The Latest Chapter in Employment Law: It’s the Final Countdown… AODA Compliance Deadline on January 1

january 1 deadline

Are you a small organization in the private or non-profit sector? Then you have a deadline this New Year’s Eve to comply with the Employment Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”).

In addition, organizations with more than 20 employees will need to file an online compliance report with the government confirming their continued compliance with the AODA.

Failure to comply can result in orders, fines or penalties.

About the AODA

By gradually introducing new obligations, the AODA aims to remove accessibility barriers for people with disabilities by 2025. The AODA is made up of five standards, with compliance deadlines specific to an organization’s type and size. The standards are part of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR).

New Employment Standards Compliance Requirements

Small organizations (under 20 employees) must meet the following requirements by January 1, 2017:

  1. Hiring Employers have an obligation to notify their employees, the public and applicants that they will accommodate the needs of people with disabilities in the hiring process, and must provide suitable accommodation where requested. Employers also have an obligation, when making offers of employment, to notify successful applicants of their accommodation policies for employees with disabilities.
  2. Accessibility Policies Employers must inform their employees about the organization’s accessibility policies for individuals with disabilities, including policies on the provision of job accommodation, both when they begin their employment and whenever there is a change to the policies.
  3. Communication Supports Where an employee requests that workplace information be provided in an accessible format, employers have an obligation to provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports. Workplace information includes information needed in order to perform the employee’s job, as well as information that is generally available to employees in the workplace, such as emergency information, job descriptions, employment manuals, and health and safety information.
  4. Talent and Performance Management – Employers have an obligation to modify existing performance management or career development processes in order to take into consideration the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities when holding performance reviews (whether formal or informal) and when promoting or moving employees to a new job. Performance management or career development processes include activities related to assessing and improving employee performance, productivity and effectiveness, with the goal of facilitating employee success.
  5. Career Development & Advancement – Employers providing career development and advancement must consider the accessibility needs of employees as well as any individual accommodation plan. Providing “career development and advancement” means providing additional responsibilities within an employee’s current job, or moving an employee from one job to another that may be higher in pay, provide greater responsibility or be at a higher level in the organization.
  6. Redeployment – Employers using redeployment must consider the accessibility needs of employees as well as individual accommodation plans. “Redeployment” is an alternative to layoff, where employees are reassigned to other departments or jobs within the organization.

Practice Tips for Employers

Employers would be well-advised to:

  • Review existing practices, written policies and other employment documents, including job posting templates, applications and job offers, to ensure compliance.
  • Assess and consider accessibility needs of applicants and of employees throughout the employment process, ranging from recruitment to return-to-work and/or termination.
  • Indicate in job postings that applicants selected for an interview may ask for accommodation if they have a disability.
  • Consider accessibility needs of employees with disabilities in the performance management, career development and advancement, and redeployment processes.
  • Where requested, provide information to employees in an accessible format and with communication supports.
  • Understand the needs of employees with disabilities and how to support them.
  • Develop a process to document individual accommodation plans.
  • Advise applicants who are offered employment, as well as employees, of accommodation policies supporting employees with disabilities.
  • Raise awareness of, and train employees, managers, supervisors and recruitment managers on their legal obligations under the AODA.
  • Safeguard confidentiality of an employee’s personal health information disclosed during the accommodation process.
  • Ensure obligations under existing laws are met, since the AODA requirements are in addition to existing legal duties under the Human Rights Code and other laws.

Conclusion

When the clock strikes 12 this December 31st, we are not only ringing in the New Year, new AODA obligations become law. These new obligations are significant, requiring substantial planning and updating of processes and policies. Failure to comply can lead to liability. As a result, we are working with our clients to review their policies and ensure that required training is implemented and documented.

Rudner Law can help your organization comply with both the new and existing requirements under the AODA by reviewing, amending or drafting your agreements and policies. At the same time, if you are an employee seeking information on accessibility standards and your employer’s duties and obligations towards you, you can contact us for legal advice.

Nadia Zaman

I am an associate at Rudner Law. I am thrilled to be a part of the employment bar and have been elected to the executive committee of the Ontario Bar Association’s Labour and Employment Law Section, where I serve the interests of the profession and the public.