[author: Naomi Horrox]
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has released its report entitled Minds that matter: Report on the consultation on human rights, mental health and addictions.
Minds that Matter reports the findings from the OHRC’s province-wide consultation on the human rights issues experienced by people with mental health disabilities or addictions, summarizing the insights gleaned from more than 1,500 individuals and organizations across Ontario that it surveyed. The report also sets out recommended actions for government, housing providers, employers, service providers and other parties, as well as a series of OHRC commitments towards eliminating discrimination based on mental health and addictions in Ontario.
Employers will be most interested in chapter 12, “Employment”, which sets out a number of experiences from individuals with mental health or addiction issues. In brief, many individuals with mental health and addiction issues expressed concerns that they continue to experience discrimination in the employment hiring process and discrimination and harassment in the workplace in the course of employment. Some of the specific experiences noted included the following:
Gaps in employment history due to periods of disability may be hard to explain during the employment process and may create a barrier to being hired.
Systemic barriers to employment were created by having non-criminal contact with police relating to mental health or addiction issues recorded and disclosed as part of a police record check.
The rules around workplace violence risk assessments and the disclosure of personal information about employees under the Bill 168 amendments to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act may negatively affect people with psychosocial disabilities if they are applied improperly, especially if employees with past, present or perceived mental health issues are assumed incorrectly to be a danger to other workers.
In response to these experiences and others, the OHRC made the following recommendations to employers:
All employers should develop human rights policies and procedures outlining their organization’s obligations under the Human Rights Code, including the duty to accommodate people with psychosocial disabilities to the point of undue hardship.
Employers should ensure their human rights policies identify that people with mental health issues and addictions are protected under the ground of disability, and eliminate systemic barriers in the workplace (such as in their organizational culture) that may exclude or disadvantage people with mental health issues and addictions.
All employers should train their employees and managers on their responsibilities under the Code regarding the human rights issues that affect people with mental health disabilities and addictions. This training should address preventing and responding to discrimination and harassment, systemic issues affecting people with psychosocial disabilities and the duty to accommodate.
The OHRC committed to discuss with the Ministry of Labour the impact of disclosure requirements under the OHSA on people with mental health issues, and consider how this issue could be monitored and addressed.
To read the report in its entirety, please see http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/minds-matter-report-consultation-human-rights-mental-health-and-addictions