While the number of employed persons with disabilities is low (only about one-third of people with disabilities are employed), growth through 2022 is expected. This is a compelling reason for employers to lay the right groundwork for a process around reasonable accommodation requests.
A strong and thought-out process allows employees to seek workplace accommodations with ease, and employers to maintain confidence in the health and safety of their employees.
Make the Process Interactive
Arguably, the most important piece of this, or any, organizational process is ensuring the process engages the right parties and encourages interaction between the employer and employees. Additionally, it is safe to assume that most employees are unaware of their rights in this area. Provide non-specific information to involved parties and aim to have accommodation conversations in-person (preferred) or over live video conference.
Employers should review and update job descriptions regularly to ensure all aspects of the job are taken into consideration. This would include “equipment necessary to complete the job, any health and safety requirements, and conduct requirements.” Aim to make job descriptions as specific as possible and provide to employees during their annual performance review or candidates during onboarding. Consider the job description a working document and a crucial part of this iterative process.
Open Employer-Employee Communication
The moment a request is brought to the attention of the human resources team is when the documentation should begin, continuing throughout the employee’s journey at the company. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends keeping accommodation requests and fulfillment documentation separate from the employee’s personnel file. Encourage the employee, management, and the HR team to communicate directly with one another. Ask for supplementary documentation (e.g. medical information or doctor’s note) early in the process to avoid roadblocks or inadvertently slowing the process.
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