Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure has recently announced that they will be conducting targeted audits of retail companies with 500 or more employees to ensure workplaces are compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). The audits will take place this fall during a three-month blitz. The blitz will require audited employers to show that they have met their current requirements under the AODA as of January 1, 2015.  For a list of AODA requirements as of January 1, 2015, see our previous e-lerts here and here.

As of January 1 2016, new AODA compliance requirements will be coming into effect under the AODA’s Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR). Although these requirements will not be part of the Ministry’s current audit, we recommend employers take steps now to ensure they are on track to meet the upcoming deadlines. An overview of the new requirements is set out below.

  1. Training on Accessibility Laws - Small organizations (50 employees or less) must provide training to employees on the requirements of the IASR and on Ontario’s Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities. Large organizations (50 or more employees) were required to provide this training by January 1, 2015.
  2. Accessible Feedback - Small organizations with feedback processes must ensure that the processes are accessible to persons with disabilities by providing accessible formats and communication supports. This may require organizations to receive feedback in multiple ways (e.g., over the telephone, by email, or comment cards). Organizations with feedback processes are required to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats. Large organizations were required to comply with this requirement by January 1, 2015.
  3. Accessible Public Information - Large organizations must make publically available information in respect of the organization’s goods, services or facilities, available in accessible formats upon request and in a timely matter. The accessible formats must take into account the accessibility needs of the person making the request and must be provided at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons. Accessible formats can include, for example, providing printed materials in large print or braille. Organizations are required to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats. These requirements will come into effect for small organizations on January 1, 2017. 
  4. Accessible Employment Practices - Large organizations must comply with the requirements set out in Part III, “Employment Standards”, of the IASR. These requirements, with some exceptions, will come into effect for small organizations on January 1, 2017. An overview of the Employment Standard is set out below:
    1. Recruitment, Assessment, Selection and Hiring – Employers must notify job candidates about the availability of accommodation during the recruitment process and arrange for accommodation where requested. This may include, for example, conducting an interview by email if a job applicant indicates that they have a hearing impairment. When making offers of employment to successful candidates, employers must notify employees of their accommodation policies.
    2. Workplace Information – Employers must provide workplace information in accessible formats when requested by an employee with a disability. This includes (1) any information the employees needs to perform their jobs; (2) general information available to all employees at work – including company newsletters and (3) information about emergency procedures.
    3. Performance Management – Employers must take into account the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities when managing employee performance or considering employees for promotions or advancement. This may include, for example, providing feedback and coaching using plain language for someone with a learning disability.
    4. Individualized Accommodation Plans – Employers must develop a written process for creating individualized accommodation plans for employees with disabilities. The written process must address the eight mandatory elements set out at Subsection 28(2) of the IASR, including addressing how an employee can participate in their accommodation plan, and a schedule for when and how the plan will be reviewed and updated.
    5. Return to Work Plans - Employers must create a return to work process for its employees who have been absent from work due to a disability and require disability-related accommodations in order to return to work. Note, this does not apply if an employee’s injury or illness is covered by the return to work provision under any Ontario law. 

Please note that this is not intended to be an exhaustive description of these requirements. Employers should review the IASR in detail and seek legal advice where necessary.