The Accessible Canada Act is now open for review.
The changes to the Act may go beyond just physical characteristics but may include attitudes. The Accessible Canada Act draft is now officially open for review by the public. The government is urging employers to review the proposed changes to the Act to see what might align with their needs or need to be altered.
Feedback from the public on the Act is being accepted until October 17, 2023, with submissions and suggestions related to the Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC).
What is the Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC)?
The intent of the Act is to identify and remove barriers for people with disabilities in the workplace. The workplace is a focus for the legislation. The Act does cover a broader scope that goes well beyond the workplace. The physical surroundings of the employers, as well as issues such as internal communications are relevant to applications to all federally regulated in the private and public sectors.
The Act is fairly wide in scope and impacts all considerations that may present a barrier for employees with disabilities. It could go beyond just employment and include physical, architectural, technological impediments and also attitudes which may be part of the legislation update. The areas that are touched on are fairly wide including:
- Performance management
It will be a requirement for compliance with standards within these categories and maintenance of specific standards. For example, a requirement will be for employers to: (1) avoid questions that would require a candidate to disclose a disability directly or indirectly, (2) develop a statement of commitment to accessibility, equity, and inclusion in recruitment procedures and in job advertisements and (3) implement protections to allow employees to safely voice concerns about accessibility without fear of reprisal among many other requirements.
Changes to the Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC)
The changes may impact the physical characteristics of areas and also how employees and employers approach inclusion and people with disabilities. The Act is likely to impact most aspects of employment which can be a daunting and costly process of compliance.
Role of “complaint-based” discrimination
Canada has relatively strong and effective legislation related to inclusion and accessibility. The prevailing statutes within provincial jurisdictions are evidence of the presence of strong support for compliance. The key shift in the proposed changes may be the approach towards attitudes.
The legislation as it exists now appears to be complaint-based and depends on filing of a complaint about discrimination and asking for adjustments to policies or infrastructure. The changes to the Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC) in this regard places the onus on employers to conduct a broad assessments of the workplace, take steps to identify barriers and create a framework for the elimination of these barriers.
Impact of the Act on the HR leaders and policies
The deadline for employers with over 100 employees to complete their plans was June 1st 2023. Additionally, there is a requirement to review the laws every three years with a process for feedback and progress reports.
The requirements are fairly detailed and time intensive. The Act requires employers to align their polices with the legislation which means that it requires a proactive shift in their obligations to consult people with disabilities which requires a consultation process to identify those barriers. with a comprehensive review of everything from attitudes to infrastructure, from technology to training. The process must identify what can stay the same or needs to be changed. which will involve many departments including HR, legal, department heads and people who have disabilities.
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