Manitoba

Small businesses excused from writing down accessibility findings, Manitoba government decides

The Manitoba government is exempting more business owners from documenting the steps they take to make their workplaces accessible.

While province reduces administrative burden on employers, employment standards on accessibility introduced

The Manitoba government is lowering the threshold for additional requirements placed on businesses from 20 to 50 employees for accessibility matters concerning customer service and employment. (Shutterstock)

The Manitoba government is exempting more business owners from documenting the steps they take to make their workplaces accessible.

The province is loosening the requirement on small business owners at the same time as it introduces new guidelines to remove employment barriers for people with disabilities. 

Beginning May 1, the province will no longer compel businesses with 20 to 49 employees to write down their accessibility policies for customer service and employment matters, nor be forced to make those procedures available publicly.

The change was recommended by an independent review of Manitoba's accessibility rules, which found that employers lack the resources to write down their policies.

Province reducing burden on employers

Disabilities advocate David Kron said it's disappointing the province is making good on the recommendation.

"We're concerned about that because … the good majority of businesses out there are small businesses, especially when you get into rural Manitoba," said Kron, representing Barrier Free Manitoba, an advocacy group that pushed for the passing of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act in 2013.

"We were a little disappointed when we saw that they had changed the regulation from 20 to 50 workers to qualify."

By exempting businesses with fewer than 50 employees, the province is following the lead of Ontario, which made a similar change after receiving complaints that small businesses don't possess the resources for detailed record-keeping. They are still required to comply with the act, just without documentation. 

The Manitoba government said the move reduces the administrative burden on smaller businesses, municipalities and non-profits. 

Meanwhile, the government is following through on enacting the second of five areas of focus within the accessibility act. (The customer service standard was enacted late last year.)

The employment standard, which takes effect May 1, requires all employers to implement measures to reasonably accommodate employees in need. 

These policies must be considered throughout a worker's interaction with a business, such as during the recruitment process, hiring and career advancement. 

The onus is on the government to provide the resources so that they educate the population and educate employers.- Disabilities advocate David Kron

An employer must also prepare an accommodation plan for any employee facing some barrier to accessibility.

Businesses have time to make the necessary adjustments. 

Provincial government departments must comply by May 2020, while public sector organizations, including Crown corporations, health authorities, universities, colleges and school divisions, have until May 2021.

Emergency plan in one year

Private sector businesses with one or more employee — as well as non-profit organizations and small municipalities — can wait three years.

But all employers must create an emergency response plan for their employees with a disability by May 2020.

Kron is pleased to see these new guidelines, but he hopes the province complements the legislation with assistance for employers.

"The onus is on the government to provide the resources so that they educate the population and educate employers," said Kron, who also serves as executive director of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba.

The province said that resources are available on accessibilitymb.ca and the province's social media channels will roll out further information starting May 1.

Kron said he wants businesses to succeed as finding employment can be one of the toughest hurdles for people with a disability. 

"Income solves all, right?" he said. "If you employ folks with disabilities to whatever degree they can, it certainly helps all the parts of the community and the society."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese reports from the Manitoba Legislature for CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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