THE EMPLOYERS' EDGE
Time to Catch Up for Federal Employers! Canada introduces Federal Accessibility Legislation
Here in Ontario, most employers are not strangers to the requirements of accessibility legislation; but, for some time federally regulated employers have not been required to meet the same requirements established by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This is changing. Recently, the Federal Government introduced the Accessible Canada Act which is intended to reduce barriers in federal organizations for individuals with disabilities. An overview of the Accessible Canada Act is available here.
The rationale behind these pieces of legislation is that accessibility is critical to large portions of the population. Accessibility has become a focus for governments as statistics from 2012 indicate that 14% of Canadians over age 15 have a disability. Furthermore, in the employment context, disabilities have a significant impact as it was reported in 2012 that 49% of people with disabilities aged 25 to 64 were employed compared with 79% of Canadians without disabilities. These statistics and more have prompted governments to introduce legislation to get Canadians with disabilities into the workforce and to create an accessible environment. But what does this mean for employers?
The Accessible Canada Act will apply to federally-run organizations and programs as well as federally regulated businesses such as banking, telecommunications and transportation. These employers will be required to do at least three things:
- Create, publish and update an accessibility plan
- Provide feedback tools
- Prepare and publish progress reports
More regulations are expected to detail the “how” and “when” for these requirements to be met. Based on Ontario’s experience it could be expected that there will be a gradual role out of objectives and varying timelines to comply. However, federal employers may want to explore early compliance to avoid being offside the legislation once passed and to avoid facing and responding to individual initiated complaints.
Now may also be a good time for federal employers to assess the policies that they have in place and to consider if proactive changes may ease achieving compliance in the future. We will continue to monitor the Accessible Canada Act as it moves through the legislative process and provide updates.
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