Recent amendments to Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP) mean that claimants of the benefit will now be allowed to earn up to $1,000 in exempt earnings, an increase of five times on the previous amount. While benefits offer essential support to people living with disabilities, this increased supplement will also encourage those people who are able to take on more work as it will be more financially rewarding. Finding employment has been shown to improve the health and well-being of working-age people with disabilities, and yet many Canadian workers with disabilities have felt that misconceptions about their capabilities have limited their access to suitable job opportunities. Attitudes are changing as an increasing number of employers understand that a more inclusive recruitment policy allows them access to a larger talent pool of potential candidates. From extending financial protection to workers with disabilities, to improving accessibility for people with mobility issues, employers and other organisations are helping to keep an increasing number of Canadians with disabilities in work.
Protecting Workers Facing Short-Term Illness or Injury
In addition to extra benefits for people with long-term disabilities, support for employees facing short-term health conditions that limit their ability to work is also available. Being unable to work due to illness or injury can be very stressful, and it can also have a significant impact on earnings during recovery. To address this issue, the Canadian government is making amendments to its Employment Insurance sickness benefits. After December 18 2022, qualifying workers (currently around 170,000 each year) will be paid 55% of their average weekly pay for up to 26 weeks instead of just 11 weeks. This extension will give them more time to recover from any illness or injury, without having to give up all their earnings or face the possibility of losing their job.
Improving Accessibility for Potential Candidates with Disabilities
There is currently an employment gap of over one fifth between the general working population and people of working age with a disability as only 59% of the latter are currently in work. Research has shown that greater accessibility in the workplace could allow around 15 percent of Canadians with a physical disability to undertake more hours of employment. By asking for input on workplace and product design from people with disabilities, companies can better address the requirements of all their staff and clients. At the same time, embracing more inclusive hiring practices enables businesses to find and retain skilled staff that may otherwise have been overlooked. A major employment agency reports that almost two thirds of employers in Canada now understand that they can enhance their workforce by appealing to a larger talent pool that includes workers with disabilities.
Changes to disability benefits and more inclusive hiring practices could help Canadians with long-term physical disabilities enjoy working more hours in a job that matches their valuable skills. At the same time, support for workers who are temporarily incapacitated by illness or injury is being increased to reduce the financial impact of their recovery.