| || ||Laura McKeen |
Cohen Highley LLP
As of January 2016, businesses and private sector organizations across Ontario with more than 50 employees are required to develop a written process for developing documented individual accommodation plans (IAPs) for employees with disabilities. This requirement is found in Section 28 of the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation (IASR) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
The Conference Board of Canada’s Employers’ Toolkit: Making Ontario Workplaces Accessible to People With Disabilities is a free resource that provides practical tips and useful tools for employers when developing their policies and procedures. If you have not seen the toolkit, you can access it here.
Creating an IAP Process
While there is a requirement to create and document a process for developing IAPs, obligated organizations have some flexibility when creating accessibility policies. You can build the IAP process into your existing human resources policies and procedures, or create separate IAP policies and procedures.
When looking to formalize this process, you should make every effort to make the process work for your own industry and business. You should also remember that the AODA does not replace the Employment Standards Act, Ontario’s Human Rights Code, or any other applicable legislation.
The Process to Develop an IAP
Subsection 28(2) of the AODA requires employers to include the following eight elements into the IAP process:
- How the employee requesting accommodation can participate in the development of the individual accommodation plan.
- How the employee is assessed on an individual basis.
- How the employer can request an evaluation by an outside medical or other expert, at the employer’s expense, to assist in determining if the accommodation can be achieved, and if so, how it can be achieved.
- How the employee can request a representative from their bargaining agent (if applicable) or other representative from the workplace to participate in developing the accommodation plan.
- The steps taken to protect the privacy of the employee’s personal information.
- The frequency the IAP will be reviewed and updated, and how it will be done. (Please note the times when it is mandatory to review emergency workplace response information.)
- If an individual accommodation plan is denied, how the reasons for the denial will be provided to the employee.
- The means of providing the IAP in a format that takes into account the employee’s accessibility needs.
The IAP Itself
Once you have developed the process you will use, you will also need to think about the format of the IAP that will work best for your organization. There is no prescribed format for the IAP. You can develop one that makes sense for your business.
If required, the IAP must include:
- any information about accessible formats and communications supports provided, as described in Section 26 of the IASR;
- individualized information on the workplace’s emergency response procedures, as described in Section 27 of the IASR.
The IAP shall also identify any other accommodation that is to be provided.
The Business Case for an Inclusive and Collaborative IAP Process
There are many articles and studies outlining the business case for accessible employment practices. One of those documents is the Conference Board of Canada’s Business Benefits of Accessible Workplaces.
You may be required to develop an IAP process, but this could also be an opportunity to review your accommodation process and determine if you truly have an inclusive and collaborative accommodation process.
Taking the time to develop an inclusive, collaborative, and effective IAP process—one that makes sense for your organization—can position your organization to improve your bottom line. Accessible and inclusive employment practices have been found to achieve better job retention, higher attendance, lower turnover, enhanced job performance and work quality, better safety records, and a more innovative workforce.
Laura McKeen is a partner with Cohen Highley LLP in London.
Click here to learn more about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
The views and/or opinions expressed in this article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect The Conference Board of Canada’s position. Responsibility for content accuracy also rests with the author(s).