On the heels of its recently updated policy on Gender Identity/Gender Expression, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has now released a new policy to provide guidance on how to define, assess, handle and resolve human rights issues related to mental health and addiction disabilities. The full Policy can be found at:
The OHRC’s new Policy builds on its Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, applying the same principles to people with mental health issues or addictions. The new Policy recognizes that people with mental health disabilities are entitled to the same level of protection as people with physical disabilities, and is reflective of the prevalence of mental illness and addiction in Canada today. The OHRC cites research estimating that one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction.
Given these statistics, most employers will need to provide assistance or accommodation to an employee dealing with mental illness or addiction. A full review of the OHRC’s new Policy is therefore recommended. The Policy provides insight into recognizing mental health and addiction issues and provides examples of appropriate accommodation in such circumstances.
Also important for employers to note is the emphasis placed on employer responsibility for the overall work environment. The new Policy makes clear that the obligations of employers do not end with their own accommodation efforts, but rather extend to maintaining a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment of individuals with a mental health disability or addiction. There is also a clear duty on employers not to condone or further a discriminatory act that has taken place, and to properly respond when others engage in discriminatory behaviour.
Issues related to mental health and addiction disabilities can be difficult to navigate. Should you require assistance as you encounter these issues, please contact a member of our group.
The countdown to the holiday season is now on, and while many of us may be preoccupied with finishing (or starting) our shopping, there is another important deadline looming. By December 31, 2012, all organizations with 20 or more employees must file a Compliance Report with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, confirming that the organization has met the Customer Service Standard issued under the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”).
The Customer Service Standard requires that all Ontario businesses and organizations with one or more employee create and implement an accessibility policy that:
- Focuses on principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity;
- Allows for assistive devices;
- Takes disability into account in terms of communication;
- Welcomes support persons, guide dogs and other service animals; and
- Provides notice when accessible services are not available.
Pursuant to the Customer Service Standard, employees must be appropriately trained with respect to accessible customer service, and records relating to this training should be kept. Organizations are further required to: ensure their policy is in writing; communicate where the written policy can be found; and ensure that the policy is available in accessible formats.
The Compliance Report confirming that the above steps have been taken can be filed online through ServiceOntario’s ONe-Source for Business. A list of questions that will be asked when completing the Compliance Report can be found at: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/customerService/report_questions.aspx
In our Employment Update in April of this year, we advised you about the requirements of Ontario’s Accessible Customer Service Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”).