The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently released a new policy which aims to provide user-friendly guidance on how to define, assess, handle, and resolve human rights issues related to mental health and addiction disabilities. The policy is designed to prevent discrimination based on mental health (Source: OHRC).
Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, states:
"Fear, ignorance and a lack of understanding has led to unequal access to opportunities for people with mental health or addiction disabilities in our society. I believe people are now ready to accept that everyone must be treated equitably. I hope that this policy will become a tool for change."
The Human Rights Code already protects people in Ontario with mental health disabilities and addictions from discrimination and harassment under the ground of "disability". What this new policy seeks to do is provide some clarity and guidelines around what exactly constitutes discrimination and how to navigate through such situations.
As Hall puts it, "People want to comply with the law. But we don't often know what to do, we don't know what the rights are, we don't know what the responsibilities are." (Source: Toronto Sun)
This new policy addresses:
Duty to accommodate
Under the Human Rights Code, employers have a duty to accommodate the needs of people with psycho-social disabilities to make sure they have equal opportunities, equal access, and can enjoy equal benefits. Employment facilities must be designed inclusively or adapted to accommodate people with psycho-social disabilities in a way that promotes integration and full participation (Source: OHRC).
Section 13 of this new policy seeks to provide in-depth legal guidance on what this accommodation actually looks like. One of the most emphasized points is that the duty to accommodate mental health disabilities is no less rigorous than the duty to accommodate physical disabilities. There cannot be a "double standard" for how mental health disabilities are treated versus how physical disabilities are treated.
Check out the full policy at: www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-preventing-discrimination-based-mental-health-disabilities-and-addictions - containing numerous examples of specific situations you may encounter in the workplace. There is also an e-learning program in place: www.ohrc.on.ca/en/learning/duty-accommodate
What has your company done for mental health?
With the Canadian National Standard for mental health (See Blog:
Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace) and the Accessibility for Ontarian's with Disabilities Act - this new policy only adds to the number of considerations employers must have when it comes to accommodation of these issues.
In the official release of the new policy, the OHRC states:
"The ultimate responsibility for maintaining an environment free from discrimination and harassment rests with employers, housing providers, service providers, and other responsible parties covered by the Code. It is not acceptable to choose to stay unaware of discrimination or harassment of a person with a mental health disability or addiction, whether or not a human rights claim has been made."
So what strides has your company made towards accommodating and preventing discrimination for mental health in the workplace? Have you proactively implemented mental health standards or will you only react when a human rights compliant has been made? Please share your experiences in the comments section below:
Clear Path Employer Services is a team of HR consultants and disability management experts aimed at assisting employers with legislative compliance, WSIB claims management, and HR challenges. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with mental health! 519-624-0800 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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