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Requesting workplace accommodations after disability leave

After being on short- or long-term disability, people returning to work can face obstacles they might not have experienced before their leave. One significant challenge can be returning to a job with conditions that make it difficult or impossible to participate in the workplace fully.

Under these circumstances, an employee can request accommodations that allow them to work. 

What makes an accommodation reasonable?

Under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, employers have a duty to provide accommodations that ensure employees with disabilities have equal access and benefits as other workers. However, one condition is that the accommodation must be appropriate. 

To be reasonable or appropriate, an accommodation must not be highly disruptive to other employees or fundamentally change the nature of the person’s job. Further, it must not put an undue hardship on an employer in the form of substantial expense or resources.

Some examples of an appropriate accommodation include:

  • Ergonomic equipment
  • Adjusted work schedule
  • Accessibility equipment
  • More frequent breaks
  • Additional support

These measures can enable a person to perform the essential functions of their job while preserving their dignity and allowing them to participate fully.

Requesting an accommodation

If you are returning to work and could benefit from an accommodation, you can submit your request to your employer. If you are unsure of what an accommodation might specifically look like, you might discuss the options with your supervisor. You can also consult your physicians or a lawyer to discuss possible solutions.

Keep in mind that any accommodation an employer provides should respect an individual’s dignity and promote integration.

It is also crucial to recognize that an accommodation that works for someone else may not be suitable for you. And your needs can change over time, meaning that you may need to make adjustments in the future.

Unfortunately, not every person will get the accommodations they need, either because an employer wrongfully denies them or the individual does not request them. Not only can this make it incredibly difficult to work, but it can also be a violation of a person’s rights.

Thus, if you are preparing to return to work after being on disability leave, assessing your needs and requesting appropriate accommodations should be high on your list of priorities to make the transition easier.

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