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Mental Health, Addiction, And The Workplace

Living with a mental health disability or addiction is hard. Having to navigate daily life in a workplace unwilling to accommodate these issues is even harder. While there are laws in place to protect employees with mental health issues or addiction, not every employer is compliant. The result? Workers who are unable to perform to the best of their abilities.

As an employee who has a mental health disability or addictions, knowledge is power. Understanding your rights and your employer's obligations can go a long way in ensuring that your work life is as fulfilling as possible.

The Right To Inclusive Design

Ontario's Human Rights Code (the Code) makes provisions for individuals living with mental health issues and addiction. It states that every person in Ontario has the right for equal rights and opportunities as well as freedom from discrimination. When it comes to the areas of employment and membership in unions or other professional organizations, this extends to protecting the individual from harassment related to their disability.

According to the Code, organizations have to design their policies, processes, and services in a way that factors in the needs of people with mental health disabilities and addictions. Referred to as inclusive design, this practice ensures that everyone is able to integrate.

What does inclusive design look like in the workplace? The Code outlines several options that can be easily implemented including:

  • Flexible work hours
  • Contact with support systems
  • Access to addictions programs
  • Job restructuring, retraining, or reassignment to better accommodate the individual's needs

A Joint Responsibility

It is important to note that when it comes to workplace accommodation for mental health issues and addictions, there is a shared sense of responsibility. Employees are required to ask for help to the best of their abilities. That being said, employers must recognize an employee's right to accommodation and understand that if a person cannot ask for support, there remains a duty to provide assistance.

The Human Rights Code's rules concerning mental health disability and addiction are beneficial to all parties involved. By willingly supporting employees, organizations are able to enjoy the contributions of a stronger, more productive workforce. 

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