Disability audits likely for Ontario employers

The province is targeting large retailers first but employment lawyers warn the industry won’t be alone.

Large employers in Ontario should prepare for disability audits as officials confirm a “blitz” has been launched to ensure requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) are being met.
According to Sherrard Kuzz lawyers, the audits will continue through the fall, with the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure placing particular focus on two elements:
  • The creation and making public of a multi-year accessibility plan that outlines the steps put in place to remove and prevent barrier for employees and customers.
  • The development of customized emergency plans for employees with disabilities.
“Audit blitzes will become more and more frequent across all industries as part of the Ministry’s stated compliance and enforcement plan,” revealed a spokesperson for the law firm. “A blitz may focus on specific areas of compliance or on compliance generally.”
As of January 1, 2016 every private sector organization will have new obligations under the Integrated Accessibility Standards (IAS) of the AODA.
Organizations in Ontario with fewer than 50 employees will have to provide training on IAS and Human Rights Code to employees and volunteers, anyone involved in developing policies any anyone who provides goods, services or facilities on the organizations behalf.
They will also have to ensure processes for receiving and responding to feedback from employees, the public and clients are accessible to those with disabilities.
The requirements are more extensive for organizations with 50 employees or more. According to the Sherrard Kuzz lawyers, the following standards must be met:
  • Upon request, make information accessible by providing or arranging accessible formats and/or communication supports
  • Notify employees, the public, and applicants about accommodation during recruitment
  • Upon request, provide and arrange accommodation in consultation with persons with disabilities
  • Inform successful applicants about policies
  • Advice employees of support policies
  • Upon request make general information and information required to perform the job accessible
  • Establish a written process to develop individual accommodation and return to work plans
  • Consider accessibility needs regarding performance management, career development and advancement
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