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Effective January 1, 2017 there are new accessibility standards for employers with under 50 employees.

Larger non-public employers with more than 50 employees were required to implement new employment standards and communications obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”) last January. The time has come for those same obligations to now be met by non-public Ontario organizations with at least one but less than 50 employees.

As of January 1, 2017, smaller employers must ensure they have the following in place in their workplaces to comply with the employment standards obligations under the AODA:

  • Employers must notify its employees and the public about the availability of accommodations for applicants with disabilities in its recruitment processes.
  • During the recruitment process, an employer shall notify job applicants, when they are individually selected to participate in an assessment or selection process that accommodations are available upon request in relation to the materials or processes to be used.
  • If a selected applicant requests an accommodation, the employer must consult with the applicant and provide or arrange for the provision of a suitable accommodation in a way that takes into account the applicant’s accessibility needs.
  • When an employer makes an offer of employment, it must notify the successful applicant of its policies for accommodating employees with disabilities.
  • Employers must keep their employees informed about policies relating to the support available to employees with disabilities. This must be continued at all stages of the employment relationship. New employees must be advised of this as soon as practicable after beginning their employment.
  • Where an employee with a disability requests it, employers must consult with the employee to provide or arrange for accessible formats and communication supports for information that is needed in order to perform the employee’s job; and information that is generally available to employees in the workplace.
  • Employers must provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees (and to someone to assist the employee, if requested) who have a disability, if the disability is such that the individualized information is necessary and the employer is aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability, in a timely manner. This information must be updated as circumstances in the workplace change.

Also, smaller employers must also ensure they have the following in place as of January 1, 2017 to comply with the information and communications obligations under the AODA:

  • Upon request and in a timely manner, smaller organizations must provide accessible formats and communication supports for any persons with disabilities (customers, public, employees, etc.). The cost to do so should not be more than the regular cost charged to other persons.
  • Organizations that are equipped with processes for receiving and responding to feedback will be required to notify the public about the availability of accessible format and communication supports. When requested, these organizations must provide them.

These new obligations will require employers to review the information available during the recruitment process to ensure that the message is clearly made that accommodations are available. A review of postings, hiring sections of website and job offers is recommended. Employees should be made aware of accommodation policies in the workplace and employers should understand their obligation to provide supports in the workplace if needed. Special attention must be made when developing or updating emergency response information to take into consideration employees with disabilities who may be impacted in an emergency situation.

Employers must also turn their mind to how they communicate with the public, including customers and suppliers. This communication must be provided in an accommodated way, where requested, at a reasonable cost.

The obligations under the AODA have been rolling out slowly, with full compliance expected for 2025. Does your organization need assistance in ensuring it is compliant with these new obligations under the AODA? Contact a lawyer in the Siskinds’ Employment & Labour group.

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