People with mental health disabilities or addictions often face barriers to finding and keeping jobs. People with serious mental health disabilities tend to have very high rates of unemployment. The Senate of Canada report on mental health states that surveys have found that one-third to one-half of people with mental illness report being turned down for a job for which they were qualified after they disclosed their disability, were dismissed from their jobs, and/or were forced to resign as a result of their mental illness. People may experience harassment on the job from their co-workers and employers because of their disability.
People with mental health disabilities and addictions may face various barriers to employment, such as gaps in work history, limited employment experience, lack of confidence, workplace discrimination and inflexibility, and negative stereotypes. They may find that social assistance rules make it difficult to move to paid employment. Also, the rigid rules of existing income support/benefit programs may prevent people with mental health disabilities and addictions from getting supports in the workplace.
Many employers don’t know they have a legal duty to accommodate people with disabilities during job interviews and on the job. Employers may make assumptions about an employee’s ability to do the essential duties of the job based on their lack of knowledge about mental illness or addictions, or have a fear or mistrust of people with mental health issues or addictions.
Employers may not know how to ask about accommodation or how to accommodate someone who is clearly unwell and unable to voice their needs. Some employers may also need police record checks when hiring for vulnerable sector positions. If not done properly, this too could have a discriminatory impact because of mental health.
One of the goals of this consultation will be to collect information for the OHRC’s public interest research about employment. We want to look at the barriers to employment for people with mental health issues and addictions, and at discrimination that occurs on the job.
What are examples of discrimination that exist for people with mental health disabilities and addictions when seeking employment? What are examples of discrimination that exist on the job?
What information do employers need about how to meet their obligations under the Human Rights Code relating to hiring, evaluating, disciplining or terminating the employment and accommodating the needs of employees with mental health disabilities and/or addictions?
What steps can be taken to eliminate discrimination in the workplace? What are examples of best practices and good programs that help remove discriminatory barriers in employment?
Are there laws, rules, regulations or programs that create discriminatory barriers that prevent people with mental health disabilities and/or addictions from being fully able to seek or benefit from employment?
Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness and their Families: Changing Attitudes, Opening Minds, (A Report of the BC Minister of Health’s Advisory Council on Mental Health, April 2002), at 10, as cited in The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Interim Report, Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction: Overview of Policies and Programs in Canada, Report 1 (Ottawa: The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, 2004) at 50.
 Canadian Mental Health Association. Found at: www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=3-109&lang=1 Accessed 05/08/2009. Kerzner critiques the Ontario government’s assisted devices program and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act as having different eligibility and funding requirements for physical versus mental disabilities. In Kerzner, L. (2008). Legal Rights and Benefits for Consumer/Survivors. Honouring the Past, Shaping the Future: 25 Years of Progress in Mental Health Advocacy and Rights Protection. Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.