Embrace accommodation to increase engagement

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To senior managers, the obligation to accommodate disabilities can seem costly in time, money and productivity.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is one of the newer and more extensive additions to the legislation around managing disabilities in public and work spaces, but all provinces require accommodation to the point of “undue hardship” and some are looking to follow in AODA’s footsteps over the next few years.

So when an employee presents with a long or short term disability it can seem like it’s time to call accounting and let them know to prepare the red pens. However, a Toronto lawyer says HR can stop panicking at the site of an LTD process – in fact, the benefits often outweigh the downsides.

“There is an onerous obligation on employers to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. I’m saying that and I’m still saying you’ve got an ROI,” says Stuart Ducoffe, a partner with Woolgar VanWiechen Ketcheson Ducoffe LLP. “By embracing it and doing it properly, what you’re going to get is ambassadors for your organization.”

Employers need to step back and take a “macro” viewpoint, Ducoffe told attendees of Ceridian’s Executive Speaking series. The majority of accommodations cost less than $600, and almost two thirds of employers (62%) reported that accommodating employee disability boosted company morale. What’s more, 59% of companies saw an increase in productivity after implementing successful disability accommodation measures.

According to Ducoffe, employees who have disabilities are likely to be more engaged and have lower turnover. But the effect doesn’t end there.  Their coworkers, seeing that their employer is understanding and compassionate also become more engaged, which makes them more loyal and more productive, Ducoffe says.

This doesn’t mean accommodating beyond undue hardship, such as excessive costs or substantial disruptions to your company, Ducoffe says. What is needed is consistency, persistence and fairness – with the payoff at the end of engaged staff who are more productive, leading to better profits.

Tips to get your managers onboard with disability accommodation:
 

  • don’t just tell managers what they’re required to do under the law– help them to understand how changing the way they think about making accommodations is in line with the organization’s values, goals and expectations of them as leaders
     
  • explain to managers how when employees feel supported, they will feel more loyal to the organization, more productive and more engaged in what they’re doing
     
  • emphasize to your managers that the organization wants to make accommodations to people with disabilities, not just that it may have to.




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