Accommodation is a team effort. It is also a process. Both the individual seeking and the individual providing an accommodation need to be involved in the process of designing, implementing and modifying accommodations. The process of accommodation is a shared responsibility and will be most effective in terms of both employee and workplace outcomes when everyone engages cooperatively in the process.
Below, we explore both the obligations of both employers and employees in the development and implementation of workplace accommodations.
Duties of person seeking accommodations:
Individuals who require an accommodation have a responsibility to help secure the appropriate accommodation for themselves. They are not responsible for coming up with a solution on their own, however, their input is important in helping their employer understand their needs so that they can be accommodated as effectively as possible.
As an employee requiring accommodation, you have a responsibility to:
1. Make your needs known
Counting on your employer to intuit your needs can only lead to frustration. To the best of your ability, you should explain your accommodation needs – ideally in writing. As appropriate and as needed, you should answer your employer’s questions concerning relevant restrictions or limitations you may have. Your employer does not have the right to press you for details about the specifics of your disability, but in order to provide suitable accommodation, they may need to ask for information to better understand your needs in order to meet them in an effective and dignified manner.
2. Contribute to the accommodation’s design
By being part of the discussion and design for your accommodation, your accommodation is more likely to be effective than if left entirely to your employer to create. This means working with your employer on an ongoing basis to monitor, manage and adjust the accommodation as needed.
3. Meet job expectations once the accommodation has been provided
Once you have received adequate and appropriate accommodations, it is your responsibility to meet all of your regular job expectations the same as any employee.
Duties of Employer providing accommodations:
Many workers will, at one time or another in their careers find themselves in need of an accommodation. Employers have a duty to accommodate the needs of their employees to ensure they have equal opportunities for, access to, and benefits from employment.
As an employer you have a responsibility to:
1. Take accommodation requests in good faith
Assume the best of your employees. Unless there is a glaring reason to think otherwise, your employee’s request for accommodation is probably being made for perfectly honest and fair reasons. Go in with an open and compassionate attitude and get to work as quickly as possible to find and implement supportive and dignified accommodations.
2. Actively pursue accommodation solutions
Your business or organization will only ever be as successful as your employees’ ability to do their work. By working with your employees to find accommodations that empower them to work as effectively as possible, you will maximize the efficiency of your workplace. Accommodations often benefit more than the intended party. Therefore, developing policies that are adaptive and inclusive will allow you to manage your staff in a way that is productive and enables them to be their best selves.
3. Seek expert advise
When necessary, you may need to consult with experts (in employment law, design, health etc.) to come up with and implement appropriate and effective accommodations.
4. Keep records of requests and actions taken
In order to ensure that accommodation duties are being effectively pursued, met and implemented, keep a written record of all requests, consultations, actions and feedback involved in the accommodation process. Keep these records confidential.
5. Be aware that an accommodation may be needed even if it is not being asked for
People requiring accommodation may be reluctant to disclose their disability because of social stigma. Stigma sometimes keeps people from revealing their disability or need for accommodation until it is absolutely necessary.
Employers should, as a best practice, educate themselves about employee needs and break down stigmas and stereotypes. You don’t have to accommodate needs you don’t know about but you should be observant to sudden changes in employee behaviour. You have a duty to assess the situation before imposing punitive measures. For example, if a reliable employee starts to perform poorly, reach out with compassion and dignity to see if there is a way you can help them be their best selves. You should provide a range of opportunities for your employee to reach out for help.