Explore Legislation Related to Employment Rights and Access for People with Disabilities

May 13, 2015

Want to learn about disability rights and access to employment in Canada, but don’t know where to begin? Here’s a summary of related legislation and regulations in Canada.

Because the Learn section of TalkRights features content produced by CCLA volunteers and interviews with experts in their own words, opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the CCLA’s own policies or positions. For official publications, key reports, position papers, legal documentation, and up-to-date news about the CCLA’s work check out the In Focus section of our website.

Overview

Providing accessible employment for people with disabilities is a priority for the federal and provincial governments, and has been for many years.

Although it there is still progress to be made to break down all of the barriers in place, the following document provides an overview of legislation that has been enacted to enforce and encourage a more accessible work force. Since there is no Canadian legislation dealing with disability issues across Canada, as with the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act, the provinces are left to enact their own legislation. Together with links to each piece of legislation, this page provides a few relevant points about each of the statutes, regulations and policies.

Federal

Legislation: Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Constitution Act, 1982)

Summary: Section 15 holds that everyone is equal before and under law and is entitled to equal protection and benefit of law without discrimination.

Legislation: Canadian Human Rights Act, RSC 1985, c H-6

Summary: This statute prohibits discrimination in many areas, including employment, on the grounds of 11 factors, including disability (Accompanying Regulation).

Legislation: Employment Equity Act, SC 1995, c 44 (EEA) (Accompanying Regulations: SOR/96-470)

Summary: The EEA helps ensure that all Canadians have the same access to the labour market and specifically targets four groups (women, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and visible minorities) to ensure that employers take action to represent these groups within their organizations.

The EEA, at section 3, defines persons with disabilities as follows:

persons who have a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment and who

(a) consider themselves to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment, or
(b) believe that a employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment,

and includes persons whose functional limitations owing to their impairment have been accommodated in their current job or workplace.

All organizations or businesses regulated by the federal government are legally required to adhere to the above acts. These two laws define obligations regarding:

1. Equality

2. Duty to Accommodate

3. Equal Employment Opportunities

The types of regulated organizations includes federally regulated industries, Crown corporations and other federal organizations with 100 employees or more, as well as portions of the federal public administration identified in Schedules I or IV and V of the Financial Administration Act and by order of the Governor in Council, which includes the Canadian Forces and the RCMP. The Legislated Employment Equity Program ensures that these organizations report annually on the representation of the four designated groups in their workplaces and on the steps they have taken to achieve full representation. Also included are federal contractor organizations that are provincially regulated suppliers of goods  and services, that have at least 100 employees in Canada and that receive contracts of $200,000 or more from the federal government.

Policy: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service

Summary: This policy has been in effect since June 3, 2002. According to the Secretariat, “This policy outlines the principal steps necessary to attain the goal of a representative Public Service that includes persons with disabilities.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Legislation: Human Rights Act, 2010, SNL 2010, c H-13.1

Summary: A human rights violation under the Act occurs when an individual is discriminated against because of one of 16 prohibited grounds of discrimination, including disability. Among other actions, the Act prohibits discrimination in the area of employment.

Legislation: Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act, RSNL 1990, c W-11 and Accompanying Regulations.

Prince Edward Island

Legislation: Human Rights Act, RSPEI 1988, c H-12 

Summary: This statute prohibits discrimination in areas such as employment and services on the basis of certain personal characteristics or grounds, including disability. Discrimination is the unequal, stereotypical or prejudicial treatment of persons.

Resource: The PEI HR Toolkit: Considerations of a Diverse Workplace

Summary: This site provides some factors human resources departments should consider when hiring people with disabilities to ensure that the workplace is inclusive and accessible.

Legislation: Workers Compensation Act, 2000 PESCAD 28 and Accompanying Regulations.

Nova Scotia

Legislation: Human Rights Act, RSNS 1989, c 214

Summary: Under section 5 of this statute, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against people or treat them unfairly based on 17 characteristics, including disability. (Accompanying Regulations).

Legislation: Employment Support and Income Assistance Act, SNS 2000, c. 27

Summary: This statute provides help for people unable to pay for basic living expenses and work-related supports. Employment services means services and programs to assist recipients in enhancing their employability and quality of life (Accompanying Regulations). 

Resource: Employment Support and Income Assistance Program

Summary: This is a guide that helps determine eligibility for assistance, how to apply for assistance, rights and responsibilities and who to contact for answers.

Legislation: Workers Compensation Act, SNS 1994-95, c. 10

Summary: This statute provides the legal framework for the administration of the WCB’s prevention, return to work, assessment, and compensation programs. This legislation is complimented by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations, which establish workplace health and safety standards. It provides for temporary and permanent relief for people who become disabled on the job, and survivor benefits for family of people who have died while working. (Accompanying Regulations).

New Brunswick

Legislation: Human Rights Act, RSNB 2011, c 171

Summary: This statute prohibits discrimination in 5 enumerated areas, including employment, on 13 enumerated grounds, including disability. Employers are responsible for the acts of their employees if such acts were committed in the course of employment. They must avoid standards that have a discriminatory effect where this can be done without sacrificing their own legitimate objectives or incurring undue hardship, whether that hardship takes the form of impossibility, serious risk or excessive cost.

Legislation: Workers’ Compensation Act, RSNB 1973, c. W-13

Summary: This statute provides the legal framework for the administration of the Workers’ Compensation Board’s prevention, return to work, assessment, and compensation programs in New Brunswick (Accompanying Regulations).

Quebec

Legislation: Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

Summary: This statute prohibits discrimination on 14 grounds, including discrimination, in many contexts, including employment (section 16-20.1). Employers in Québec must ensure that their human resource policies and practices are not discriminatory. Employers are also required to respond to an employee’s request for reasonable accommodation.

Legislation: Workers Compensation Act, CQLR c A-3

Summary: A worker injured (leading to short or long-term disability) due to an accident is entitled to the benefits provided for by this Act (section 3) unless the employee is wilfully negligent in respect of his or her safety (Accompanying Regulations).

Ontario

Legislation: Human Rights Code, RSO 1990, c H.19

Summary: The Code prohibits unreasonable discrimination in several areas, including employment, on the 14 grounds, including disability. Included among the requirements for employers is that employers must accommodate the needs of people with disabilities (Accompanying Regulations).

Legislation: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, SO 2005, c 11

Summary: This statute and its regulations implement several requirements for employers. This includes an Accessibility Compliance Report for public sector and private or non-profit organizations with 20 or more employees. The report requires a demonstrated effort to continue to meet the customer service standard and meet new requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (Accompanying Regulations).

Resource: Handbook for Accessible Employment: Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Summary: This handbook provides guidance and templates for employers on accessible hiring practices, policies for supporting employees with disabilities, accessible communication, individual accommodation plans, return to work processes, performance management, career development and job changes, as well as accommodation solutions regarding specific disabilities (Accompanying Regulations).

Resource: A Guide to the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation

Summary: The requirements covered under the Employment Standards portion of the regulation include the following:

  • Recruitment, assessment and selection
  • Accessible formats and communication supports for employees
  • Workplace emergency response information
  • Documented individual accommodation plans
  • Return to work process
  • Performance management
  • Career development and advancement
  • Redeployment

See also Ministry webpage.

Legislation: Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, SO 1997, c 16, Sch A

Summary: This statute and its regulations guide the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board when determining the benefits the injured worker and/or his or her family deserves (Accompanying Regulations).

Manitoba

Legislation: The Human Rights Code, CCSM c H175

Summary: The Code prohibits unreasonable discrimination in several areas, including employment, on the 13 grounds, including disability. Included among the requirements for employers is that employers must accommodate the needs of people with disabilities (Accompanying Regulation).

Legislation: The Accessibility for Manitobans Act, CCSM c A1.7 

Summary: The purpose of this statute is to provide a clear and proactive process for the identification, prevention and removal of barriers that prevent a significant per cent of the population from full participation. It is coming into force over time.

Legislation: The Workers Compensation Act, CCSM c W200 and Accompanying Regulations.

Saskatchewan

Legislation: The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, SS 1979, c S-24.1

Summary: The Code makes it illegal to discriminate in several areas, including employment, against a person based on 9 characteristics, including disability. The Code also requires employers to accommodate people with disabilities (Accompanying Regulations).

Legislation: The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013, SS 2013, c W-17.11 and Accompanying Regulations.

Alberta

Legislation: Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A-25.5

Summary: The Act makes it illegal to discriminate in several areas, including employment, against a person based on 13 characteristics, including disability. The Act also requires employers to accommodate people with disabilities. (Accompanying Regulations).

Legislation: Workers’ Compensation Act, RSA 2000, c W-15 and Accompanying Regulations.

Legislation: Blind Workers’ Compensation Act, RSA 2000, c B-4 

British Columbia

Legislation: Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c 210

Summary: The Code makes it illegal to discriminate in several areas, including employment, against a person based on 11 characteristics, including disability. The Code also requires employers to accommodate people with disabilities.

Legislation: Workers Compensation Act, RSBC 1996, c 492 and Accompanying Regulations.

Northwest Territories

Legislation: Human Rights Act, SNWT 2002, c 18

Summary: The Act makes it illegal to discriminate in several areas, including employment, against a person based on 19 characteristics, including disability. The Act also requires employers to accommodate people with disabilities (Accompanying Regulations). 

Legislation: Workers’ Compensation Act, SNWT 2007, c 21 and Accompanying Regulations.

Yukon

Legislation: Human Rights Act, RSY 2002, c 116

Summary: The Act makes it illegal to discriminate in several areas, including employment, against a person based on 13 characteristics, including disability. The Act also requires employers to accommodate people with disabilities (Accompanying Regulations).

Legislation: Workers’ Compensation Act, SY 2008, c 12 and Accompanying Regulations.

Nunavut

Legislation: Human Rights Act, SNu 2003, c 12

Summary: The Act makes it illegal to discriminate in several areas, including employment, against a person based on 17 characteristics, including disability. The Act also requires employers to accommodate people with disabilities (Accompanying Regulations).

Legislation: Workers’ Compensation Act, SNu 2007,c.15 and Accompanying Regulations.