Attendance and absence
The Alberta Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment practices on the basis of the protected grounds of race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation. You can read more about protected grounds.
Workplace attendance requirements often create issues for employees who may have specific needs based on a protected ground, such as disability, religious belief, family status, or pregnancy.
Accommodation is the legal duty of the employer to take reasonable steps, including in policies or conditions of work, to accommodate an employee's individual needs arising out of the protected grounds.
Employees who require accommodation must cooperate and provide relevant information to their employer about their need for accommodation. Should an employer perceive that an employee is absent due to a protected ground, the employer is obliged to make appropriate inquiries and ensure that the employee is aware that the employer is willing to engage in the accommodation process. It should be remembered that certain disabilities may not be acknowledged or understood by the affected individual. For example, an employee who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may not recognize their addiction.
It is helpful for an employer to carefully document these inquiries, any other contact with or about the employee related to the inquiries, and the consideration being given to accommodation arrangements. This may take time but will ensure an inquiry process that meets human rights requirements.
Employers are required to accommodate employees to the point of undue hardship. Each situation must be considered individually. This may mean, for example, allowing for extensive absenteeism that is medically necessary. You can read more about the duty to accommodate and undue hardship.
Employees must accept reasonable accommodation and are not legally entitled to instant or perfect accommodation.
For example, a mechanic breaks her arm while skiing and is unable to perform certain job duties. The employer has a legal duty to accommodate the employee. Examples of accommodation could include modifying the position to temporarily limit her duties to those which she can complete.
You can read more about attendance and absence issues related to:
Revised: December 16, 2009
The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.
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