Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, employers have a duty to provide accommodations for an employee with needs based on protected grounds of discrimination, such as religion, disability, and age. Employers must work with the employee to provide necessary accommodation to the point of undue hardship.
When creating an individualized accommodation plan, it is generally good practice for employers to:
- Never assume what a person needs or does not need
People’s needs can be radically different depending on the type of disability or illness, severity, any medications being taken, and the employee him/herself. An accommodation plan that works for one person may not work for another.
- Listen to your employees—they know what they need
Accommodation plans should be individualized, but the process need not be complicated. The person with the needs is in the best position to tell you what accommodations can help them. Common examples of accommodations can include things like:
- Installing a ramp for someone who requires a mobility device
- Installing screen-magnifying software for an employee with vision needs
- Allowing clothing items required by religion to be worn, such as headscarves
- Flexibility in work hours for an employee with mental health needs
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Employers should be prepared to work collaboratively and respectfully with the employee to find solutions that meet the employee’s needs.
- Be approachable, empathetic, and understanding
Employees who require accommodation can be hesitant to ask for it because of the fear of stigma. It is important to reassure employees that you are there to work with them, not against them. When you are open and understanding, your employees may be willing to be more open and collaborative with you, creating a mutually beneficial solution. Providing needs-based accommodation can ensure that employees are empowered to do their best work, helping your company function smoothly and grow.
- Follow up and review the plan regularly
An employee’s accommodation plan should be reviewed when the employee moves to a different location in the workplace, takes on different responsibilities, and when the employee requests further accommodation. Employers should consider “checking in” with the employee every few months to ensure that the accommodation plan is working for the employee. The review schedule should be included in the accommodation plan.
- Don’t forget to include individualized emergency response information, as well as how the employee’s privacy will be protected throughout the process
Some employees may require an individualized plan in the event of an emergency; for example, someone with hearing loss may not be able to hear a fire alarm and thus, an individualized formal emergency assistance plan should be prepared with the employee.
Due to the personal nature of the employee’s needs, the accommodation plan should consider policies relating to privacy. Obviously, employers should never discuss the employee’s needs with other employees without permission. Employers should work with the employee to ensure appropriate steps are taken to ensure privacy of personal information.
Don’t know where to start? Many resources are available on your province’s human rights regulatory body. For example, the Ontario Human Rights Commission provides a free accommodation template for employers to fill out, part of which includes an individual accommodation plan that should be filled out with the employee.
CFIB members can always call a Business Counsellor at 1-888-234-2232 at no charge for questions about your responsibilities as an employer.