Workplace accessibility: New accessible employment standard regulation enacted

On May 1, 2019, the Manitoba Accessible Employment Standard Regulation (the “Regulation”) came into force. This Regulation, passed under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act  (the “Act”), establishes obligations and requirements for Manitoba employers to provide reasonable accommodation in the workplace for people with disabilities. It is important for all Manitoba employers to be aware of their obligations under the Regulation, and to make the necessary arrangements in advance of the required date for compliance.

The Act, which came into force on December 5, 2013, is aimed at addressing barriers to accessibility faced by Manitobans with disabilities. As identified in the preamble to the Act, the legislation recognizes that persons disabled by barriers face a wide range of obstacles that prevent them from achieving equal opportunities, independence and full economic and social integration.

The Act is intended to take a proactive approach in identifying, preventing, and removing barriers to accessibility, reinforcing and building upon existing obligations under The Human Rights Code. A primary aspect of the Act is the establishment of accessibility standards. A regulation addressing accessibility in customer services standards was enacted on October 19, 2015.

The Regulation is being phased in over a three-year period. The compliance date for departments of the government is May 1, 2020. As well, all Manitoba employers must, by May 1, 2020, be in compliance with the requirements related to assisting employees with disabilities during workplace emergencies.

Other than the workplace emergency requirements, government agencies, universities and colleges, regional health authorities, the City of Winnipeg, and school divisions and school districts established under The Public Schools Act are required to be in compliance with the Regulation as of May 1, 2021. All other Manitoba employers with one or more employees in Manitoba must be in compliance as of May 1, 2022.

The phasing-in of the Regulation provides Manitoba employers with a window of opportunity to prepare for and plan to be in compliance by the date required. Manitoba employers should consider reviewing with legal counsel their obligations under the Regulation and discuss how to best be prepared.

In general, Manitoba employers should establish and implement measures, policies and practices respecting employment to reasonably accommodate employees and applicants for employment who are or may be disabled by barriers in the workplace.

Employers would be well advised to plan in advance to meet the requirements for providing employees with accommodation training. To be in compliance with the Regulation, employers must provide such training to all persons responsible for recruiting, selecting, training, supervising, managing, coordinating, promoting, redeploying or terminating employees, or for developing and implementing the employer’s employment policies and practices. The training is required to include instruction about interacting with persons disabled by barriers and obligations under The Human Rights Code, the Act, and the Regulation. Fillmore Riley’s labour and employment lawyers are available to conduct training sessions that will satisfy the requirements of the Regulation. 

In addition, employers should prepare in advance of the compliance date for their organization to implement the required accessibility measures, including:

  • Providing information to job applicants about the availability of reasonable accommodations in respect of the hiring assessment or selection process, and arranging for the provision of reasonable accommodations where needed by an applicant;
  • Informing both individuals who are offered employment as well as current employees of the measures, policies, and practices put in place by the employer for workplace accommodation;
  • Taking into account the disabilities and accommodation plans of employees in performance management processes and in training, promotion and/or redeployment processes;
  • Establishing and implementing a policy for the return to work of employees who have been absent from work due to a disability and require reasonable accommodation, including a description of the process the employer will follow in determining the accommodations necessary to facilitate the return to work; and
  • Developing and implementing individualized accommodation plans for employees who are temporarily or permanently disabled, including requirements to review and update such plans due to changes that impact employee accommodations.

Fillmore Riley is pleased to provide employers with advice and assistance in relation to the Regulation, as well as workplace accommodation matters more broadly.