Mental health and the duty to accommodate

Mental health and the duty to accommodate

The “duty to accommodate” is a legal right, under the Human Rights Code. Mental illnesses fall under the protected grounds as a disability. If a worker living with a mental illness has a limitation that prevents them from performing essential duties of their job, they have a legal right to accommodation. These limitations can be permanent, temporary, or episodic. The degree varies among individuals. Ideally, employers will accommodate workers before a health crisis happens, by taking steps to create a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.

Accommodating a worker who is living with a mental illness works the same way as accommodating someone for a physical limitation:

  • The employer, the union and the individual are all be involved in designing the accommodation.
  • Supervisors and co-workers support a worker who is being accommodated.
  • Steps should be taken to ensure that the workplace is free from harassment and other pressures that will delay recovery.

Examples of accommodations

  • Flexible scheduling, start times, end times.
  • More frequent breaks.
  • Changes in supervision – either the supervisor or the way direction is given.
  • More time for training, or individualized training.
  • Equipment – different light, headphones, audio recorder.
  • Change in location.
  • Allowing worker to work at home.
  • Negotiating a unique job description.
  • Daily check-in with an agreed upon co-worker.

Duty to accommodate process


Source: CUPE National