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Employment Accessibility Standard Coming to Ontario

The recently released Final Proposed Employment Accessibility Standard for the AODA will have a significant impact on every employer in Ontario. The goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, to be achieved by

“developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025.”

The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07 was the first standard to become law, on January 1, 2008.

The AODA is the first law of it’s kind in Canada and is similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act in the US.  Though not yet law, if adopted in the current form, the act will have a significant impact on every employment related practice from recruitment to termination.

Currently many private sector employers are subject to Employment Equity if they are doing business with the Federal Government. In that situation there is a requirement to demonstrate what the organization is doing to promote employment of aboriginals, visible minorities, women and the disabled. Aside from government itself, this has limited enforceability. In addition there are a myriad of rules and regulations under the broad umbrella of Human Rights that does support the advancement of the disabled.

With AODA and the proposed standards, there will be clear and unequivocal requirements to support the disabled in all matters related to employment. The AODA is all about removing barriers to employment by putting in place and actively following policies and procedures to make employment opportunities accessible. Where barriers exist that cannot be removed, organizations must find ways to accommodate people with disabilities. It appears that the standard will, similar to the Human Rights’ accommodation, require that companies demonstrate undue hardship to avoid this obligation.

It will impact Recruitment, Assessment, Selection and Hiring of all employees. Organizations have to let people applying for jobs know that they will provide accommodation, and have formal procedures to ensure accommodation is available. When recruiting, companies will need to ensure information for job postings are accessible.  Furthermore companies will also need to provide alternative assessment tests where possible to allow for accessibility in the recruitment process.

If selected for employment, organizations must inform applicants of the process to ask for accommodation whether it be in the area of career development or retention requirements. In some cases, individual accommodation plans must be developed and actively followed for each employee so identified.

Generally speaking, organizations that provide their employees with career development and advancement information must make sure that their employees with disabilities receive the information in a way that is consistent with their individual accommodation needs or plans.

In short, this legislation has the potential to dramatically impact the workplace in Ontario.  In preparation for this legislation, the provincial government has provided an Accessibility test to determine your readiness for this legislation.  How well does your business score?

This post is intended to provide a “heads-up” as to what is on the employment legislative horizon in the province of Ontario.  Stay tuned for more information.

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