The Fundamentals - Accommodation Options

When exploring accommodation options, it is important to keep the following points in mind:

  • An employee must be accommodated to the point of undue hardship. A decision that a particular accommodation would cause undue hardship is made only with the advice of Labour Relations.
  • All work assigned to the employee must be meaningful and productive, and it should have value to the department/agency and the employee.
  • The intent is to return the employee to meaningful work and, whenever possible, to the job duties held prior to injury, illness or disability.
  • An employee seeking accommodation is expected to accept offers of reasonable accommodation.
  • When alternative accommodation options are being explored, the preferred option is one that:
    • Maximizes the employee's dignity, autonomy, privacy and integration into the workplace;
    • Minimizes inconvenience or discomfort; and
    • Addresses the employee's needs and concerns promptly.

It is also important to maintain an open mind when exploring accommodation options. This means considering what needs to be accomplished and to what extent deviating from those requirements would cause undue hardship. For example, for safety reasons, a certain level of vision or the wearing of protective equipment may be a bona fide occupational requirement for the safe performance of the duties of a position. However, it is still the obligation of the employer to accommodate the employee to the point of undue hardship.

Possible Options

Accommodation may be achieved through modification of the terms and conditions of employment, such as changing the schedule, re-bundling job duties, or adjusting the workplace. While an appropriate accommodation arrangement will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, the following are options to consider:

Adjustments to the Work Schedule

  • Using sick leave with or without pay
  • Using a gradual return-to-work plan
  • Allowing a modified/flexible schedule
  • Planning for uninterrupted work time
  • Providing for longer or more frequent breaks or stretch periods
  • Allowing telework

Adjustments to Job Duties/Activities

  • Providing transitional work, temporary or permanent lateral move, or modified work
  • Allowing additional time to learn new responsibilities
  • Arranging for retraining
  • Providing coaching/mentoring
  • Dividing larger assignments into smaller tasks and goals
  • Providing written checklists and instructions
  • Using electronic organizers
  • Adjusting job standards, as determined by the manager and performance expectations
  • Re-bundling of job duties

Adjustments to the Work Environment

  • Using adaptive technology devices
  • Arranging an ergonomic assessment
  • Removing overhead lights or increasing natural lighting
  • Redirecting heat or cooling devices
  • Reducing distractions in the workplace
  • Providing space enclosures
  • Using specialized computer equipment, such as monitor glare guards, or an ergonomic mouse or keyboard
  • Providing desk chairs with specialized back and arm supports
  • Increasing space between cubicles, and space within a cubicle, to allow wheelchair access
  • Providing software that reads computerized text
  • Providing environmental assistance for fragrance sensitivities (air purifier, notifications of area restrictions)

Promising Practices

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) has developed an internal priority program for its employees who have become disabled. The department's positive measure program applies to employees who, when they return to work, can no longer perform the essential duties of their position because of permanent limitations. PWGSC also has an employment equity group that reviews policies on the duty to accommodate.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has a model policy on accommodation.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is committed to enabling its employees to keep working by providing appropriate and reasonable workplace accommodation up to the point of undue hardship through:

  • A corporate service providing expert advice and guidance to Human Resources staff in resolving complex employee requests for workplace accommodation;
  • Guidance, tools, training and best practices to assist managers and stakeholders in resolving duty to accommodate requests;
  • Support for managers and employees by detailing the duty to accommodate process and ensuring that all parties understand that it is a shared responsibility (managers, employees, unions);
  • Promotion of an inclusive workplace through the removal of systemic barriers that prevent the full participation of employees and candidates; and
  • A consistent, standardized and transparent approach to workplace accommodation.
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