The Right of Returning to Work


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. In this article, we will explore the right of returning to work after acquiring a disability.

The Right of Returning to Work

Under the employment standards of the AODA, employers must develop plans to support workers who return to their jobs after a disability-related absence. Similarly, the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) also mandates accommodation for people returning to work with disabilities. Moreover, many guidelines governing returns to work under the AODA also apply to returning to work under the Code.

For instance, under the AODA, a worker can approach the employer, either through a manager or human resources personnel, and request a leave of absence. If the worker agrees, the employer and worker should stay in contact during the worker’s absence so that the employer can be aware of any changes in:

  • when the worker will be returning
  • what job tasks the worker may need to perform differently after returning
  • what kinds of accommodations the worker may need

When the worker is ready to return, the manager and worker should continue to share information.

The worker has the most knowledge about their own needs and what accommodations will best meet those needs. At other times, the employer may ask the worker whether accommodation would help them perform job tasks.

Similarly, under the Code, someone may approach their employer to discuss accommodations they need after they return to work. Alternatively, the employer also has a duty to recognize that returning workers may have disability-related needs and require accommodations. As a result, if an employer notices that someone is having difficulty accomplishing tasks after a return to work, that person may need accommodations. The employer must start a discussion to determine how best to meet the person’s accessibility needs.

Discussing Accommodations

Next, the worker and employer should discuss what the worker’s accommodation needs are. During this discussion, the worker and employer do not need to talk about exactly what the worker’s disability is. Instead, they should discuss the functions of the worker’s job and the accommodations needed to perform those functions.

In some cases, the worker may return to their previous job with few or no accommodations. In other cases, the worker might remain in their previous job but exchange some job tasks with colleagues. A third option is for the worker to transfer to a different role or department. The option best for each worker will depend on how the worker’s disability affects the functions of their job.

For example, a worker may no longer be able to lift heavy objects. If their job rarely involved lifting, the worker could continue the job and use a cart for lifting boxes. If the worker’s job involved sometimes lifting heavy objects up and down stairs, a colleague could perform this function. In exchange, the worker could take on a different small task. If the same worker’s job involved lifting frequently, the worker might need a job that included less lifting.

Under the Code, workers have the right to return to their previous jobs, when possible. In other words, the employer cannot require the worker to go through a re-hiring process. Likewise, the employer should not automatically deploy the worker to a different job. Instead, the worker and employer must determine whether the worker can perform their original job with accommodations.

In addition, there is no time limit that prevents someone from returning to work. For example, an employer cannot create a policy preventing people from returning after an absence of three months or more.

Confidentiality

Under both the AODA and the Code, an employer must keep a worker’s personal and medical information secure and confidential, and disclose it only to people involved in that worker’s accommodation process.

The right of returning to work ensures that workers have the tools and support they need to re-enter their previous jobs and work well after they gain disabilities. In addition, employers can retain talented, competent, and creative workers.




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Students With Disabilities Face More Obstacles Returning to Class: Advocates


Osobe Waberi, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, August 22, 2020

TORONTO — Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure — and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”

Original at https://www.cp24.com/news/students-with-disabilities-face-more-obstacles-returning-to-class-advocates-1.5075009




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Students with disabilities face more obstacles returning to class, Ontario advocates say


TORONTO — Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Read more:
‘I need help’: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

Story continues below advertisement

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure — and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”






Pandemic hard on children with autism


Pandemic hard on children with autism

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

Story continues below advertisement

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”




© 2020 The Canadian Press





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Returning to Work After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, work during the pandemic has taken new forms and new strategies for success. Many of these strategies are also practices that help employers accommodate workers with disabilities. For instance, employers have needed to plan closures and reopenings, or how to do business during the pandemic. In the same way, employers can make plans to support people who return to work with disabilities. Returning to work after the COVID-19 pandemic may help employers learn how to accommodate workers who have disabilities.

Returning to Work After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Essential workplaces have used many new procedures since the start of the pandemic. For instance, workers have:

  • Worn masks, or provided masks to customers
  • Created and followed distancing rules
  • Increased or decreased staffing in response to demand

As a result, workers have taken on new responsibilities, or changed their hours of work. Alternatively, non-essential workplaces have closed and re-opened. In both cases, workplaces have quickly planned and implemented changes. Moreover, employers made these plans in response to government dictates and recommendations. In other words, they have consulted experts and created plans based on that expertise to safeguard their workers and the public.

This same level of planning and collaboration is vital for employers supporting workers who develop disabilities. These workers may need to take leaves of absence from work due to their new disabilities. In addition, they may need accommodations when they return to work. Therefore, employers, workers, and other professionals must work together to create return to work plans.

Sharing Information

During the pandemic, employers have made plans for their organizations based on information and recommendations from various sources, including:

  • The federal and provincial governments
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and other reliable health organizations
  • Professional consultants

These sources alerted workplaces about the need for large- and small-scale changes to their businesses. Moreover, these consultants also worked with employers to recommend and implement new procedures. In the same way, employers create return-to-work plans in consultation with others, including:

  • The worker with a disability
  • The worker’s healthcare provider(s)
  • Other health and safety professionals
  • Volunteers from the workplace, or the union if there is one

Workers alert employers about their disabilities, and their need for leaves of absence. Medical and other professionals recommend when the worker can return to work, and how the employer can accommodate.

Planning for Different Options or Stages

As the pandemic continues, employers have needed to make plans based on different possible outcomes of the pandemic. For instance, employers may have needed to lay off some of their workers. However, because of government funding, some employers could afford to continue employing those workers. Likewise, when workers with disabilities return to work, they may need to plan for different outcomes, depending on their abilities when they return. For example, returned workers may be able to:

  • Return to their old jobs, with no changed duties
  • Return to their old jobs, with some changed duties

Work in a different role or department

Similarly, employers’ plans in response to the pandemic may include stages. For example, a store may plan three stages of serving customers during the pandemic, with different levels of contact:

  • Online service only
  • Curbside pick-up
  • In-person service

In the same way, a worker’s return may also happen in stages. For instance, a worker may be able to return to work part-time at first. The worker may work for a few hours a day, or a few days a week. Then, the worker’s hours can slowly increase until they are working full time again.

Accommodations and Responsibilities

During the pandemic, employers need to accommodate workers taking time off for COVID-related reasons. For instance, workers may need time off if they:

  • Develop symptoms
  • Care for loved ones

Alternatively, workers may need accommodations, such as remote work or scheduling changes. Employers must accommodate workers in the same way when they return to work with disabilities.

Our next article will discuss more accommodations, and how dealing with the pandemic may help employers better support workers who have disabilities.




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