Accommodation: What it Means and How Employers Can Accommodate Employees

According to Canadian Human Rights legislation, employers have a duty to accommodate employees that may have a physical or a mental disability. Accommodation simply means that you must adapt to the special needs of some people in order to reduce discrimination. For example, if someone has a repetitive stress injury it may not be fair for them to work the same hours or to use the same type of workstation that everyone else in the company uses – they may need different accommodations to help them perform. Likewise, someone who struggles with a mental illness may require a different work environment or a more flexible work schedule.

Undue Hardship

The duty for employers to accommodate comes with the caveat that employers are released from having to accommodate if doing so would cause undue hardship. An example of this might be an employee who works with machinery and develops a visual impairment. If keeping them in their current position poses a safety hazard and there are no other suitable positions within the company, then keeping them on the payroll might cause undue hardship to the company. In this case, letting them go may be the only option.

What Can Employers Do?

So what can employers do to accommodate their employees following an injury or illness?

The exact process will vary by situation, but here is a general guide:

Step One: Recognize when there is a need for accommodation.

The process of accommodation usually begins when one of three things happens:

  • The employee requests accommodation either verbally or in writing.
  • A third party asks for accommodation on behalf of the employee.
  • A supervisor/manager observes that accommodation may be necessary.

Step Two: Conduct a needs assessment.

Each request for accommodation needs to be assessed based on its own merits. One of the best ways to assess what an employee needs is simply to ask them. Keep in mind that all questions should be geared toward the employee’s specific requirements as they pertain to being able to perform their job and not about their medical condition.

Additionally, the employer may need to assess the workspace itself. For example, if an employee has a physical injury such as a back injury it may be necessary for someone to go into the workspace to assess how it might need to be changed.

Step Three: Make a decision.

Once the employer as identified the need and assessed the situation they will need to make a decision concerning accommodation. It is always best if the employer and employee can work together on this. Be sure to document the accommodation.

Options for accommodation may include:

  • Accommodating the employee in their present position. This may be by modifying the workspace, modifying the employee’s responsibilities, or modifying their schedule.
  • Consider alternative placement. If the employee cannot be adequately accommodated in their current position, employers should consider placing them in another role within the company. Employers are not, however, required to create a new position as part of their duty to accommodate.

Step Four: Implement the Decision

Once a decision has been made, the employer must advise the employee of the decision and its rationale as well as put into place the agreed-upon accommodation. Again, the employer should be sure to document the accommodation.

Step Five: Review Accommodation and Keep Records

Finally, the employer should follow up with the employee to ensure that the accommodations are adequate and if any changes are needs. Any further changes should be documented.

Looking For Help Accommodating Employees?

If you are an employer and you are looking for help accommodating employees who have been injured or have had an illness, TeksMed is here to help. Contact us today for a consultation.


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