These guidelines are intended to provide the reader with an understanding of how the University addresses accommodation for people with disabilities in the workplace.
The guidelines provide a description of the typical process. Because of the need to respond with some flexibility to individual cases, it should be noted that there may be variations in the way these guidelines apply in individual cases. For example, not every step needs to be taken in every case, the steps may not always take place in the same order, and in some cases a different office within the University than the one indicated below might take responsibility for a particular step.
Request for accommodation
Employees may request an accommodation at any time. Accommodation requests usually begin when an employee notifies the University, usually the manager or chair, Human Resources (HR) or Health & Well-being Programs & Services (HWB), that due to illness or disability, they can not perform the essential duties of their job.
As part of this process, employees may request accessible formats or communications supports. This is for information that is needed in order to perform the job, and that which is generally available to employees in the workplace.The University will consult with the individual to determine the most appropriate accessible format or communication support. Any plans for alternative or accessible communication should be included in the employee’s accommodation plan.
The request for accommodation must be supported by medical documentation. An accommodation will not be put in place until the University has received medical information confirming that the employee has a disability and the restrictions and limitations that need to be accommodated.
Confidential medical documentation should be sent to HWB where it will be evaluated and treated with appropriate confidentiality.
Where additional medical documentation is needed, HWB sends out a medical report for the employee’s doctor or other appropriate specialist to complete and return. The medical report is designed to gather information about the nature of the condition, the functional abilities, limitations and restrictions, the prognosis and the duration of accommodation needed.
When medical information is received, HWB will share with the department the non-confidential portions, which are the abilities, limitations, restrictions, prognosis and anticipated duration of accommodation. HWB will not share any other information (including the type of disability, the treatment plan and the name / specialty of the medical provider), except in cases where the employee consents to the sharing of such information.
When any of HR, HWB, manager or chair receives a request for accommodation, that party should notify the others so that all can be involved in the process.
Receipt of request
After a request has been received, the next step is to ask the employee to provide medical documentation to HWB. If the request for accommodation was made when an employee was returning from sick leave or long-term disability (LTD), HWB may already have the required medical documentation. The process should also provide the opportunity for the employee to be consulted on the type, if any, of assistance required during a workplace emergency. Any assistance that is required should be written into the accommodation plan.
When HWB receives medical information to support an accommodation request, HWB will notify the appropriate divisional HR office and the employee’s department, and will provide them the non-confidential portions of the information.
In the process of accommodation, HWB will copy HR and the department on all non-confidential communications that it sends to the employee and/or union.
Identifying and creating an accommodation
Once the restrictions and limitations are known, the next step may be to identify an accommodation, which will enable the employee to fulfill the essential duties of their job. In some cases, it may be easy for the manager or academic administrator and the employee to identify and implement an accommodation. In these cases, the parties should complete a written accommodation plan (discussed further in this document), which must be signed by both parties and forwarded to HWB and the HR office.
It is important to record the accommodation plan in writing to ensure that there are no misunderstandings at a later date.
As part of this process, employees may request accessible formats or communications supports. This is for information that is needed in order to perform the job and is generally available to employees in the workplace. The University will consult with the individual to determine the most appropriate accessible format or communication support. Any plans for alternative or accessible communication should be included in the employee’s accommodation plan.
Accommodation team meeting
In many cases, the department needs the assistance of HWB to coordinate the development of and agreement to an accommodation. In some cases an accommodation plan may be secured without the necessity of a meeting. In the majority of cases, HWB schedules a meeting with the employee’s accommodation team.
The accommodation team is comprised of the employee, the employee’s union or association representative (unless employee prefers no union or association representation), a divisional HR generalist, the manager or chair, and an HWB representative. Other individuals, including Sun Life rehabilitation specialists, may attend. Labour Relations representatives or legal counsel do not routinely attend unless there is an identified need.
The purpose of the meeting is to review the restrictions and limitations, identify accommodation possibilities, clarify the expected duration of accommodation, identify any non-medical issues that may have an impact on the success of the accommodation and/or that may require follow-up by HR or the department, assign responsibilities and determine next steps.
After this meeting, the parties will follow the steps they discussed in order to put the accommodation in place and have the employee begin working with the accommodation. In some cases, more than one accommodation team meeting is required before the accommodation is in place and ready for the employee to begin.
In the majority of cases, the accommodation will involve the employee staying in their home position with some modifications to that position.
Accommodating an Employee in an Alternative Position
In rare cases, when an employee is fit for work but cannot be accommodated in their pre-disability position, the University may be able to accommodate the employee in another position within the University. In order to determine if this is a possibility, the HR consultant from the employee’s home division and HWB work with the employee and the union/association to identify the employee’s skill set, abilities, and continuing limitations and restrictions. When skill sets and limitations and restrictions are clarified, a description and current resume, omitting the employee’s name, is placed on the HR Portal.
When HR consultants are posting new or vacant positions, they are required to review the descriptions on the portal to see if any employees requiring accommodation to an alternative position would be suitable for the position being posted. If the employee’s skills and abilities appear to meet the needs of an available position, the HR consultant responsible for the posting contacts the HR consultant from the employee’s home division to discuss.
It is possible that a position that has already been posted may be identified as appropriate for an employee requiring accommodation. Employees who are subject to this accommodation process are encouraged to actively review posted positions. If the employee finds a posted position that they believe may be suitable, they should immediately contact the HR consultant from the employee’s home division.
In cases where there appears to be a match between the employee’s skills and abilities and the position requirements, the HR offices will arrange an assessment meeting between the hiring manager and the employee. This assessment meeting is not a full job interview, but allows the manager and employee an opportunity to discuss whether the employee could perform the duties of the position given the employee’s skills, limitations and restrictions, and the requirements of the job. The HWB consultant is available during this process for advice with regard to the limitations and restrictions and related workplace accommodations.
Accommodations that include a move to a new position usually include a transition period of one to two months, depending upon the position, within which the manager is able to determine if the employee is in fact qualified, able to perform the position responsibilities, and the employee in conjunction with HWB and their medical provider may assess whether the position is within the reported restrictions and limitations.
Once a position or an accommodation within a position has been identified, an accommodation plan is drafted. HWB has templates for departments to use for simple accommodations. For more complex accommodations, HWB will help draft the accommodation plan as developed in the accommodation team meetings.
Many accommodations, whether in the employee’s home position or a different position, require ongoing monitoring and reassessment. This is best done by having periodic accommodation team meetings throughout the duration of the accommodation. HWB coordinates these meetings.
HWB may request updated medical on a periodic basis to support ongoing accommodations. The department or the employee should contact HWB if they believe that the restrictions or limitations have changed or if they otherwise believe that updated medical documentation is needed.