Duty to accommodate & employment

Topics in this section include:

Employee & Employer Rights and Responsibilities

Employees have a right to:

  • Continue working as long as their condition permits;
  • Be free from discrimination on the grounds of health status;
  • Receive the same insurance benefits coverage provided to other employees subject to any lawful exclusions of the insurer;
  • Be provided reasonable accommodation, as warranted, based on medical confirmation(s) of the employee’s ability to continue working and any special workplace facilities or needs that are required;
  • Disclose only relevant and appropriate information, and to expect the protection of privacy and confidentiality of the employee and their medical information;
  • Have information shared only following the written consent of the employee, provided it is for the purpose of evaluating a request for accommodation, or to ensure appropriate implementation of any agreed to accommodation plan;  
  • Be involved in the accommodation process, including the accommodation plan design;  
  • Equal treatment with respect to employment which covers applying for a job, being recruited, selection, training, transfers, promotions, dismissal and layoffs, compensation, leave, benefits, discipline and performance evaluation, and termination of employment.

The employer has a responsibility to:

  • Foster an environment free from discrimination and/or harassment;
  • Ensure that the employee continues working as long as their condition permits;
  • Administer insurance benefits to ensure the employee will receive the same benefits coverage provided to other employees subject to any lawful exclusions of the insurer;
  • Respect that an employee’s health condition and information is personal and will only be shared following written consent from the employee;
  • Require the employee to disclose only relevant and appropriate information;
  • Ensure that any information and/or medical evidence provided is maintained as strictly confidential and meets the standards of any privacy laws;
  • Provided it is safe to do so, provide reasonable accommodation and/or any special workplace facilities that may be required in response to an approved request for reasonable accommodation – to the point of undue hardship.  
  • Promote equitable access to employment, and protect the rights of all persons with a disability with respect to employment which covers applying for a job, being recruited, selection, training, transfers, promotions, transfers, dismissal and layoffs, compensation, leave, benefits, discipline and performance evaluation, termination of employment


Accommodation may mean making rules, policies, procedures and practices more flexible to ensure that people with disabilities are able to participate in their job. Each person involved has an obligation to participate in the accommodation creation process.  

The employee will:  

  • Notify the designated person/employer about the need for an accommodation. This can be in a letter format, electronic communication or via a procedural form that has been developed for this purpose. This must be signed and dated by the employee
  • Identify the job duties or requirements that they are unable to perform/meet without the requested accommodation
  • Make preliminary suggestions about specific accommodation/modification(s)
  • Explain how the accommodation is going to assist in their ability to perform or meet the job duties or requirements
  • Cooperate with reasonable requests for evidence in order to establish accommodation.  This may involve medical and other expert opinions, including vocational rehabilitation  
  • To the extent possible, provide details about the expected duration
  • Collaborate with the employer, and other stakeholders, in the accommodation process, including for example:
    • Inform the employer of specific needs
    • Review job duties and performance standards 
    • Participate in identifying solutions
    • In collaboration with key stakeholders, develop an accommodation plan
    • Attend meetings to monitor and/or assess progress
    • Recommend a trial period and/or timelines for implementation 
    • Assess and adjust any modifications, as may be required  

The employer will:  

  • Provide the employee with advice, guidelines, and resources related to accommodation policy interpretation and procedures
  • Review and advise the employee about any additional workplace policies and/or income replacement options that may also apply in this situation 
  • Communicate to the employee that they are entitled to participate in an accommodation program and that their collaboration is required and valued
  • Accept requests for accommodation in good faith
  • Review the request in a timely and responsive manner 
  • Assess the request on an individual basis
  • Discuss the purpose and essential functions of the employee’s job
  • Determine the precise job-related limitation(s)
  • Assess the effectiveness each modification would have in allowing an individual to perform the job optimally
  • Manage the accommodation process by: 
    • Encouraging collaboration, co-operation and dialogue
    • Taking an active role in ensuring that possible options, modifications, solutions, and if applicable, alternatives are considered
    • Keeping a written record of the accommodation request and any action taken
    • Monitoring, assessing and adjusting any accommodation modifications as may be required
  • Ensure that any medical details will be limited to the employee’s capability to:
    • Continue working
    • Their ability to carry out the essential functions of the job
    • Special workplace facilities or needs necessary to accommodate the employee, and/or protect the health and safety of the employee, co-workers or other individuals with whom the employee has contact
  • Identify any costs, benefits or detriments
  • Maintain confidentiality of the person requesting accommodation, and ensure that any requests for information are handled in accordance with applicable privacy laws

Process Planning:

We have created a process planning document that contains preliminary tips and strategies that can be applied as you enter into an accommodation planning process. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Benefits of taking a human rights and interest-based approach
  • Initial steps in the process 
  • Immediate objectives and details required
  • Important considerations
  • Responding to colleagues and other staff-members
  • Tips to demonstrate respect and potential positive outcomes for the workplace

When a workplace does not have an accommodation policy 

When the place of business does not have a policy, it is important for the employer to educate themselves about the legislation and/or the standards that will apply with respect to Human Rights and the Duty to Accommodate.

All federal, provincial and territorial human rights websites have comprehensive explanations of accommodation and employment.  Along with information about the specific law that applies, these websites also provide concrete tools and details, including for example:

  • Applicable definitions
  • Employer, union, employee and third party duties and obligations
  • How to apply the principles of accommodation 
  • Guidelines to follow when receiving and assessing an accommodation request 
  • What is a Bone Fide Occupational Requirement of the job and how it relates to accommodation
  • Privacy protection and confidentiality
  • Undue hardship
  • Examples 
  • Helpful templates 
  • Ending the employment relationship
  • Cost to the employer of not providing accommodation and/or following the procedures appropriately
  • Appeals process 
  • Filing a complaint