Handling Disability Management Cases - Accommodation

The duty to accommodate is a multi-party obligation. The employer, the union and the employee seeking the accommodation all have roles and responsibilities.

Before the accommodation process, managers should do the following:

  • Know their legal obligations regarding accommodation and understand the scope and variety of accommodation options. Proceed to Accommodation options.
  • See that the employee is aware of his or her responsibilities in the accommodation process. If applicable, the employee may request union or third-party representation throughout.
  • Consult and collaborate with bargaining agents and other employee representatives where accommodation affects other employees.
  • Seek a medical assessment or reassessment if the employee does not have medical information to support the need for accommodation or if the information provided is not sufficient. Proceed to Medical assessment.
  • If the medical information provided is sufficient, reach a common understanding of the information that has been provided with the employee (and the union representative, if applicable), if that has not already been done.

Based on the information provided by the medical practitioner, determine whether the employee will require:

Management has a legal obligation to identify, implement and support workplace accommodation. A Union shares this obligation if its consent is required to implement the accommodation measure or if it is party to discrimination (if the source of discrimination is in the collective agreement). Proceed to Duty to accommodate.

Best practice tip: Keep an open mind when considering the various approaches to accommodating the employee. If no single solution is obvious, explore the possibility of using a combination of options.

Accommodation: Developing and Implementing an Individual Accommodation Plan

If a short-term accommodation is required, managers should do the following:

  • Explore all possible accommodation options, ensuring that the options chosen are consistent with the medical information obtained and that they reasonably meet the needs of the employee, employer and other stakeholders (e.g., unions). Proceed to Accommodation options.
  • Develop an individual accommodation plan, in collaboration with the employee and the union representative, if applicable.
  • Let the employee know that the employer must consult with union representatives if other unionized employees could be affected by the proposed accommodation.
  • Along with the employee, review and sign the document, give a copy of the plan to the employee, and keep another copy in the case file.

If the employee is receiving benefits from the Canada Pension Plan, Quebec Pension Plan, workers' compensation, or the insurance provider, these benefits will be protected only if the employee arranges for these parties to approve the individual accommodation plan before it is implemented. The insurer is not required to sign the plan but must agree with the medical information and recommendations on which the plan is based.

What if the employee does not accept the accommodation offered. Proceed to Accommodation: The employee does not accept the accommodation offered?

Implement the accommodation plan. If any adaptive technology or technical aids are required, contact your organization's adaptive technology program, where available, for the procurement and installation of such equipment in advance of the employee's start or return-to-work date. If applicable, ensure that the appropriate training for new equipment is made available.

  • Discuss with your team any accommodation that will affect them and their workload, as appropriate, ensuring that you maintain the employee's right to privacy.
  • If the employee has been on leave without pay, inform Compensation that the employee has returned and, if applicable, of the employee's new work schedule, on the first day back to work.
  • Inform Compensation of the employee's return so that the employee's salary for days worked can restart promptly and so that insurance providers can know how many days the employee was absent.
  • Welcome the employee back to the workplace and, if appropriate, assist the employee in getting settled.
  • In collaboration with the employee, review performance expectations for the cycle and adjust accordingly.
  • Follow up with the employee after his or her start or return-to-work date to determine the progress of the accommodation plan, make necessary modifications, and ensure that the parties are carrying out the accommodation plan as mutually agreed to.
  • Continue to monitor the progress of the employee in order to respond to changing needs. For example, the employee's condition may not improve as anticipated, or other needs may be identified.
  • If appropriate, have the employee resume normal duties once the employee has recovered from the injury, illness or medical condition, in a safe and timely manner.

Then choose the appropriate scenario for the situation:

Accommodation: The Individual Accommodation Plan Was Not Successful

If the accommodation plan has not been implemented successfully and the accommodation measures must be reassessed, managers may be required to try alternative solutions:

  • Consult the Human Resources Advisor, if required.
  • Discuss the situation with the employee and, if applicable, the union representative to determine why the accommodation is not working and whether any modifications or adjustments might remedy the situation.
  • If a job task analysis has not been completed, conduct an analysis of the employee's duties and job standards. Proceed to Accommodation of duties, key activities and job standards. Job task analysis is done by the manager and Labour Relations.
  • The manager may need to provide the medical practitioner with additional information (e.g., job description, job task analysis, copy of the accommodation plan).
  • If additional medical information is required related to the employee's abilities, functional limitations and restrictions, seek clarification or additional information from the medical practitioner. If still more information is needed, ask your employee to undergo a medical reassessment. Proceed to Medical assessment.
  • Where possible, ensure that the employee is able to remain at work while waiting for the additional information or the modification of the accommodation plan.
  • If applicable, modify the individual accommodation plan and implement the revised plan.
  • Periodically monitor and review the accommodation to ensure that the employee's needs are being satisfied.

If after the above, the individual accommodation plan has been successful:

If you are unable to find any accommodation options that are satisfactory, one of the following may occur:

Accommodation: The Employee Does Not Accept the Accommodation Offered

If the employee does not accept the proposed accommodation plan, managers should:

  • Encourage the employee to discuss the reasons the accommodation does not meet the employee's needs, and determine whether the plan can be modified.
  • Schedule a time to review the recommended options with the employee and, if applicable, other stakeholders (e.g., a union representative for represented employees, or case manager). During this meeting, answer any questions and clarify any points that may have been misunderstood. The manager must ensure that the Treasury Board's Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service has been properly applied.
  • When the relationship with the employee is compromised or unusually difficult, it may be useful to seek support from other resources, such as Human Resources, conflict resolution services or the employee's union representative to facilitate open and effective communication.
  • Review the accommodation plan, consider additional accommodations options, and ensure that all reasonable options have been explored.
  • Take notes for the case file, detailing the employee's reasons for refusing the accommodation.

The employee may discuss the matter with the immediate manager's superior or Human Resources, or may seek redress through the grievance process as outlined in the collective agreement or Terms and Conditions of Employment Regulations. As well, the individual may file a complaint directly with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Issues of safety or possible breaches of the Canada Labour Code should be dealt with under the requirements and procedures set out in the Code.

Items for Managers to Keep in Mind When Applying the Accommodation Process

  • This process should be an integrated team approach. The manager, the employee, the union representative and Human Resources should collaborate to come to an acceptable solution for all.
  • A manager is not required to implement a perfect solution for the employee or one that is specifically requested. Employees seeking accommodation should accept a reasonable accommodation arrangement and realize that a perfect solution may not always be possible.
  • A manager must accommodate up to undue hardship. Once a manager feels that this point has been reached, consult with Labour Relations.
  • If no agreeable solution can be reached, consult with Human Resources for additional guidance.

Choose the option that applies to the situation:

Accommodation of Duties, Key Activities and Job Standards

When an employee requires a more complex, longer-term or permanent accommodation, the key activities and job standards of the position must be reviewed to determine whether and how changes and possible solutions can be made as part of the accommodation process:

  • Identify whether any of the employee's duties or activities may be considered bona fide occupational requirement?.
  • Consult with the employee to assess his or her ability to perform applicable duties.
  • Consider what accommodation would be required to best support the employee.
  • Determine what meaningful duties or activities may be assigned to the employee, given the required accommodation.
  • Considering the re-bundling of duties and activities, determine the totality of the work that must be achieved and (in conjunction with Human Resources) assess whether this might create undue hardship.

Review of Job Standards

  • Determine whether there is a reasonable alternative to the standard or requirement within the employee's duties and activities, such as might be afforded by a re-bundling of duties. If the standard or requirement can be lowered without undue hardship, the revised standard or requirement can become the relevant standard for the employee. This accommodation may include modifying performance standards, productivity targets or other expectations in the workplace.
  • Based on the employee's job description, performance evaluation and available medical information, make an objective determination of whether the individual can perform the duties and activities with accommodation.
  • If applicable, update the employee's performance expectations through the employee performance management plan to reflect any changes that have been made.

Note: Modified duties will not impair an employee's performance assessment or career advancement. Employees will be assessed on how well they perform the assigned duties.

Accommodation: Exploring Alternative Accommodation Options

If the Employee Can Perform the Duties of the Job With Accommodation or Modifications to the Job Standards

  • Explore other alternatives, such as other existing jobs that are available and that the employee is qualified to perform.
  • If applicable, conduct a job analysis of duties and job standards of potential alternative positions. Proceed to Accommodation of duties, key activities and job standards
  • Explore all accommodation options in these potential alternative positions
  • Get assistance from Human Resources or Labour Relations.

To the extent that an opportunity is available, you should provide a job that:

  • Optimizes earnings potential, minimizes disruption and preserves dignity;
  • Affords a similar environment and working conditions; and
  • Reflects the interests of the employee and those of other parties, such as other employees and the union.

Before considering alternative jobs or positions at a lower level, ask Compensation how this action will affect the employee's salary.

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