Update: The Manitoba government is currently accepting applications for grants of up to $50,000 from the Manitoba Accessibility Fund, for organizations that will promote accessibility and remove barriers for people with disabilities. Find out if your organization is eligible for the 2023-2024 intake period. The province has also launched a consultation on its proposed Accessible Transportation Standard regulation.
Overview of the Accessible Employment Standard
Manitoba introduced The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (the “AMA”) in 2013 to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility. The AMA currently includes two standards that address different accessibility barriers: (1) accessible customer service and (2) accessible employment and (3) information and communications.
By November 1, 2018, all employers in Manitoba were obligated to comply with the Customer Service Standard Regulation.
By May 1, 2020, all employers were required to comply with the workplace emergency response requirements set out in the Accessible Employment Standard Regulation (the “Standard”).
For all other requirements under the Employment Standard, private sector employers had until May 1, 2022 to comply. Those additional requirements address employers’ general obligations regarding accessible employment (e.g., accessible recruitment, training and performance management practices) and their obligations to individual employees, including individualized accommodation and/or return to work plans.
The following is a summary of the policy development requirements of all employers with respect to employees’ return to work, and additional obligations for large employers, and does not address all requirements under the Employment Standard. We encourage all employers to review the Standard and/or visit the AMA website for more information.
Return to Work Policy
All Manitoba employers, regardless of size, must establish and implement a policy on the return to work process for employees who have been absent from work due to a disability and who require reasonable accommodation.
The policy must include a description of the process the employer will follow in determining the accommodations necessary to facilitate the return to work of an employee.
Large Employers & General Employment Accessibility Policy
There are additional obligations under the Standard for large employers who employ at least 50 employees.
Large employers are required to document all accessible employment measures, policies and practices established in relation to the Standard. For ease of reference and audit purposes, these documented policies and procedures should all form part of one general employment accessibility policy.
Large employers must also make their policies publicly available and in an accessible format, on request.
Although small employers do not have similar statutory obligations, it is best practice to document regardless of the size of the organization, as to facilitate consistency of approach and training.
Accommodation Training Policy
All employers, for instance, must ensure that accommodation training is provided to persons within the organization who are responsible for:
- recruiting, selecting or training employees;
- supervising, managing or coordinating employees;
- promoting, redeploying or terminating employees; or
- developing and implementing the employer’s employment policies and practices.
Large employers, however, must also develop a written accommodation training policy that includes a summary of the content of the accommodation training and when accommodation training will be provided.
Individualized Accommodation Plan Policy (“IAP”):
Large employers must establish and implement a policy respecting individualized accommodation plans for employees who are temporarily or permanently disabled by a barrier in the workplace. This policy must include specific information as set out in section 13 of the Standard, including but not limited to the following:
- an employee can request how the employer prepares their IAP;
- an employee can request a representative of the bargaining agent (if represented by a union) or a person who is knowledgeable in the area of workplace accommodations to assist in the development of their IAP; and
- the circumstances in which the employer may deny an employee’s request for an IAP.
On February 14, 2022, the Government of Manitoba announced the Manitoba Accessibility Fund (the “Fund”) to help organizations and businesses create awareness and compliance with The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (the “AMA”) and its standards.
Under this Fund, employers can apply for up to $50,000 in provincial support for projects that remove barriers to people with disabilities and promote accessibility across the province.
The following sections provide a brief overview of the Fund’s application and eligibility criteria.
Applications must target the first three (3) accessibility standards under the AMA affecting:
- customer service;
- employment; and
- information and communications.
Applications must also fulfill at least one (1) of the following objectives in support of the AMA and the standards:
- raise awareness about preventing and removing barriers;
- develop tools, resources and training to support compliance with the AMA standards; and
- remove barriers to information and communications electronically, in print and in-person.
Applicants include eligible organizations that have been in operation for at least one (1) year, including the following:
- local businesses or corporations based in Manitoba and registered with the Companies Office providing services to Manitobans;
- non-profit organizations;
- on-reserve business and organizations that meet all other eligibility requirements;
- municipalities and local authorities such as planning districts and Northern Affairs Community Councils; and
- universities, colleges and school divisions.
Employers can submit their applications now until the submission deadline of March 10, 2023.
More information on the Fund, eligible activities and eligible costs can be found here.
On February 17, 2023, Manitoba launched a 60-day consultation period on its proposed Accessible Transportation Standard, which would establish minimum accessibility requirements for transit operators, school buses and vehicles for hire. The regulation would also require transit operators to provide training to employees and implement publicly available accessibility measures, policies and practices.
The Accessible Transportation Standard is anticipated to come into force on January 1, 2026.
The Manitoba Accessibility Office is accepting comments on the proposed regulation until April 9, 2023 via an online consultation portal.
Employers seeking guidance regarding The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and its standards or the Manitoba Accessibility Fund should contact a member of our labour and employment team in Winnipeg.
For information on the new federal accessibility legislation and requirements, see our blog here.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.