Queen's University IRC

Work and Family Issues: Beyond ‘Swapping the Mopping and Sharing the Caring’


Mary Lou Coates

January 1, 1991

During the past two decades, there has been a significant transformation in the Canadian economy, labour force and in the social and familial context in which labour force participation decisions are made. An increase in the labour force participation of women, particularly married women and those with children, together with a rising number of both single-parent as well as dual-earner families in the labour force are focusing greater attention on work and family issues. Despite the changes in the labour force and family structure, a dichotomous relationship between work and family still exists creating serious conflicts for employees and employers and raising concerns for unions and policymakers.

Government policies have supported families through anti-discrimination provisions in federal and provincial human rights legislation, maternity protection and adoption provisions in federal and provincial employment standards legislation, and maternity and adoption benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act. More recently, amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act and to employment standards legislation in several jurisdictions have extended these provisions to recognize the joint responsibility of both parents for family members and to help ‘workers balance their work and family lives in a way that encourages the retention and commitment of our … human resources in a competitive labour market’ (Ontario Ministry of Labour 1989).

This paper looks at the window of opportunity for a partnership between employers, employees, unions and governments to address the new dynamics of the workplace and the family and enable men and women to contribute more fully both on the job and at home.

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