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Question: What is a Request for Accommodation?

If you are a business owner, chances are that you or your staff have had an employee make the following type of request:

  • perhaps a request to take time off work;
  • or a request to change hours of work; or
  • maybe a request to change or modify duties

Depending on the employee’s reason for making this request, it may be characterized as a request for "accommodation".

Common requests for accommodation include the following:

  • a request to take time off work due to illness or injury;
  • a request to modify duties due to pregnancy; or
  • maybe a request for a different shift due to family care responsibilities.

Question: Must I grant all Requests for Accommodation?

As an employer operating a business in Ontario, you have a duty to accommodate an employee’s needs when they are related to certain protected grounds.

The duty to accommodate requires that the most appropriate accommodation be determined and undertaken, short of undue hardship.

When assessing undue hardship, factors include cost, outside sources of funding and health and safety.

It is very important in this process to avoid jumping to conclusions.

Even where the best solution might result in undue hardship, there is still a duty to take next-best steps until more ideal ones can be put in place.

Everyone involved must share relevant information and explore solutions together.

In some cases, obtaining further information from an expert is advisable.

Question: What are the consequences for failure to accommodate?

The consequences for an employer who has failed in its duty to accommodate can be very costly. In some cases, it may result in a finding that your organization has breached applicable human rights legislation with the possibility of substantial damages being awarded.

Q. What should I do to prepare my business for accommodation requests?

As an employer, you must take steps to ensure that your organization is familiar with its duty to accommodate. This can be achieved by creating effective policies and training programs for your staff.