Accommodation tools aims to bridge gaps between workers and employers

How resource can help safety officers monitor health of employees

Accommodation tools aims to bridge gaps between workers and employers

The Institute for Work & Health released a new evidence-based tool to help workers with chronic and episodic health conditions and it plans to release a complimentary tool to help safety professionals and their colleagues in human resources later this year.

"For workers with chronic health conditions, the fear of not being able to work during flare-ups or as they age often looms large," says IWH senior scientist Dr. Monique Gignac, the director of the Accommodating and Communicating about Episodic Disabilities (ACED) partnership project, which developed the tools.

The worker version

The Job Demands and Accommodation Planning Tool (JDAPT) was unveiled on March 14th. It allows workers to assess 24 different types of job demands across four different components. This includes physical demands, cognitive requirements, working conditions and more. It takes the individual’s health issues under consideration and then creates suggestions for accommodation needs and provides advice for potential solutions.

“The worker can then either keep it for themselves and start to try to make whatever changes they can, or they could take the information, the summary pages, to a supervisor or someone else and give them something to focus on in a conversation,” says Dr. Gignac.

Chronic conditions include mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, Crohn’s disease, colitis, multiple sclerosis, migraine, rheumatic diseases like arthritis and lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, many musculoskeletal conditions such as low-back pain and tendinopathies, HIV/AIDs, as well as many forms of cancer and rare diseases.

These conditions are often referred to as “episodic” because they tend to worsen, improve, or fluctuate over time. According to a 2019 report from Statistics Canada, 3.8 million Canadians aged 15 and over have an episodic disability. Given the unpredictability of these conditions, and the fact that they are often invisible to others, they create unique challenges in managing workplace disabilities.

The employer version

Now that the worker version is complete and available for use, Dr. Gignac and her team are working on a version for employers. Health and safety leaders, supervisors, and human resources professionals will have a similar tool they can fill out.

“The goal here would be for example, if there is a worker that someone is thinking about that seems to be struggling, the supervisor could actually fill out the tool, given what they're seeing and get some ideas for support,” says Dr. Gignac.

Organizations would fill out the tool, looking at the different elements of the job and see what kinds of supports or accommodations might be required for different individuals.

“For each of the job demands, a person is asked, is this an important part of the job?” explains Dr. Gignac, and if the answer is no, you move on. “But if the answer is yes, then you would be talking about whether someone has difficulty on an ongoing basis or sporadically, and the supports are linked to that particular job demand.”

Collaboration between worker and employer

As part of the team’s research, Dr. Gignac discovered workers aren’t always comfortable with communicating their health issues to their employers out of fear.

“Will I lose promotion opportunities? Will people now always be watching me? Am I looking like a problem?”

But Dr. Gignac hopes employers will sit down and use the tool collaboratively with employees who have disclosed a health condition, or even those who they may suspect have an undisclosed, or even unidentified issue.

“I think it would be terrific,” says Dr. Gignac, who hopes health and safety professionals, human resources staff, disability managers, union representatives, and even physicians will benefit from the tools that directly engage workers and determines accommodation solutions.