life balance. More than eight in 10 (81%) full-time working fathers with children under age 18 who have a flexible schedule reported in 2012 being satisfied with their work–life balance, compared with 76% for those without a flexible schedule.
  • A growing number of children find it easier to talk to dad. In 2013–2014, 66% of 11-year-old girls and 75% of boys the same age say they find it easy to talk to their father about things that really bother them, up from 56% and 72%, respectively, two decades earlier.

This bilingual resource is a perpetual publication, and it will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Enjoy our new timeline, and happy Father’s Day to Canada’s 8.6 million dads!

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Modern Fathers Reshaping the Work–Family Relationship

Nathan Battams

Canada’s “family landscape” is constantly evolving, with social, economic, cultural and environmental forces shaping and redefining family roles and relationships. Fatherhood is no exception, and today’s increasingly diverse 8.6 million dads in Canada are now taking a much greater role in family life than in previous generations.1 Many are moving away from the “traditional” breadwinning father figure to embrace a more caring role and are assuming more household management responsibilities. In doing so, modern dads are renegotiating and reshaping the relationship between fatherhood and work.

Men are “breadwinning” less while more women are taking on more paid work

As the participation of mothers in the paid labour market increased over the past 50 years along with a rise in dual-earner families, the share of “breadwinning dads” has fallen significantly. According to Statistics Canada, in 1976, 36% of families in Canada with at least one child age 16 and under had two earners in the paid labour force. By 2014, this accounted for 69% of these families. Another Statistics Canada study found that, in the same period, the proportion of single-earner families with the father as the sole earner dropped from 51% to only 17%.

Some fathers in couple families are stepping out of the paid labour market altogether to become the lead or primary parent, more commonly known as “stay-at-home” dads, either on a temporary basis while taking care of young children or permanently. Approximately 1% of fathers in single-earner families reported being stay-at-home dads 40 years ago – a rate that has since risen to 11%.

Canada is not alone in this regard. Data from a 2015 report from Pew Research Center suggests a similar trend in the United States, with 7% of US dads with children in the household reporting in 2012 that they “do not work outside the home,” up from 4% in 1989. Among these fathers, the share who said they are staying home to care for family more than quadrupled in this period to 21% (up from 5% in 1989).

Family relationships benefit from dads increasing involvement at home

Alongside these trends, data from the General Social Survey on time use suggests that modern fathers are devoting more time to family. Men report spending more time with family, increasing from 360 minutes per day in 1986 to 379 minutes in 2010. The average number of days fathers of preschool children miss from work for personal or family responsibilities rose from 1.8 days throughout 1997 to 2.0 days in 2015. The gender gap in housework has also been found to have declined in recent generations, with men reporting spending more time on these tasks than 30 years ago.

While only 3% of recent fathers across Canada took time off to receive paid parental leave benefits in 2000, more than one-quarter (27%) reported their intention to do so in 2014. This rate is significantly higher in Quebec (78%), where paternity benefits are offered to new dads in addition to parental benefits under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). Quebec is currently the only province to offer paternity benefits, although the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour recently expressed interest in setting aside time for dads by making paternity leave a part of the proposed changes to Canada’s parental benefits program.

Greater father involvement can have an impact on family life and family relationships. In a study comparing parental leave in Quebec with the rest of Canada, author Ankita Patnaik found a “large and persistent impact” on gender dynamics in the three-year period following a father’s use of paternity leave. According to her study, fathers who took leave remained more likely to do housework, while mothers were more likely to engage in paid work. Under QPIP, Quebec dads also spent an average half-hour more per day at the family home than those outside of Quebec.

With all this evolution under way across North America, it is perhaps no wonder that many people feel as though their fathers are more involved than in the past. The Pew report mentioned earlier also found that nearly half (46%) of surveyed American fathers say they personally spend more time with their children than their fathers spent with them. In Canada, a Today’s Parent poll found that three-quarters (75%) of surveyed men said that they are more involved with their children than their fathers had been with them.

Children may also be feeling the effect of greater father involvement. According to international HBSC surveys conducted by the World Health Organization in 1993–94 and 2013–14, a growing share of 11-year-old children say they “find it easy” to talk to their fathers about things that really bother them – from 56% to 66% among girls, and from 72% to 75% for boys.

Work–life balance on modern fathers’ minds

As most fathers today are still working while also taking on a greater role in the family home, work–life balance has naturally become a growing part of the discussion about modern fatherhood. Recent data from Statistics Canada shows that most fathers – nearly eight in 10 (78%) – report being satisfied with their work–life balance. Family is central to the “life” in the work–life equation: among parents who said that they were not satisfied, the main cited reason for their dissatisfaction was “not having enough time for family life.”

Through their work–life policies and practices, employers play a significant role in enhancing and supporting the work–life quality of fathers. The same Statistics Canada study found that the share of fathers who report being satisfied with their work–life balance was consistently higher among those who have a flexible schedule (81%, vs. 76% for those without), who can take advantage of a flexible work schedule without a negative impact on their career (83%, vs. 74% for those who cannot), who have the possibility of taking leave without pay to care for their children (79%, vs. 71% for those who do not), and for those who have the possibility of taking leave without pay to provide care to a spouse, partner or other family member (81%, vs. 72% for those who do not).

“The share of fathers who report being satisfied with their work–life balance is higher for those with flexible work environments and with the option to take unpaid leave to care for their children and families.”

What’s good for the family is good for the workplace

Flexibility and work–life balance satisfaction go hand in hand, which means organizations with flexible, family/father-friendly policies are more likely to attract and retain top talent who are (or plan to become) fathers. Conversely, those that do not practise flex may drive away and/or fail to attract dads – in fact, half (49%) of surveyed fathers in Canada said they would consider making a job change if a potential employer offered more family-friendly options than their current employer, according to a Harris/Decima poll.

Modern fathers aren’t caring more, they’re just providing care differently

While fathers have always cared for their families, today’s generation is becoming increasingly involved in family caring roles – a shift that brings with it benefits for family life and family relationships. While dads from previous generations provided their care through a greater emphasis on paid work and financial stability, today’s fathers are more directly involved in their children’s early years, are spending more time with family, and are seeking workplaces that support their evolving role in family life. By taking on these new roles, they are redefining what fatherhood means to families, workplaces and their communities.

 


Nathan Battams is responsible for publications and social media at the Vanier Institute of the Family.

 

Note

1 Caryn Pearson, “The Impact of Mental Health Problems on Family Members,” Health at a Glance (October 7, 2015), Statistics Canada catalogue no. 82-624-X.Link: 

Intergenerational Relations and Societal Change

Donna S. Lero, Ph.D.

In order to better understand families’ experiences and aspirations, it is crucial to understand the context in which families and their individual members live. Families are society’s most adaptable institution, constantly reacting to cultural, social and economic forces while affecting those same forces through their thoughts and behaviour. A number of recent and projected demographic and social trends are expected to have a significant impact on relationships between different generations, and exploring these shifting contexts can provide valuable insight into how intergenerational relations are affected and the potential impacts they have on social cohesion within families and in different generations – the question of intergenerational equity.

Population aging increases caregiving needs and lengthens intergenerational relationships

Population aging is a feature of most developed societies, a result of low fertility rates and people living longer. These two forces are transforming the traditional population pyramid to a more rectangular shape, shifting the size and proportion of older populations in society. In Canada, the proportion of the population 65 years and over increased from 8% in 1971 to 15.3% in 2013, and will be close to 25% in 2050.

Canada is not alone in this regard: across Europe, the proportion of the population aged 80 and over is expected to increase from 4% in 2010 to close to 10% by 2050, with substantially higher proportions in Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea. These trends have major implications for government planning in order to address pensions, health care costs, home and residential care, and supports for family caregivers.

Of increasing concern is the projection that there will be more individuals in their advanced years, with fewer children and grandchildren to provide care and assistance. Using census data, Janice Keefe and her colleagues have projected that the number of elderly people needing assistance in Canada will double in the next 30 years and that the decline in the availability of children will increase the need for home care and formal care, particularly over the longer term. Notably, it is projected that close to one in four elderly women may not have a surviving child by 2031.

Lero_EN

Baby boomers continue to be the largest population group, still dominating the workforce, but starting to reach traditional retirement age. This group is experiencing caregiving pressures for aging parents and facing significant challenges managing paid work and care. In 2007, 37% of employed women and 29% of employed men aged 45–64 were caregivers, and those proportions are set to increase. At the same time, an estimated 28% of caregivers still have one or more children aged 18 or younger at home.

A recent trend in Canada and the U.S. is an increasing proportion of “older workers” typically defined as 55 years and older. Still healthy and capable, many people in their 60s and 70s are either prolonging careers or taking new jobs, often to supplement savings and/or limited pension income that will not last through their full retirement years. Canadian federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for seniors have identified the promotion of workplace supports for older workers, including supports to balance work and care, as one of two priority areas for the coming years.

In addition to being the largest population group, baby boomers have encountered different social circumstances growing up than their parents did. In the U.S. and Canada, they have been influenced by changes in women’s rights and roles, the sexual revolution, higher rates of divorce and enhanced educational opportunities. The longevity of the boomers’ relationships to their siblings and to aging parents has been described as “unprecedented” and their experiences as caregivers to their aging parents and their expectations and capacities as they age will significantly influence policy developments related to pensions, health care and long-term care.

Baby boomers have also had particularly close relationships with their children, and a poor economy that is limiting their young adult children’s opportunities and contributing to delayed family formation and careers is a source of significant concern. As a result, many boomers are concurrently providing substantial care to aging parents with chronic illnesses; have significant ties to siblings who, like themselves, may be carefully monitoring their retirement savings and possibly planning to extend their involvement in the labour force; and are providing support to their own children. Siblings, parents and grandparents today have a greater amount of time together than in previous generations. Vern Bengston has described this as a positive trend at the micro level, as it creates prolonged periods for shared experiences and opportunities for exchange that can strengthen intergenerational solidarity, despite a general societal trend at the macro level toward weakening norms governing intergenerational relations.

Greater diversity in family forms increases the role of “chosen families”

Baby boomers and their adult children have experienced higher rates of separation and divorce, remarriage, blended families and common-law arrangements than previous generations. An increase in same-sex unions and marriages is also evident. These complex and diverse relationships can result in what Karen Fingerman describes as “complex emotional, legal and financial demands” from former partners, estranged parents and relatives such as former in-laws or stepchildren. While complicating the nature of relationships and creating ambiguous expectations for exchange and support, Bengston suggests that the diverse network of relationships can provide a broader “latent kin network” (sometimes referred to as “fictive kin”) that can provide additional support when needed.

This latent kin network, which increasingly includes close friends who function “like family,” may substitute for or augment the support available from fewer or estranged family members, who may be geographically distant and/or have weaker ties over time. Interesting policy questions emerge when legal rights, financial benefits and other supports that were developed with heterosexual nuclear families in mind do not extend to the broader diversity and complexity of family forms evident in modern societies.

Longer transitions for youth into the labour market increases intergenerational dependency

A variety of cultural, social and economic conditions has been identified as factors that are contributing to a prolonged transition to adulthood in North America. Evidence of this lengthy and sometimes precarious transition to financial independence includes young adults’ extended involvement in education, a higher proportion living at home with their parents than previously, delayed and difficult entries into the job market and into long-term career paths, and delayed conjugal formation and child-bearing.

These processes have been occurring over a period of time, but are increasingly evident and in contrast to the experiences of previous generations at the same age. Young people’s experiences have led to longer periods of financial dependency on parents at the micro level and they are contributing to emerging concerns about intergenerational equity at a broader social level.

Given increasingly tight job prospects and the importance of education for good jobs in a knowledge-based economy, more young adults are turning to post-secondary education programs and the gaining of credentials as a way to increase employment opportunities and earnings. In Canada and other OECD countries, almost half of those in their early 20s are attending educational institutions full-time. Consequently, the tendency to stay in school longer, in conjunction with the extended time it takes to obtain employment in a related field, is increasing the average duration of the school-to-work transition.

Although post-secondary education adds human capital for individuals and for society, the benefits of a university degree may not be evident when graduates have difficulty finding suitable employment, as has been the case in recent years. Those with only a high school education face an even more difficult time finding a job that pays a living wage.

A complicating factor for many university graduates in Canada and the U.S. is the level of student debt. According to a 2013 Bank of Montreal student survey, current university students in Canada anticipate graduating with over $26,000 in debt. Student debt levels have escalated, particularly in the last decade, as tuition fees have increased – a function of limited government funding. Current student loan programs require that graduates begin repayment almost immediately after graduation. In addition to the anxiety accumulated debt produces for students, it is a substantial impediment to gaining financial independence from parents and it contributes to delaying marriage, child-bearing, home ownership and other purchases.

A serious concern, reflected in a growing number of current news reports, is the challenge young adults have finding jobs that afford a living wage. As described by James Côté and John Bynner, “Today’s young people face a labour market characterized by an increasing wage gap with older workers, earnings instability, more temporary and part-time jobs, lower-quality jobs with fewer benefits and more instability in employment.” These authors go on to state an additional concern: that “the decreased utility of youth labour in the context of this job competition has produced a growing age-based disparity of income (emphasis mine), contributing to increasingly prolonged and precarious transitions to financial independence.”

Statistics Canada has reported that, in 2011, 42.3% of young adults aged 20–29 lived in the parental home, either because they had never left it or because they returned home after living elsewhere. Most telling is the finding that, among 25- to 29-year-olds, one-quarter (25.2%) lived in their parental home in 2011, more than double the 11.3% observed in 1981.

The Pew Research Center’s report on the millennial generation in the U.S. (aged 18–33) has noted marked generational changes in the age of marriage. In 2013, just 26% of the millennial generation was married, compared to 48% of baby boomers (aged 50–64) when they were the same age. The current pattern of delayed child-bearing evident in Canada is a natural consequence. People are having fewer children (if any) and having them later. Beginning in 2005, fertility rates of mothers in their 30s has outnumbered the rates observed among mothers in their 20s. In 2011, 2.1% of all first-time mothers who gave birth that year were in their 40s, up from 0.5% in 1991.

Higher rates of immigration lead to greater diversity in intergenerational relationships

Rates of international immigration have increased dramatically in recent decades, spurred by greater opportunity to do so and economic needs. For many years, Canada has relied on international migration as a source of population and labour force growth. Resettlement policies and services aid in the transition of newcomers, promoting the learning of English or French, enhancing access to health and community services, and facilitating a smoother transition to the labour force.

Although newcomers may be more dependent on immediate family members for support, they experience wider discrepancies in expectations between generations in the family as a result of acculturation. For example, cultural and religious values may place particular emphasis on respect for elders and filial obligations to provide support, yet studies of immigrants from diverse backgrounds suggest that immigration and acculturation can place significant strains on newcomer families. This can particularly be the case when aging parents expect filial support and reject formal support and their adult children face economic challenges that require their involvement in precarious employment, multiple jobs or work that involves long hours or non-standard schedules.

In summary, multiple factors, including population aging, low fertility rates, increasing diversity in family forms, delayed transitions to financial independence and high rates of international immigration, affect the nature of intergenerational relations at both the micro and macro levels. As the population in Canada continues to age, generations will share relationships for longer periods of time. Longer intergenerational relationships mean that families (whether related by blood or marriage or “chosen” circles of kin) will have a greater amount of time in which members can provide support and care for each other, regardless of the context in which they live. Challenges include ensuring that supports are available that sustain caring relationships over time, especially in more complex circumstances and in a context of limited and fragmented supports for caregiving.

 


Dr. Donna S. Lero is a Professor in the Department of Family Relations and is the Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work at the University of Guelph. She leads a program of research on public policies, workplace practices and community supports in the Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being, which she co-founded.

 

This article is an edited excerpt from Intergenerational Relations and Social Cohesion, a background paper prepared for the Regional Expert Group Panel Meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family and first published in Transition magazine.

Public Policy Brief – Flex: From a Privilege to a Right

Sara MacNaull

Working family members are multi-taskers, managing a variety of responsibilities at home, at work and in their communities. While family members demonstrate a great deal of adaptability in managing multiple roles, they benefit from workplaces that are respectful of their lives outside of work and responsive to their requests for flexibility and autonomy.

Workplace flexibility continues to be a topic of great interest to individuals, families, employers and policy makers. There are many approaches to creating flexible work environments, including modifications, adaptations and accommodations that impact when, where and how work gets done.

Workplace flexibility: A win-win-win strategy

Families are not the only ones who benefit from workplace flexibility as family members strive to effectively manage their multiple roles. Employers are embracing workplace flexibility as a key lever to attract and retain top talent in a competitive job market. Society benefits by having a stable workforce and an economy fuelled by organizations operating at peak performance.

Recently the Prime Minister of Canada identified workplace flexibility as a “top priority” in the mandate letter to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. In particular, the Minister was instructed to:

Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to fulfill our commitments to provide more generous and flexible leave for caregivers and more flexible parental leave.

… and to

Amend the Canada Labour Code to allow workers to formally request flexible work arrangements from their employers and consult with provinces and territories on the implementation of similar changes in provincially regulated sectors.

The proposed amendments to the Labour Code would mean that employees would be given the legal right to formally request flexible work arrangements from their employers.

Currently, in Canada there is no formal, legal mechanism for employees to request flex, and supervisors/managers are not legally required to consider such requests – the response is at the discretion of the employer. The right to request flex is considered by some to be a privilege for employees, and depends on the supervisor/manager’s personal perspective. Responses to requests are shaped by the culture of their organization. Right-to-request-flex legislation would change this by formalizing and normalizing this process while ensuring that employers justify why they refuse to grant the request, should they need to do so.

The Vanier Institute recently studied workplace flexibility in a benchmarking initiative that included a survey of employers and HR professionals. This survey found that employers offering flex is no longer considered optional, and is in fact key to attracting and retaining top talent in today’s competitive labour market. Many participants in the study also said that flex is already a right in their organization, as opposed to an employee privilege.

Flex is already a right elsewhere

Countries such as Australia and the U.K., as well as parts of the U.S., have implemented the right to request flex in their respective employment/labour legislations and/or regulations. However, eligibility requirements vary and, depending on the jurisdiction, it may not be available to all employees.

In Australia, the right to request flexible work arrangements (FWAs) was introduced through the Fair Work Act 2009, which provides employees who meet the eligibility requirements the legal right to request flexible work. Eligible employees include those:

  • Who are parents or who have the responsibility to care for a child who is school-aged or younger
  • With caregiving responsibilities (as defined by the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • With a disability
  • Who are aged 55 years and up
  • Who are experiencing family violence or caring for someone who is experiencing family violence
  • Who have worked for the employer for at least one year (though long-term casual employees may also be eligible)

In the U.K., the right to request flex was extended to all employees in 2014. Previously, this right had been limited to parents and carers, similar to some of the eligibility requirements in Australia.

In the U.S., eligibility requirements vary depending on the legislation within a particular jurisdiction. For example, employees within the state of Vermont were granted the right to request flex in 2014, the same year in which both the city of San Francisco employees and all federal U.S. employees were granted such a right.

Right to request differs from right to flex

In Australia and the U.K., the employer must provide, in writing, specific reasons for refusing a request for flex. The refusal must be due to reasonable business grounds, such as extra costs to the employer; significant loss in productivity, quality or performance; resulting inability to meet customer demands; or inability to reorganize work among other staff members.

While details of the pending right to request flex legislation are not public as of publication date, measures to facilitate flexible work could provide families with further support as they strive to manage their various responsibilities, commitments and obligations. For families, this means that work–life quality may be improved by having the time and energy to care for others and care for oneself while remaining a productive and committed employee.

 


Alternative work arrangements (AWAs) are temporary arrangements that differ from the norm within an organization (i.e. standard “9-to-5” workdays) and are case-by-case “one-offs” tailored to an employee’s short-term needs. These arrangements focus on the employee’s time in the office. Examples may include a phased return from maternity or parental leave for a pre-defined period of time or an adjustment to start and end times during the recovery period following an illness or injury.

Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) allow employees more flexibility and autonomy around when, where and how works gets done. FWAs help employees manage their multiple roles inside and outside the office. Though some employees may find it daunting to ask their supervisors for flex, as it may be perceived as an employee privilege, for many families it’s a necessity in order for them to manage the everyday needs of family. Examples of FWAs include remote work, compressed work weeks, job sharing and flex hours.

Customized work arrangements (CWAs) are individualized and personalized work arrangements that tailor when, where and how work gets done. Unlike AWAs and FWAs, these arrangements are fluid, extend over long periods or are modified as circumstances change. Employees are evaluated on output and productivity through a results-based approach, rather than a “clock-in/clock-out” approach focused on time spent physically present in the workplace. Examples include Mass Career CustomizationTM, for example, workload dial-up or dial-down, depending on an employee’s situation.


 

Sara MacNaull is Program Director at the Vanier Institute of the Family and is currently working toward earning the Work–Life Certified Professional designation.

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Timeline: Fifty Years of Women, Work and Family in Canada

While mothers in Canada have always played a central role in family life, there’s no question that the social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts that shape – and are shaped by – motherhood have evolved over time.

A growing share of mothers are managing paid work and family responsibilities compared with previous generations, and the dynamic relationships between women, work and family continue to evolve. To explore these relationships through a broader lens, we’ve created a 50-year timeline for Mother’s Day 2016 that explores some of the long-term trends over the past half century, including:

  • An increase in women’s participation in the paid labour force, which has grown from 40% in 1968 to 82% in 2014 for those aged 25 to 54
  • A growing share of “breadwinning” moms among single-earner couple families, which has steadily increased from 4% of earners in these families in 1976 to 21% in 2014
  • A significant drop in the low-income rate among single mothers, which has fallen from 54% in 1976 to 21% in 2008
  • A declining fertility rate, which stood at 3.94 women per children in 1959 during the peak of the baby boom, but has since dropped to 1.61 in 2011
  • A continually rising average age of first-time mothers, up from 24.3 years of age in 1974 to 28.5 in 2011
  • A greater amount of time mothers are spending with family, with women reporting 421 minutes (7 hours) per day with family in 2010, up from 403 minutes (6.7 hours) in 1986

This bilingual resource is a perpetual publication, and it will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Enjoy our new timeline, and happy Mother’s Day to Canada’s 9.8 million moms!

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Work–Family Conflict Among Single Parents in the Canadian Armed Forces

Alla Skomorovsky, PhD

The demands of military life can be particularly stressful for military families due to deployments, relocations, foreign residency, periodic family separations, risk of injury or death of the military member, and long and unpredictable duty hours.

Although military families can usually manage demands individually, research has shown that competing and intersecting demands leave some feeling overwhelmed. This can be particularly true for single parents in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), who often manage these multiple roles with fewer resources. This could help explain why enlisted single parents (men and women) have been shown in previous research to be less satisfied with military life than their married counterparts.

Work–family conflict occurs when demands in the work domain are incompatible with demands in the family domain. Despite growing evidence that work–family conflict could be a considerable problem in Canada’s military families, the number of studies examining this topic is relatively small. In a recent qualitative study, the majority of single CAF parents reported that they were able to balance work and family life, but they admitted it was a challenge, primarily because many single parents are often the sole caregivers and financial providers for their families. As one study participant put it,

“So far, the balance between my professional life and my personal life has been quite good. But it’s difficult of course when it’s just me – having to stay late, for example, and still having to work on my phone. I have to have a BlackBerry because I can’t stay late – not as late as I used to anyway. But pretty good, overall.”

Little research exists about work–family conflict in Canada’s military families

Single CAF parents may face multiple deployments and must deal with being separated from their children and not being able to care for them. Caregiver arrangements may be more complicated in these families, as, for example, the children may have to relocate to another city to live with grandparents when their mother or father leaves for a mission. In addition, single parents who experience frequent relocations may find it challenging to establish or re-establish local social networks, which are often a valuable source of support.

A few studies have suggested that single-parent military families have unique military life-related challenges and substantial work–family conflict, but there isn’t much research about this topic in a Canadian context. Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DGMPRA) conducted a study to address this gap and explore the main concerns of single CAF parents. An electronic survey was distributed to a random sample of Regular Force CAF members who had children 19 years of age or younger and were single, divorced, separated or widowed. In total, the results were available for 552 single parents.

Single parents identified financial strain as a top concern; this is consistent with previous research showing that economic hardship is a leading cause of stress for single parents, both military and civilian. The second challenge for single parents was the worry about their child’s health and well-being. Although it has not been previously identified in research of civilian single parents, it is possible that this type of strain was high due to frequent parental absences related to deployment, training, unpredictable/inconsistent hours of work or overtime, common aspects of a military lifestyle. More than 60% of respondents identified financial strain and worry about health and well-being to be of considerable or extreme concern for them (see Figure 1). A large number of these parents (over 50%) were also concerned about dealing with adolescent years, doing the right thing for their children and their heavy demands and responsibilities.

 

Single-CAF-Parents_Chart1

Managing parental and work responsibilities is not impossible, but it is hard

Single parents were asked to rate the extent to which their responsibilities as a service member and as a parent are in conflict. Most do not find it impossible to meet both parental and work responsibilities (see Figure 2). However, about 55% of respondents believe that it is not easy to be both a good parent and service member and feel divided between work and family responsibilities. About 44% of these parents believe it is hard to balance military and parental roles. This is consistent with previous research showing that single military parents are susceptible to experiencing work and family conflict.

 

Single-CAF-Parents_Chart2

 

Further, participants were asked two questions about family life challenges due to occupational demands. When asked about the influence of work on family life, the vast majority of single military parents reported that work interferes with family life to at least some extent (see Figure 3). Approximately 70% of respondents noted that occupational demands sometimes conflicted with their family life, and 64% disclosed that they had missed family events due to occupational requirements.

In order to examine organizational support available to single parents in greater detail, single parents were asked whether they were aware of CAF programs and policies that could assist them in managing family and work demands. The results demonstrate that many single CAF parents are not aware of services available to them. For example, less than 10% of the participants mentioned that they were aware of Military Family Resource Centre services available to single military parents. This feeling was shared by a participant in the previously-mentioned qualitative study:

“Not everything is well advertised; you need to go and ask. If you are moving to the larger city, look for housing close to a [Military Family Resource Centre].”

Single-CAF-Parents_Chart3

 

Single CAF parents would benefit from work–family supports and greater awareness

Many single CAF parents are thriving, but the work–family conflict remains a considerable concern for some. A qualitative study participant expressed:

“I’m mainly concerned that being in the Canadian Forces may throw something unexpected at me, where I will be left in a position to choose between my career or my children.”

Single CAF parents could benefit from an increased awareness of, and access to, family assistance programs (e.g., Family Care Plans) and other programs, including counselling services. Furthermore, increasing awareness among managers and leaders about the work–family conflict challenges of single CAF parents could foster a more flexible and accommodating work environment. Finally, the ability of these parents to manage work and family responsibilities could be enhanced by tailoring programs and services to single parents (e.g., support groups) in order to increase emotional and instrumental support.

Although this research examines the main challenges and work–family conflict among single-parent CAF families, this is only a first step toward a full understanding of their well-being and unique needs. To further address the current gaps in knowledge, DGMPRA has developed a comprehensive research program related to military families, collaborating extensively with academia (e.g., via Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research). This body of research seeks to enhance the lives of Canadian military personnel, Veterans and their families. Supporting families is codified in the Canadian Forces Family Covenant, which acknowledges the immutable relationship between the state of military families and the CAF operational capacity.

 

We recognize the important role families play in enabling the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces and we acknowledge the unique nature of military life. We honour the inherent resilience of families and we pay tribute to the sacrifices of families made in support of Canada…

Canadian Forces Family Covenant

 

Consistent with the Family Covenant, it is important to continue developing the expert knowledge necessary to care for these families and to find ways to best meet their unique needs and ensure their individual and family well-being.

 


Dr. Alla Skomorovsky is a research psychologist at Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DGMPRA), where she is a leader of the Military Families Research team. She conducts quantitative and qualitative research in the areas of resilience, stress, coping, personality and well-being of military families.

Dr. Skomorovsky received the inaugural Colonel Russell Mann Award for her research on work–family conflict and well-being among CAF parents at Forum 2015 – an event hosted by the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research.

 

Suggested Reading

T. Allen, D. Herst, E. Bruck and M. Sutton, “Consequences Associated with Work-to-Family Conflict: A Review and Agenda for Future Research,” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5(2), 278–308 (2000).

G.L. Bowen, D.K. Orthner and L. Zimmerman, “Family Adaptation of Single Parents in the United States Army: An Empirical Analysis of Work Stressors and Adaptive Resources,” Family Relations, 42, 293–304 (1993).

A.L. Day and T. Chamberlain, “Committing to Your Work, Spouse, and Children: Implications for Work–Family Conflict,” Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(1), 116–130 (2006).

A. Skomorovsky and A. Bullock, The Impact of Military Life on Single-Parent Military Families: Well-Being and Resilience (Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis Technical Report DRDC-RDDC-2015-R099), Ottawa, ON: Defence Research and Development Canada (2015).

Family Caregiving in Canada: A Fact of Life and a Human Right

Nathan Battams

At some point in our lives, there is a high likelihood that each of us will provide care to someone we know – and receive care ourselves – at least once. Family members are typically the first to step up to provide, manage and sometimes pay for this care. The forms of family care we provide and receive are so diverse, not to mention second nature, that we may not even think of them as caregiving: driving a sibling to a medical appointment, preparing a meal for a grandparent, picking up a sick child from school – these are all a part of the “landscape of care” in which we live.

Families are highly adaptable and most of the time people find ways to manage their multiple work and family responsibilities, obligations and commitments. However, this can be challenging for some working caregivers, since most who juggle work and caregiving are employed full-time. When working family members, protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, find themselves in a dilemma between providing required care and fulfilling their work obligations – and if they have exhausted other reasonable options to arrange for this care – employers may be obligated under human rights law to accommodate the employee on the basis of family status. Human rights are intended to provide a framework of rights and flexibility so that workers can fulfill both their work and their caregiving obligations.

Accommodation under human rights requires flexibility from employees and employers

Reconciling care and work in a harmonious manner requires respect and recognition from employers of the fact that sometimes family circumstances need focused attention. Ideally, an employer has in place policies that are inclusive, providing both flexible workplaces (which can reduce the number of individual requests) and a process for handling individual requests for accommodation, where this flexibility may not be enough.

Individual requests for accommodation based on family status require that the employee show a substantial caregiving obligation – it cannot simply be a personal choice to do something for a family member. For example, a parent leaving work to drive a child to extracurricular activities would be a personal choice, whereas leaving work to drive them to a hospital if they could not find an available caregiver would be considered an obligation.

Reconciling care and work in a harmonious manner requires respect and recognition from employers of the fact that sometimes family circumstances need focused attention.

Obligation alone, however, is not enough. The employee must demonstrate that they have attempted to reconcile work–care conflicts and have explored all realistic alternatives accessible to them. When individual requests arise, the employer must examine if there is a negative impact on the employee due to a dilemma between caregiving obligations and a practice or rule in the workplace. If this is the case, the employer must allow time for the employee to explore options, discuss the issue with the employee, do an individual assessment of the specific circumstances and consider flexible workplace arrangements (FWAs).

Employers can refuse to accommodate, but only if they can provide evidence that doing so would create “undue hardship” for their organization as a result of adjusting policies, practices, bylaws or physical space to accommodate. Undue hardship has no strict legal definition – each case must be treated within the specific context, taking into account various workplace and operational requirements. Human rights law also requires requests for accommodation to be considered individually, taking into account diverse family roles and expectations. Employers must provide evidence as to the nature and extent of the hardship.

Johnstone v. Canada was a landmark family status case that helped to clarify the types of circumstances in which an employer has a duty to accommodate an employee with parent–child caregiving obligations. Fiona Johnstone and her husband worked full-time on rotating, unpredictable shifts for the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) while raising two toddlers. Her husband also travelled for business. Johnstone requested a full-time fixed shift schedule so she could fulfill her child care obligations. While the CBSA permitted fixed shifts, they only granted them on a part-time basis, so they refused to accommodate the request. The CBSA argued that child care responsibilities are the result of personal choice and did not trigger a “duty to accommodate.”

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with Johnstone, ruling that she had indeed been discriminated against, and the Federal Court dismissed the Attorney General’s application for a judicial review of the case, confirming that parental child care obligations fall within the scope and meaning of the ground “family status” in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Honourable Mr. Justice Mandamin, dismissing the Attorney General’s application for a judicial review in Canada v. Johnstone, stated,

…it is difficult to have regard to family without giving thought to children in the family and the relationship between parents and children. The singular most important aspect of that relationship is the parents’ care for children. It seems to me that if Parliament intended to exclude parental child care obligations, it would have chosen language that clearly said so.

In 2014, this decision was upheld at the Federal Court of Appeal, and it has since been cited in a number of cases in jurisdictions in Canada. But the laws on this still vary slightly across the country. For example, in New Brunswick, Family Status is not a protected ground, and in Ontario it covers only a parent–child relationship, although it applies to those who provide care to an elderly parent.

Caregiving accommodation reduces costs for employees and employers

Employer accommodation of care is not just about ensuring that human rights are recognized and respected – it can also help to mitigate the potential costs to employees and employers that could also result from caregiving. In a recent report, Janet Fast categorizes these costs to caregivers into three main categories: care labour, employment restrictions and out‑of‑pocket expenses.

Care labour costs for employees include time caregivers spend with the care recipient, time spent on behalf of the recipient (e.g. scheduling appointments), time spent getting to/from the recipient and time spent monitoring or managing care. Employment restrictions include reduced working hours or having to quit, experiencing decreased productivity and the resulting career limitations or reduced/forgone income. Out-of-pocket expenses include housing, community services, supplies and transportation that may also be incurred by caregivers.

It is estimated that every year, Canada loses the equivalent of nearly 558,000 full-time employees from the workforce due to the inability to manage the conflicting demands of paid work and care.

The costs faced by employees as a result of caregiving pose direct and indirect costs for employers. Direct costs to employers include higher turnover, absenteeism and additional benefit costs (e.g. health care claims and disability leave for caregiving employees). Indirect costs include reduced return on investment in employees, poorer on-the-job performance and resulting spillover effects to co-workers, supervisors, customers and clients. There are costs to the overall economy as well: in Fast’s report, it is estimated that every year, Canada loses the equivalent of nearly 558,000 full-time employees from the workforce due to the inability to manage the conflicting demands of paid work and care.

Organizations that support employees with family caregiving obligations can benefit in many ways. It can help them align corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments and enhance their public image and organizational reputation. A growing body of research shows that employee productivity, job performance, recruitment and retention benefit from FWAs.

Many diverse approaches can facilitate family caregiving

Family caregiving situations are unique, shaped by the individuals providing and receiving care, the nature of the required care, the occupation of the working caregiver and the organizational culture of their workplace. As such, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

There is growing literature about providing and facilitating FWAs. The Canadian Human Rights Commission published A Guide to Balancing Work and Caregiving Obligations, which outlines a number of FWAs that can facilitate accommodation, including telework; job sharing; different or shifting start and end times; compressed schedules; extended maternity or parental leave; shift changes; compassionate, discretionary or other leave to care for sick family members; leave to provide childcare or eldercare in unanticipated or emergency situations; part-time work with pro-rated benefits; and shifting or sharing work duties or tasks.

Family caregiving rates expected to grow

Caregiving is a common experience within (and between) families, regardless of where they live or where they are from. Accommodation of family caregiving is becoming increasingly relevant as families are getting smaller, Canada’s population ages and the resulting rate and complexity of disability increases. This emerging reality has raised concern about a growing “care gap” in Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, nearly half (46%) of Canadians from coast to coast to coast (13 million) have provided care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging need at some point in their lives – 8 million (28% of the population) did so in 2012 alone.

Canada’s aging population is fuelling caregiving needs across the country. By 2030, seniors are projected to account for close to one in four people (up from 15.3% in 2013), and the number of centenarians is projected to grow from 6,900 to more than 15,000. Not only are there more seniors, but these seniors are living longer: average life expectancy at age 65 is 22.0 and 19.2 years for women and men, respectively (i.e. 87 and 84.2 years of age) – up from 19.0 and 14.7 years in 1981.

Senior care and eldercare is only a part of the portrait of care in Canada. Children are also primary recipients. This generation has seen a significant increase in dual-earner households – from 36% of couples with children in 1976 to 69% in 2014, three-quarters of whom have both partners working full-time. While this has increased family income, it has also meant there are fewer family members available to help manage work and family responsibilities.

Family caregiving is diverse and complex – just like families

Caregiving is diverse and complex, encompassing a wide range of activities. Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on Caregiving and Care Receiving tracks a wide range of caregiving activities, including transportation, meal preparation, medical procedures, personal care, house maintenance and managing finances, but the list is not exhaustive. New and emerging issues, such as a spouse’s need to provide caregiving in support of their transgender partner’s medical transition or the need for a parent to appear in court regarding child custody and caregiving issues, can also remind us of the diverse variety of families and caregiving needs.

The fluid and evolving nature of care relationships between individuals can add another layer of complexity to our understanding of care. The care provided can vary in type, nature and duration, and it is shaped by the unique circumstances of the individual requiring care (see chart). Caregiving events can be short-term and episodic, such as if a family member experiences a temporary mobility restriction due to a broken leg. They can also be long-term and intensive, such as if a family member is living with a terminal illness in a palliative care centre.

Click to enlarge

Some care requirements are predictable, thus giving caregivers a higher degree of control over their time and resources, while other situations can be more complicated. Regardless of the type, nature and duration of care, family caregivers must integrate it with their work‑related obligations and commitments – a balancing act that can be supported and accommodated by employers.

Work–care reconciliation benefits families and employers

For nearly all Canadians, caregiving is inevitable at some point over the course of their lives. Since care provision is not always predictable and does not always arise outside working hours, employees and employers will need to reconcile work and care in creative ways that seek to maintain productivity and morale – indeed, failing to do so results in costs on all sides. Open communication and creative approaches to harmonizing work and care in a flexible manner can benefit employees, employers and the labour market in Canada as a whole.

“This is an issue that will touch millions of Canadians at some point in their lives and will become increasingly important with demographic change. The CHRC encourages employers, employees, and unions to seek collaborative approaches to enable people with family caregiving responsibilities to continue to participate fully and meaningfully in the workforce.”

David Langtry, Acting Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2014

 


Nathan Battams is a writer and researcher at the Vanier Institute of the Family.

 

Caring Enough to Flex, Flexing Enough to Care

Sara MacNaull

 

Family members have multiple and often complex responsibilities, obligations and commitments at home, at work and in their communities. Families excel at finding adaptable and creative solutions, but as studies have shown, employed family members want their managers’ respect for their lives outside of work and need flexibility to effectively manage their many life roles.

Employed family members across Canada are increasingly requesting flexible work arrangements (FWAs) in order to provide care for immediate or extended family and friends. FWAs can greatly enhance a person’s ability to achieve work and life quality while providing care, whether it’s for a child, an elderly or ill parent, a sibling or spouse with a disability, or a close friend who is dealing with a chronic illness.

The care provided can vary in type, nature and duration (see chart), and is shaped by the unique circumstances of the individual requiring care. While some care requirements are predictable, thus giving caregivers a higher degree of control over their time and resources, other situations can be more complicated. For example, if an elderly parent or grandparent requires occasional daily care, a caregiver can plan in advance which care responsibilities (such as grocery shopping and yardwork) get done on particular days outside of work hours. On the other hand, palliative or end-of-life care can be very unpredictable and stressful for family members who have to navigate the health care system while grappling with the impact of the impending loss of a loved one.

Aging and Caregiving in Canada

13M people said they had been a caregiver to a family member or friend at some time during their lives.

Among family caregivers, 39% primarily cared for their father or mother, 8% for their spouse or partner and 5% for their child. The remaining (48%) provided care to other family members or friends.

Seniors are projected to account for approximately one-quarter of Canada’s population by 2036.

Source: Statistics Canada

When a family member experiences a sudden and/or unexpected illness or injury, such as a heart attack, stroke or torn ligament, family and friends jump into action to provide care and support. For employed caregivers, this may mean seeking out and approaching their supervisor or employer to explore FWAs for a predictable or an indefinite period of time. A manager’s or employer’s response can have a significant impact on families and family life.

Recent rulings from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal have highlighted the complexity of family care needs and, consequently, the value of FWAs. The Tribunal has heard several cases where the need for flexibility to provide care was not accommodated and employers were found to have discriminated based on family status. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, family status refers to the “status of being in a parent and child relationship,” including diverse familial relationships that may not be bound by blood or adoptive ties but are centreed on care, responsibility and commitment.

The need for flexible or customized work arrangements and workplace accommodations based on family status will continue to increase as Canada’s population ages and the formal and informal care needs increase in response. Formal care refers to the paid services provided by an institution or an individual for a care recipient, while informal care refers to unpaid care provided by family, friends and volunteers. Often, a mix of formal and informal care is included in treatment or recovery plans. For those providing informal care, managing their own personal and family responsibilities and health care services accentuates the need for flexibility, as care demands are rarely static and tend to fluctuate over time.

Within the labour force, flexibility is often thought to be available only to managers or applicable to white collar workers or professions. However, a recent publication by the Families and Work Institute, Workflex and Manufacturing Guide: More Than a Dream, found that even in the manufacturing sector – which is often perceived as having rigid workplace requirements – a growing number of companies have found ways to accommodate their employees’ care needs. Such needs are now being met through creative and innovative FWAs, resulting in increased employee satisfaction and productivity.

One employer in manufacturing offered to pay for half of the fifth work day for employees who met their weekly goals, thereby allowing workers to use this as paid leave in half-day increments. Another employer focused on cross-training – training employees in multiple positions in the production process – as a way to increase overall flexibility and versatility among their workforce while ensuring that all stations remain covered to meet the continued needs of the organization.

With precarious employment, seasonal jobs or self-employment, flexibility may be inherently built into work. However, employees who are managing care responsibilities may be the ones paying a higher cost when it comes to lost wages due to absenteeism or reduced workloads.

Families are society’s most adaptable institution – a trait that is rooted in their constant need to adjust to ever-evolving environments. As organizations of all kinds consist of diverse family members, all of whom face unique realities, flexibility is key to the resiliency of families, the labour force and economy, and our greater society.

 


Sara MacNaull is responsible for Networks, Projects and Special Events at the Vanier Institute of the Family and is currently working toward earning the Work–Life Certified Professional designation.

Putting the “F” in EFAP: The Evolution of Workplace Mental Health Supports

Craig Thompson

Over the past several decades, mental health has become an increasingly popular topic in public discourse, fuelled in part by our increased understanding of the many ways it affects all levels of society. When people experience changes to their mental health, their family members – always at the “front lines” – are typically the first ones to feel the effects. Family is society’s most adaptable institution. Families respond by adjusting to meet the needs of their members as best they can. In light of this, a growing number of organizations have offered assistance to employees and their families through Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAPs) to manage mental health in the workplace. By looking at the evolution of these services, we can learn how and why the “F” in EFAP first emerged, and how it has grown in importance over time.

The early years: Occupational Alcoholism Programs (OAPs)

Occupational Alcoholism Programs (OAPs) were first introduced in Canada in the late 1950s. Predecessors of the EFAPs, they were focused primarily on alcohol and the devastating impact alcohol has on the health and well-being of employees who experience dependency. These programs were typically delivered through the occupational health and medical departments of large industrial organizations in the manufacturing sector.

Employees would sometimes seek out these services through their own initiative, but more often than not were assisted or referred by their manager, supervisor or union steward. The focus of assistance was almost solely on the individual and the alcohol, and did not include the family. The dependent employee would be put on a strict program that included attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and their compliance would be closely monitored. If the individual relapsed after this treatment, it would usually lead to termination and no further support was provided by the employer. Their future would then depend solely on what level of support their family members could muster – if they were still around.

The formative years: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

During the 1970s and mid-1980s, employers expanded the scope of these programs beyond alcohol, and they became known as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Previous research on occupational productivity had shown that alcohol dependency was just one of many issues that could have an impact on a person’s performance, productivity and health in the workplace.

Although alcohol addiction was still seen as a problem, it became increasingly clear that workplace programs could benefit from including support for other issues that can affect productivity, such as other addictions, mental illness, serious health conditions or major life events such as births and deaths. More employers began to understand the value of offering EAPs and, as a result, mid-size, regional, national and global companies introduced programs in their organizations.

EAPs would typically offer short-term, solution-focused counselling, paid for by the employer, with either an average number of sessions or a predetermined maximum number of sessions allotted. EAPs were never intended to provide longer-term care, but when that was necessary, the provider would make a referral to an affordable and appropriate resource. EAPs were increasingly managed by human resources (HR) instead of occupational health and safety or medical departments.

During their prime working years, many people face concerns about their mental health, which EFAPs can help them to manage. Studies have shown that mental health conditions are not only costly to individuals, but also to the organizations to which they belong:

• Depression will rank second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide by the year 2020.

• Disability represents anywhere from 4% to 12% of payroll costs in Canada; mental health claims (especially depression) have overtaken cardiovascular disease as the fastest-growing category of disability costs in Canada.

Some employers also started to understand the importance of families in the equation of employee attendance, concentration and focus. Emotional distress, family/personal relationships, child care, eldercare and health care started to get employers’ attention. Many began reaching out directly to family members at home to increase awareness and usage, and to help mitigate the negative impacts of these issues on performance and productivity. Communication materials were specifically designed for spouses and dependants, and creative methods were used to reach out to family members. Program admission was further expanded to include eligible young adults and family members who were attending post-secondary education institutions.

At first, utilization of these programs and services by families remained low, prompting further attempts to increase awareness and usage. One of the factors that limited their use was the fear that personal information would be shared with a counsellor or EAP practitioner and have consequences for the employee at work. Although EAP services were confidential (and remain so), the concerns about confidentiality and privacy protection understandably impaired users from taking advantage of services. During this period, 5% to 7% of the employee population accessed EAP services on any given year, with less than 1% attributed to family members.

While the first generation of EAPs was delivered by internal staff (usually MDs and occupational health nurses), this new generation of programs was typically outsourced to external firms that provided a broader range of professionals and specialty practitioners, including psychologists, counsellors and other health providers. This contributed to broadening the legitimacy of EAPs; however, these programs were still being offered primarily by larger companies and therefore were not yet mainstream. As a result, those who did not work for these firms were typically underserved.

The growth years: Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAPs)

The late 1980s through the mid-1990s were marked with important progress in this field. First, EAPs started providing an ever-expanding array of services, including responses for addictions, family/marital relations and psycho-emotional issues. These “broadbrushed” EAPs also recognized the importance of providing services for work relationship issues, financial, legal, aging parent and other non-work-related concerns. With this expansion in scope, EAPs began to take greater hold across a broad range of industries, sectors and workplaces.

Over time, a growing body of research demonstrated that investments by employers in EAPs resulted in various cost benefits, including reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, fewer medical costs and overall higher employee productivity. With this data, EAP providers were able to engage an increasing number of employers of various sizes in other industries to implement an EAP. The level of acceptance grew considerably and, with it, thousands of families and individuals gained access to resources and care.

Providers began offering toll-free 24/7 access to counsellors to eliminate barriers to reaching assistance if and when it was needed. Increased efforts to reach out to the homes of employees did increase family member utilization; however, in most programs, dependant use averaged 5% to 10% of the total utilization. Attention was also now being given to prevention and health promotion through the provision of resource materials, workshops and seminars. Stress management workshops were a central part of the education efforts, with the goal of giving participants the knowledge and tools to remain healthy and productive at work. EAPs also expanded to include services related to dealing with conflict in the workplace, managing workloads realistically and communicating effectively.

Current EFAP Referral Patterns: Percentage of Calls Received, by Issue

45%   Marital and family problems
25%   Psychological (depression, anxiety, self-image)
15%   Work-related problems
10%   Substance abuse/alcohol abuse
5%     Personal trauma/crisis

Another major step during this phase was the rebranding of Employee Assistance Programs to Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAPs). Although most programs had already included the family, this formal change explicitly identified the family as a key stakeholder in the provision of services. Credit needs to be given to the stewards of the MacMillan Bloedel EFAP for having the wisdom and vision to be this apparent and inclusive. They were the first to coin this term, which has become the standard reference for these types of services in Canada. This simple insertion spurred on greater interest in program enhancements for the family into the next phase of evolution.

The maturing years: Today’s EFAPs

From the mid-1990s to today, EFAPs have grown in popularity to the extent that most large and mid-size employers offer some form of program. Even smaller employers (i.e. fewer than 50 employees) have started to offer programs through group plans or community initiatives. This has been largely due to the partnerships that have developed between EFAP providers and group insurance providers in which the group plan can include the EFAP as another option for employers to offer. A range of counselling models (assessment and referral, short-term counselling, etc.) surfaced, varying depending on the organizational culture, industry and program in question. Employers had more models to choose from. During this phase, a wider range of services was made available by telephone, face to face or, more recently, online.

Online services increased accessibility, as they could be reached outside of the workplace from mobile devices and personal computers. This mode of access has increased the use by family members, and future expansion is expected. Online resources such as educational modules on parenting, communicating emotion, enriching relationships and dealing with aging parents are all now common offerings and can be accessed at home or on the road.

Prevention and health promotion has recently expanded to include wellness. A growing number of employers are assisting employees (and their families) to take charge of their overall health, including emotional, psychological and physical well-being. Health risk appraisals (HRAs) have become increasingly available; individuals can benchmark their current health risks and learn how to reduce those risks. Many employers are taking a holistic approach to employee health and wellness, and they are recognizing the importance of the family unit in maintaining and enhancing healthy choices and decisions. Overall employee health is increasingly seen as a vital part of an organization’s “bottom line” thanks to a growing body of research demonstrating direct links between employee well-being and rates of engagement, absenteeism and productivity.

Costs of Mental Illness in the Workplace

  • In any given week, more than 500,000 Canadians are absent from work because of mental illness.
  • More than 30% of disability claims and 70% of disability costs are attributed to mental illness.
  • Approximately $51 billion each year are lost to the Canadian economy because of mental illness.

Current and emerging legal requirements are now compelling greater numbers of employers to ensure that their workplaces are psychologically safe and built on relationships of civility and respect. In 2013, the federal guidelines for the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace were introduced to help organizations actively work toward creating psychologically healthy and safe environments for employees.

This standard was developed using evidence-based research from a variety of scientific and legal disciplines; it outlines existing knowledge on the psychological health and safety of workers, and provides guidelines and recommendations for promoting and maintaining healthy workspaces. While the standard is voluntary, there is still an obligation for employers to provide some degree of care based on current and evolving legislation and case law. As Dr. Martin Shain, who has written extensively on psychological safety in the workplace, says, “A psychologically safe workplace is no longer a nice to do, but is now a must do.”

The future of EFAPs

In the early days, when services focused on alcoholism, employers could readily fire an employee for non-compliance. In today’s climate, whether in response to legislation or regulations, or in compliance with voluntary standards, more employers are providing access to professional assistance and treatment to address the myriad of mental and physical conditions that may disable or impair an employee. After an employee reaches out seeking treatment, employers are taking greater steps to accommodate his or her return to work. As the dialogue on the reduction of stigma surrounding these issues grows in volume and intensity, more workers, families and communities are getting assistance.

The evolution of EFAPs demonstrates a growing interest within organizations to integrate care for the employees, ensuring that family circumstances are considered and enabled. Whether the result of legal obligation or efforts to increase performance and productivity, or out of care for employee well-being, a growing number of employers now take psychological health and safety in the workplace seriously. As interest and investment in EFAPs and employee well-being grows, further breakthroughs are bound to occur. Although it is difficult to anticipate with great accuracy what the future of employee assistance may look like, families will most likely remain a central component of future approaches.

 


.

Craig Thompson, MEd, MBA, has been a clinician, business developer, account manager and business leader in the field of EFAP and Disability Management for nearly three decades. Over this period, he has worked with thousands of employers and employees and their families with a purpose of improving their lives and enhancing workplace effectiveness.

 

 

Timeline: 50 Years of Families in Canada

Today’s society and today’s families would have been difficult to imagine, let alone understand, a half-century ago.

Families and family life have become increasingly diverse and complex, but families have always been the cornerstone of our society, the engine of our economy and at the centre of our hearts.

Learn about how families and family experiences in Canada have changed over the past 50 years with our new timeline!