New Federal Supports for Employees with Disabilities

On June 5, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced several new federal supports being put into place for Canadian citizens with disabilities.  These supports are intended to address the significant challenges faced by individuals with disabilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including job insecurity and increased costs for personal support workers, medication, and medical supplies.

In addition to a one-time, tax free payment to Canadians who are entitled to the Disability Tax Credit, the federal government has invested substantial funds towards programs aimed at addressing the fact that people with disabilities are at a higher risk of job loss during economic downturns.

One such program is the new National Workplace Accessibility Stream of the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities.  The Opportunities Fund was developed to assist individuals with disabilities to prepare for, obtain and maintain employment, and is delivered across the country by Service Canada Centres.  The federal government has invested $15 million into this new stream which will be used specifically to provide resources to improve workplace accessibility and access to jobs for Canadians with disabilities in response to COVID-19.  This stream will help support the following workplace needs for employers and Canadians with disabilities:

  • Setting up accessible and effective work-from-home measures;
  • Expanding online training opportunities;
  • Creating inclusive workplaces, whether virtual or physical;
  • Connecting people with disabilities and employers;
  • Training for in-demand jobs; and
  • Wage subsidies.

The federal government has also invested $1.18 million in five new projects through the Accessible Technology Program, which is a part of the larger Innovation and Skills Plan aimed at creating well-paying jobs for middle class Canadians.  These five newly funded projects will develop technologies meant to help Canadians with disabilities participate more fully in the digital economy, including accessible payment terminals for retailers and tools to make electronic communication easier.

Details as to how employees or employers can access these programs are still pending, and we will provide a further update when such details are made available.

If you have any questions about this article, please contact Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

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