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Access Granted:
A Toolkit for Inclusive Hospitality and Food Service Employers
Good Hospitality Sense at a Glance
More than 50%

of Hospitality and Food Service Positions
are projected to go UNFULFILLED.
More than 192,000

VACANT positions in Ontario.
3X the National Average turnover rates

With the added stress of HIGHER TURNOVER
RATES THAN any other sector.

employers have to call upon UNTRADITIONAL
LABOUR POOLS to stay competitive.
+1,295,000 Job Seekers in Canada living with Disabilities

+4.7 million people closely affected by disabilities
Job Seekers Living with Disabilities can be the Answer
70% Higher staff retention
with greater loyalty
to their employer.
86% Have stronger
attendance records
than their colleagues.
20% Higher productivity
rates than co-workers
without disabilities.

50-150% Reduced cost
of turnover.
97% Better safety at work
outcomes, with
lower WSIB claims
year over year.
90% Do as well or better at
their jobs than co-workers
without disabilities.

* For reference to above statistics see next page.
“If I reduce any of my staff members to their disability, then I am bound to miss out on the perseverance, the ingenuity and the dedication that they all can bring to my property.” – an Award-Winning Toronto Chef
A Good Business Recipe
for Success
A direct link exists between providing quality customer service and having engaged employees with disabilities, and value creation from reduced costs, increased net revenues and a comparative edge in reaching a more diverse consumer base.

The tourism industry in Canada is strong, vibrant and growing. It is expected to top $293 billion by 2030. At the same time, Canada is facing a labour shortage that is predicted to be most acute in food and beverage services by 2030. Planning to offset this labour crisis begins now.

Where more traditional labour pools are not expected to sufficiently fulfill this gap in workforce supply and demand, a tremendous opportunity exists for employers in the hospitality and food service sector to engage a large, untapped talent source - people with disabilities (PWDs) - by broadening their recruitment and staffing efforts:

A direct link exists between providing quality customer service and having engaged employees with disabilities, and value creation from reduced costs, increased net revenues and a comparative edge in reaching a more diverse consumer base.1

According to numerous labour market studies in Canada and in comparable jurisdictions and despite common misperceptions, PWDs, once given the opportunity to participate in the workforce, often demonstrate better employment outcomes with greater loyalty, better attendance, better safety records as well as overall performance. Furthermore, PWDs often bring with them new service insights that can open new consumer markets for their employers.

Here is what we know:

  • More than 345,000 jobs in tourism sector are forecast between 2015-2035 – of which 224,000 positions will go unfilled from this ‘traditional’ labour pool.2
  • In addition, hospitality and food service jobs average an 85% turnover rate nationally. Higher rates than other sectors are due in part to the fact that hospitality positions are still perceived as transient occupations.3

Read on, to learn more about what people living with disabilities have to offer your guests, your property and your business success.

But, did you know that of people
with disabilities (PWDs) hired,
  • 50%-150% of the annual salary of a position is saved because PWDs are less likely to change jobs, reducing the cost of turnover.4
  • 86% have stronger attendance records than their colleagues.5
  • 97% of employees who have a disability practice better safety at work resulting in lower WSIB claims year over year.6
  • 72% higher staff retention with greater loyalty to their employer.7
  • Higher staff morale overall, due to more inclusive practices.
  • On average, more than 20% higher productivity rates than co-workers without disabilities.8
  • 92% employers agree that PWDs do as well or better at their jobs than co-workers without disabilities.9
  • Currently nearly 1,295,000 PWD job seekers are available who can add significant value to business.10

… and, most importantly,

  • 92% of consumers report they are more likely to patronize businesses that hire people with disabilities.11
  • 72% of employees prefer to work for companies that support social causes/issues and hire inclusively.12
  • 53% Ontarians who do not have a disability themselves are also affected (family and friends) by a disability – an additional 4.7 million people who understand the value people with disabilities can add to a business.13
  • Employment rates are the lowest (less than 40%) for those with developmental disabilities as compared to other disabilities. Approximately 65,000 adults live with developmental disabilities in Ontario.14

Employer Supports are Available: Government of Ontario

  • Many supports are available from the Government of Ontario for employers who are ready to create a more inclusive and accessible workplace. You can get started here.
  • Employers can receive up to 50% coverage of employee wages to a maximum $13,500 in Ontario government grants for 3 to 9 months; or
  • Employers can access up to $20,000 to offset salary and specialized training of employees for up to 12 weeks OR up to 90% coverage assistive devices, specialized training, and assessments to a maximum of $3,000 per application.
  • This includes improved employment services, like on-the-job supports, offered to people with developmental disabilities.
“Definitions” for Critical Insights
“I am not my disability and my disability is not me – but people too often get it mixed up.” – a Job Seeker living with a disability.

Disabilities are generally classified into four broad categories: visual, auditory, cognitive, and physical. Typically, disabilities can be genetic, acquired, episodic, chronic, or temporary. As well, disabilities can be visible, invisible, formally diagnosed, or not.

That is to say, the experience and definition of any disability will most likely be unique to individual living with the disability. Furthermore, an individual might experience multiple, related or unrelated disabilities that may occur concurrently.

Best practice: “Defining” and “labeling” disabilities is often a personal experience for PWDs and carries many personal and social implications for those who live with the “labels”. When connecting with a PWD, it is generally best to allow the individual to indicate the preferred way to refer to his/her disability. Allowing the individual to set the tone on when or how to discuss their disability ensures that it is handled with sensitivity and dignity.

Bonus: Ontario’s human rights policy provides guidance about the role of medical documentation in accommodation. You can learn more on this topic from Canadian HR Reporter.

Critical Definitions
Disability Critical Definitions Accommodations
Auditory deaf, Deaf, or deafened: People who have little or no functional hearing. “Hard of hearing” describes a person who uses the hearing that remains and speech to communicate. The person may supplement communication by speech reading, hearing aids, sign language and/or communication devices.

For a list of possible accommodations, please refer to:

Guide for Working with People with Hearing Loss


Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Hearing Loss


Cognitive impairments are when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life. Cognitive impairment ranges from mild to severe.

Cognitive impairments may be a result of one or more of the following conditions: Attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger syndrome, bipolar disorder, brain aneurysm, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, head injury, learning disability, migraine headache, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, and stroke. Other conditions may also result in short- or long-term cognitive limitations.

For a list of possible accommodations, please refer to this guide:

Accommodation Ideas for Cognitive Impairment


Many types of orthopedic or neuromuscular impairments that can affect mobility. These include but are not limited to amputation, paralysis, cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, and spinal cord injury.

Musculoskeletal diseases (MSD) include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis (stress fractures), major limb trauma, spinal disorders, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. These can lead to chronic pain and difficulties with mobility. An ageing population is particularly at risk for developing MSD. Mobility aids include canes and walkers, and wheelchairs.

For a complete list of accommodations, please refer to the:

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s Resource guide


The DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center


Vision loss is a significant reduction in vision that affects a person’s life and cannot be fully corrected by glasses or contact lenses. This could be anything from a partial loss of vision to complete blindness.

For a complete list of accommodations, please refer to this guide from:



Accommodating Cooks with Low Vision

Assistive Devices and Technologies

Assistive Devices and Technologies Enable PWD: An assistive device is a tool, technology or other mechanism that enables a person with a disability to do everyday tasks and activities such as moving, communicating or lifting. Assistive devices and technology help PWDs maintain thier independence. It is also important to note that accessibility-friendly technologies like i-Pads and Smart Phones have reduced the costs associated with accessing assistive devices.

Examples of assistive devices and technologies in hospitality and food service properties can include, but are not limited to:

  • Mirrors placed above preparation and cooking areas so that those experiencing an auditory disability can see the activity around them, rather than hearing it.
  • Allowing frontline staff living with visual, cognitive or auditory disabilities on hotel properties to use i‑Pads/tables to help with a variety of accessibility features.
  • Providing shift options, that the employees living with disability can more ideally manage their performance.
  • Providing staff training and on-boarding resources in different formats such as videos, brail, pictures, verbal as well as printed.
  • Providing daily instructions/assignments in writing as checklists, as well as verbally.
  • Installing adjustable office desks and chairs that can be readily adjusted to the unique physical and comfort needs of all staff.

Best Practice: As you work to investigate and operationalize the best and most reasonable accommodations for your employees who are living with a disability, remember that PWD usually understand their own accommodation options best. As you prepare, engage the employee in the planning process – you might be surprised to find that many accommodations are quite easy to implement, require little investment on your part, and more often than not, will also a positive impact on the experiences of all your other staff members.

Bonus: The cost of many assistive devices is covered for PWD by the Government of Ontario. Learn more about Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program.

Read on for a comprehensive overview of resources and community supports available to support your accommodation, hiring and retention needs when investing in a more inclusive workforce.


A Business Value Beyond the Dollars and Cents:
In conversation with Kevin Porter, General Manager at Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites

 Q: What is the business value in creating an inclusive workplace?


I believe that my hospitality colleagues, HR practitioners and hiring managers would agree that increasingly, we are having a difficult time recruiting and retaining workers from our usual labour pools. If we are going to meet our staffing and business needs, we will need to rethink our strategies and reach out to underrepresented populations. I believe that persons living with disabilities (PWDs) are a great place to start.

Sometimes hiring an individual with a disability may require some upfront planning and accommodation to ensure that they integrate fully into the workplace. But costs associated with accommodating workers, in my experience, have a significant return. Creating opportunities for workers of differing abilities to be successful has an impact not only that individual’s contribution to their team but, also upon the rest of the team. We see improved morale and teamwork, and better relationships between management and staff when we build a culture in which diversity and inclusion are supported and valued. Investing in the success of employees demonstrates to associates that their employer is owning their social responsibility in a tangible way.

  Q: What have been your key learnings about engaging workers living with a disability in the workplace?


This is a topic that is close to my home and heart. Personally, two of my three siblings were born blind and as we grew up, my brother and sister's struggles shaped my understanding of the real challenges job seekers with disabilities face. Even though they wanted to work and had many skills they too often struggled to find meaningful employment. Community employment programs would offer grants or pathways to employment for job seekers living with disabilities and help place my siblings into jobs – but these always seemed to be temporary opportunities. There never seemed to be a real investment in the development and full integration of employees living with disabilities.

This experience had a deep negative impact on my siblings’ sense of self worth. There were important learnings in these experiences for me that, to this day, have informed my hiring practices. People living with disabilities are not unable; rather, I believe that workers living with disabilities have the talent, the capacity and the ability to be fully engaged in the workforce. I also believe that their unique insights and presence can contribute generously to the well-being of our businesses. Investments in personalized planning and open-mindedness about the potential of their contribution can go a long way to help businesses truly engage PWDs.

If you do the right thing, your staff and your guests will recognize your contribution and the returns will be reflected in all aspects of your business - as well as just making you feel good for playing your part and creating better opportunities for people who might otherwise unduly struggle.

Meet and Greet with
Compliance and
Legislative Requirements
The Ontario Human Rights Code
is for everyone.

To protect employers, consumers and PWDs, businesses and organizations in Ontario have legal obligations to their employees, customers and the general public that are covered under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The following information provides a brief overview of both:

The Ontario Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code is for everyone.

It is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in areas such as jobs, housing and services. The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, sex, disability and age, to name a few of the 17 grounds. It offers protection of rights, equal opportunity, and freedom from discrimination. It applies to jobs, housing, and services, and states that employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities to the point of undue hardship:

  • Employers must accommodate employees when they cannot perform all duties because of their disabilities.
  • Accommodation is not denying people jobs or services, if they can be accommodated.
  • If discrimination happens, the goal is to fix the situation to provide equal opportunity for the person with a disability.

You can learn more about The Ontario Human Rights Code from this Guide to Your Rights and Responsibilities Under the Human Rights Code.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

The AODA became law on June 13, 2005 and applies to all sectors, including private sector businesses in Ontario with one or more employees. The rules you need to follow depend on the type and size of your organization. You are exempt if you are self-employed and do not have employees.

This Act is intended specifically to identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. The AODA includes requirements that all organizations must meet with specific deadlines. It is made up of five groups of standards: Customer Service, Information and Communication, Employment, Transportation, and Design of Public Spaces. Deadlines for compliance began as of January 1, 2012.

You can learn more about The AODA from this Guide to Accessibility Rules for Businesses.

Here is a short-list:
Customer Service Standard Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 20+ Employees Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 1-19 Employees
Establish policies, practices and procedures for providing services to people with disabilities. January 1, 2012 January 1, 2012
Training on how to provide services under the Customer Service Standard. January 1, 2012 January 1, 2012
Feedback on quality of services to people with disabilities. January 1, 2012 January 1, 2012
Complaints process must be provided. January 1, 2012 January 1, 2012
Reporting Compliance to Ministry. December 31, 2012 N/A

General Requirements Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 50+ Employees Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 1-49 Employees
Establish accessibility policies. January 1, 2014 January 1, 2015
Establish accessibility plans. January 1, 2014 N/A
Consider accessibility to Self-service kiosks. January 1, 2014 January 1, 2015
Training on requirements of AODA Regulations and the Human Rights Code. January 1, 2015 January 1, 2016

Employment Standard Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 20+ Employees Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 1-19 Employees
Provide workplace emergency response information to employees with disabilities. January 1, 2012 January 1, 2012
Recruitment - Notify employees and public that accommodation for applicants with disabilities is available. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017
Recruitment, selection process - Notify job applicants that accommodations are available upon request. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017
Successful applicants - Notify applicants about policies for accommodating employees with disabilities. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017
Inform all employees of supports available. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017

Notify and provide accessible formats and communication supports for employees.

January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017
Here is a short-list: (continued)
Employment Standard Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 20+ Employees Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 1-19 Employees
Create and document accommodation plans. January 1, 2016 N/A
Develop a return-to-work process. January 1, 2016 N/A
Performance management considers disability. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017
Career development and advancement. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017
Redeployment policy considers disability. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017

Information and Communications Standard Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 20+ Employees Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 1-19 Employees
Organizations providing emergency procedures, plans or public safety information to the public must provide it in accessible format. January 1, 2012 January 1, 2012
Organizations starting new internet sites must create accessible websites and web content. January 1, 2012 N/A
Organizations with existing processes for receiving and responding to feedback must ensure they are accessible to persons with disabilities. January 1, 2015 January 1, 2016
Accessible formats and communication supports available to persons with disabilities. January 1, 2016 January 1, 2017
All internet websites and web content must be accessible. January 1, 2021 N/A

Design of Public Spaces Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 50+ Employees Compliance Deadline for Businesses with 1-49 Employees
Outdoor public-use eating areas. January 1, 2017 January 1, 2018
Service related elements. (e.g. service counters)
Go-forward basis organizations are not required to renovate or retrofit existing spaces. (i.e. no unplanned changes)
Flexibility built into requirements allows for organizations to consider local circumstances and/or needs when implementing.
Implementation of requirements will result in a minimum level of accessibility.
In Conversation with Executive Chef Ricky Casipe:
Lessons in Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Q: What did you find most interesting about workplace accommodation in the kitchen?

I think you would be surprised when you realize how prepared people are. People living with disabilities have not been waiting for an employer to give them the perfect job, they have been adapting and making their way through the world well before they came to work. Initially, I was worried about being able to manage the potential complexities and sensitivities of accommodating all the possible disabilities. But, as I gained experience all of those fears quickly evaporated. People are very creative and are best informed about what they need to be able to perform at their best. I learned it is important to have honest and open conversations with your employees and to engage them in the planning process for the appropriate accommodations as they onboard and as work conditions and needs change.  

What I found really surprising is that if accommodations do need to be made for an employee, those modifications often end up making the work easier for the rest of the team as well.

Q: What about some examples?

In the past, we have installed overhead mirrors so it would be easier to monitor foot traffic for hard of hearing/deaf employees, placed non-slip and floor treatments so that people with balance issues would be more comfortable, provided braille/large print menus for those with sight issues – and every single time, those so called ‘accommodations’ actually made the workplace more efficient and safer for everyone else as well. Mirrors increase the visual field for all employees, slip proof floor treatments are useful in any fast-paced workplace, and accessible menus can help workers and customers who might have sight issues.

Q: What is your advice to employers who are worried about accommodations? What is the best thing you think they can do to create more inclusive workplaces?

That in many ways, preparing and being as transparent as possible with your whole team is really the most important accommodation you can make. During my time working with different teams and leading different kitchens, I saw that many of my team members experienced trepidation about what disabilities in the workplace might mean for them and their workload. I found that, my leadership was needed to set the tone for acceptance, team work and open and supportive communication practices – and that with such an approach we can all create more accessible workplaces that work better for everyone, regardless of their disability status.

Steering and Maintaining
an Inclusive Workplace
It means creating a strategic vision of an inclusive organization where the integration of people with disabilities is inherent.

Disability-competent hospitality and food service employers are those that show an increase in the number of employees with disabilities, integrated across all departments alongside their colleagues and realizing their full potential. To achieve this goal, strategic planning and an organization-wide commitment to a more inclusive workplace will be important cornerstones of success.

Any meaningful attempt at establishing a successful accessibility strategy that leads to an inclusive corporate culture requires top-level commitment that fosters an inclusive organizational culture. It means creating a strategic vision of an inclusive organization where the integration of people with disabilities is inherent.

The strategic planning process must include a multi-year plan that incorporates an accessibility strategy that flows out at all levels, through all departments, programs or services and is reflected in organizational policies, procedures and practices. And more than anything, it requires champions at all levels who are committed to inclusion.

Furthermore, a strategic plan that does more than just meeting the minimum legal requirements can also serve as a driver positive change, envisioning and achieving a world of inclusion and integration for people with a disability.

Here is A Guide for Preparing and Maintaining Your Inclusive Workplace:

Checklist Consider Disability
Leadership Leadership committed to creating an inclusive organization?

Tourism Industry Association of Ontario’s Accessible Tourism Guide

The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership

Gaining a Competitive Advantage with Disability Inclusion Initiatives

Work with Experts Partner with disability support organizations. Many not-for-profit disability support organizations across Ontario (and Canada) want to align with business to provide awareness, training, employment and retention supports to job seekers and employees living with disabilities.

Not-for-profit Disability Supports Organizations in Ontario and Canada

Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC)

Identify and Engage Champions

Champions at all organizational levels and departments who understand and can help cultivate an organizational culture of inclusion are an indispensable asset.

The Road to Inclusion

Become a Diversity Champion

A Guide for Preparing and
Maintaining Your Inclusive Workplace

Here is A Guide for Preparing and Maintaining Your Inclusive Workplace (continued):

Checklist Consider Disability
Plan Strategically Multi-year plan in place?

How to Create an Accessibility Plan and Policy

Chelsea Hotels, Toronto’s Multi-Year Accessibility Plan

Tim Hortons’ Multi-Year Accessibility Plan

Train Have training workshops been put in place to help educate and raise awareness for employees about the importance and value of inclusion?

How to Train Your Staff on Accessibility

A Training Booklet for Small Private and Not-for-Profit Organizations

Assess Have all physical spaces owned by organization – entrances, walkways, doors, elevators, computers, office/workstations, etc. – been assessed for accessibility, in accordance to AODA? Have you considered the principles of Universal Design for the most inclusive approaches?

Universal Design Guide for Inclusive Tourism

Accessibility Professionals of Ontario

Review and Renew Have employment policies, process and practices been reviewed with a view to including hiring, accommodating and retaining PWDs? Have all components of the Employment Standards been established and organization is in compliance?

ORHMA-Checklist for Complying with AODA’s Accessible Employment Standard

ORHMA-Accessible Hiring Practices

Learn from those who are doing it well There are many examples of Hospitality and Food Service employers from across the world, who have successfully integrated effective accessibility policies in their business – have you considered what solutions can be adapted for your business?

Accessible Customer Service Practices for Hotel and Lodging Guests with Disabilities (USA)

Easy Does It – Simple, Low-Cost Changes to Benefit You and Your Guests (UK)

European Network of Accessible Tourism (EU)

Disability and The Travel Industry (Employers’ Forum on Disability – UK)

Human Resources Practices and Inclusion of People with Disabilities in the Hotel Industry (Brazil)

Respect Confidentiality should be maintained at all times. The manager, in discussion with the disabled member of staff, should decide what information concerning their disability or the support they require is divulged to their colleagues.

Code of Good Practice on the Employment of Disabled People

In conversation with Alicia's Cachia, Hospitality HR Professional: Enabling the Hiring and Onboarding Process

Q: What were you biggest considerations when qualified candidates with disabilities would apply for positions at your property?

The biggest considerations at the screening and hiring stage are to understand whether the candidate feels that they can fulfil the job requirements and what kinds of modifications they may require. We consider what teams these applicants would be joining and what/if any additional training their supervisors may need to manage and integrate them into their teams.

At on-boarding it is important to have a comprehensive plan in place that identifies appropriate modifications and accommodations for the employee. What if the associate is deaf and cannot hear the alarm? How will a disability affect guest interaction? Who can they call if there is an emergency or new need? All such considerations must be addressed in the plan and be communicated to supervisors and the rest of the team to support onboarding, safety and retention.

There are also some unique considerations that must be kept in mind at unionized properties. In these environments employers may have concerns about providing modified work within the conditions of the collective agreement. For example, fewer rooms may be assigned to a room attendant who requires work modification. This may be perceived as unfair under the terms of the agreement and may elicit some complaints. In these situations, communication with supervisors and their teams to clarify the right to modified work with respect to the collective agreement is very important.

Q:  Were there any tools or research that you used to help you prepare and better understand the available modification and resources?

Working with organizations that support employment services for persons with disabilities (PWD’s) is a great source of knowledge. Working directly with career counsellors who can provide you with useful information about an individual’s needs even before they come in for an interview is very helpful.

Another key resource is you peers. Access their knowledge and ask them for their experiences and insights. Don’t recreate the wheel.

But, the easiest approach to talk to the individual. People know what they need and what will work for them. In my experience accommodation is rarely some huge complex creative solution that you have to come up with. You don’t have to come up with the solution – all you have to do is ask respectfully and you will be given the answers.

Q: What kinds of formal processes or policies helped you create more inclusive recruitment and hiring practices? 

Policies around individual accommodation plans, equal hiring policies, equal opportunity policies, & policies for internal promotions based on performance are some great examples of formal policies that help managers and supervisors support inclusive hiring.

Policies establishing a structured directive that will clarify roles and responsibilities. They can ensure that everyone is on the same page and can ease management concerns around how accommodations can be managed.  What is more, such policies can help avoid “ablest” behaviours when it comes to hiring and advancement processes by supporting objective decisions based on merit.

and Selection
for the Right Mix
To create a truly inclusive workplace, the business case for employing qualified people with disabilities frames it in terms of the return on investment.

To create a truly inclusive workplace, the business case for employing qualified people with disabilities frames it in terms of the return on investment – the direct and indirect benefits to your organization and employees. It stresses that enhancing diversity by employing people with disabilities recognizes the changing demographics of the workforce, while improving employee engagement, productivity, and

reduction of costs, and enhancing retention and advancement.

This investment in a more inclusive, accessible workplace begins with inclusive recruitment and selection practices for all opportunities at your property.

A Guide for
Recruiting Job
Seekers with Disabilities:
Check Consider Resources
Appropriate policies have been implemented for recruitment about disclosure, and hiring managers have been trained on how to handle disclosure during the interview and hiring process. Opening Doors to All Candidates: Tips for Ensuring Access for Applicants with Disabilities
Communications targeted for job applicants and employees notifies that you are an inclusive employer and that accommodations can be available/integrated during all phases of the recruitment process and on the job. AODA EnAbling Change Video Series
In all job postings, advertise that reasonable accommodation will be provided for applicants upon request, and the person they should contact about accommodation. Tim Horton’s Integrated Accessibility Standard Policies and Multi-Year Accessibility Plan

Recruits are provided with accommodation policies promptly and are advised of policy changes as soon as possible.

Principles of inclusion are embedded in employment systems and human resource practices to make sure employees reflect the diversity in the community. Ontario Restaurant and Hotel & Motel Association’s Checklist for Complying with AODA’s Accessible Employment Standard

Seek candidates from local training providers offering industry-specific training for hotels and restaurants to job seekers living with disabilities.

Attend local career fairs that focus on students and job seekers with disabilities to recruit diverse, qualified talent.

Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC)

George Brown College

Humber College

Evergreen College

Seek candidates from local organizations or networks providing employment services for people with disabilities.

Not-for-profit Disability Supports Organizations in Ontario and Canada

Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC)

Offers to applicants for a position include negotiations for reasonable accommodation, and advise them that this is part of the recruitment process.
Offers to an applicant include flexible work arrangements when possible or feasible. Employers’ Toolkit:Making Ontario WorkplacesAccessible to Peoplewith Disabilities
5-Star Practices for
Retaining and Advancing

It will not surprise Hospitality and Food Service Employers to hear that with an average rate of 70-80% (as high as 100-150% amongst hourly wage earners) this sector faces higher turnover statistics than any other industry in Canada.

While the reasons for this high turnover rate are complex and in some ways beyond the scope of this

resource, it is worth noting that employees with disabilities are more likely to be successful in their positions and remain with an employer longer in an inclusive work environment, then are their peers and colleagues who do not experience a disability themselves.

A shortlist of best practices, when cultivating a culture of accessibility and inclusion in your workplace:

  • Be creative, flexible and look for new ways of doing things.
  • Include employees with disabilities in decision-making and social activities.
  • Promote your organization’s commitment to diversity whenever it’s possible.
  • Cultivate a culture of trust amongst all employees.
  • Create opportunities for employees to socialize outside of work, so they feel more comfortable with each other.
  • Support senior staff to champion a diverse and inclusive workplace by recruiting, retaining and promoting employees with disabilities.
  • Create an accommodation plan for an employee with a disability, including how often the plan and accommodation is to be reviewed, formally.
  • Facilitate conversations between managers and their teams during regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings to discuss if their accommodation is satisfactory.
  • Encourage employees to feel comfortable about discussing their accommodation needs, including any changes required.
  • Support supervisors and managers in discussiing career development and advancement with during biannual performance reviews.
A Guide for
Retaining and Advancing
Employees with Disabilities:
Check Consider Resources

Confidentiality should be maintained at all times. The manager, in discussion with the disabled member of staff, should decide what information concerning their disability or the support they require, is divulged to their colleagues.

Code of Good Practice on the Employment of Disabled People

Establish an employee accommodation plan that can be regularly reviewed and updated with each employee living with a disability. Meet regularly to ensure accommodations and needs in the workplace are being fully met and that they fully understand their priorities and areas for improvement.

An individual accommodation plan should include:

  • How the employee can participate in the process.
  • How the employer can seek outside expert advice to help determine an employee's accommodation needs.
  • How the privacy of personal information will be protected.
  • How often the plan will be reviewed.
Individual Accommodation Plans
Ensure that employees are provided with the information and communication supports necessary to perform their job in accessible formats, if requested. Government of Canada’s Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector

Ensure that corporate communications and organizational announcements and events are provided in a variety of accessible formats.

High Quality Translation and Interpretation Services

Where possible, implement a mentorship or buddy program where new employees are assigned a mentor and/or buddy upon hiring or as roles and activities may change.

You can also access job coaches and other on-the-job supports for employees living with disabilities though local, not-for-profit support organizations.

Not-for-profit Disability Supports Organizations in Ontario and Canada

Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC)

Support hiring managers/Human Resource administrators understand importance of an inclusive and accessible workplace and know where to access services to develop materials in alternative formats such as Braille, plain language, accessible PDF files, accessible on-line training, close captioning for training videos, and large print when requested/required. High Quality Translation and Interpretation Services
Where possible, extend the probationary period for an employee with disability providing they have excellent motivation, excellent attendance, great attitude, but just require some additional coaching and time to hit optimal targets for performance.
In Conversation with an HR Supervisor at a Large Toronto Hotel:
Lessons for Successful Return-to-Work Planning 

Q: When considering return-to-work planning for Associates who require accommodation to meet their full potential, can you describe the processes and core considerations for your HR department?

We offer a Return-to-Work program where it is our aim to accommodate Associates with disabilities though each part of their employment, beginning with the recruitment process.

When going through the return-to-work process we first ensure that the Associate is medically cleared to return to any form of work. This is more for Associates who may have other personal medical constraints. For example, if an Associate undergoes a surgery and requires recovery time we would not permit them to return until they were medically cleared to return to the work environment.

Once medical clearance is received and the medical practitioner has provided us with the Associate’s restrictions, we then put together a return-to-work plan to get the Associate to their pre-injury job when possible. Our goal is to identify suitable and meaningful work for Associates that is within their functional abilities and safe for them to preform.

The return-to-work plan can be a gradual increase of tasks per shift or a gradual increase of hours worked depending on their restrictions. This is discussed in a return-to-work meeting between the Associate and his manager and supported by the HR department. During the meeting, I also request that the Associate communicate with their manager if they are having any difficulties and ask that they provide us with Functional Accommodation Form (FAF) on a regular basis as recovery progresses (usually every 2 weeks).

Once the return-to-work plan has been established, we monitor the Associate’s progress and ensure that any new medical information or changes to assigned duties are in-line with the tasks assigned to the Associate. We also use additional tools, job rotation, and supplementary training to help our Associate ease into the return-to-work process.

Q: What insights can you offer other employers supporting workers returning to work after an injury or newly acquired disability?

I think that connecting with an Associate through the process from the day of injury throughout the recovery process is key. Associates respond well knowing that their wellbeing is looked after. Consistent monitoring and diligence with the process makes for a successful return-to-work plan. This includes getting medical information frequently so that we as the employer know that the Associate is on the right track to recovery.

During this process, it is also important to be supportive of the Associate as the restrictions are also new to them and they too have to learn to work within the new parameters. I constantly remind them that the goal of the return-to-work process is to work safety and with caution so that they do not further injure themselves. This approach tends to ease many pressures or concerns for the Associate, so that they can focus on their recovery.

Recruiting, retaining and promoting
employees with disabilities.

In some cases, a disability or illness that has evolved or has been acquired during employment, requiring an employee to take a short- or long-term leave from their position based on a healthcare provider’s directive.

When ready to return to work, according to the Government of Canada, the priority is to return the employee to the position they held prior to the absence. In this way, the employee can return to their routines, workplace and co-workers and they can resume their work. If this is not possible, other options, in order of desirability, are to return the employee to:

  • A modified job in the same workplace;
  • A different job in the same workplace;
  • A similar job in a different workplace; or
  • A different job in a different workplace.

To support ideal outcomes for employers and their employees, it is important to plan for returning to work as early as possible. Return-to-work plans should be developed in collaboration with the employee living with the disability, to be transitional and have a fixed duration.15

According to the Institute for Work and Health, there are Seven “Principles” for Successful Return to Work:
  1. The workplace has a strong commitment to health and safety, which is demonstrated by the workplace parties.
  2. The employer makes an offer of modified work (that is, work accommodation) to injured and ill workers so that they can return in a safe and timely manner to work activities that are suitable for their abilities.
  3. Return-to-work planners ensure that their plans support returning workers.
  4. Managers are trained in work disability prevention and included in return-to-work planning.
  5. The employer makes a timely and considerate contact with injured and ill workers.
  6. Someone has the responsibility to coordinate an employee’s return to work.
  7. With the worker's consent, employers and health care providers communicate with each other about workplace demands as needed.
A Guide for Successful
Return-to-Work Planning:
Check Consider Resources

Confidentiality should be maintained at all times. The manager, in discussion with the disabled member of staff, should decide what information concerning their disability or the support they require, is divulged to their colleagues.

Where appropriate and working collaboratively with the returning employee, inform other employees of the return-to-work process.

Code of Good Practice on the Employment of Disabled People

Hilton Hotel Return-to-work

Prepare a Return-to-work Plan.

The Return-to-work Plan is a written document that lays out the steps to be taken to help a worker return to suitable and available work. As it is an individualized plan developed collaboratively by the employer and the worker, it ensures that both parties understand what is going to happen during the worker’s return-to-work, who is responsible for activities in the plan, and when the activities will be carried out. The Return-to-work Plan can be used for both work-related and non-work-related injuries and illnesses.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Return-to-work Plan Template

Chelsea Hotel, Toronto Multi-year Accessibility Plan

Conduct a job task analysis early in the return-to-work process to determine accommodations, supports or other job changes to enable a person with a disability to maintain their position. ODEP’s Return-to-Work Toolkit: Using Accommodations to Retain or Return Employees to Work
When possible, set up an Employee Assistance Program to provide support to employees returning to work following an injury. Return-to-Work Guide for Hotels and Restaurants
Establish a policy that ensures individual accommodation plans are included in the return-to-work process, and any modifications are completed in consultation with all parties.

Return-to-Work Guide for Hotels and Restaurants

Conference Board of Canada’s Employer’s Toolkit for Accessible Workplaces.

Establish a schedule to monitor the return-to-work progress of employees and adjustment process as appropriate. Starbucks Multi-year Accessibility Plan
Reassure employees returning to work following injury that they will be maintained at their regular salary, seniority and benefits.
Considerations When Establishing
Processes for Return-to-Work in
Unionized Environments:
  • Establish the ‘return to work’ team that will coordinate the process as appropriate: HR, direct supervisor(s), union representation (if applicable), health and safety representation, WSIB Representation (if work-related), as well as healthcare practitioner.
  • Ensure that supervisor maintains check-in (how are you doing?) contact with employee.
  • Develop a return to work plan as soon as possible and desired by the employee.
  • Assess the job duties and modify as reasonable.
  • Consider accommodations, if employee is not fully functional temporarily, or reassignment if disability is permanent.
  • Modify/update accommodation plan, if employee had an existing plan.
  • Return-to-work team monitors return-to-work process to confirm that employee is successful.
  • Union representation maintains contact with employee with regular check-ins.
  • If employee is not successful, reassess job duties and accommodations to determine if further modifications or adjustments are required.
  • Monitor process until complete.

Other considerations:

  • Has your business developed an information package for all employees that let them know about your return to work process and policies?
  • Have you provided the union (if applicable) about your return to work process and policies?
  • Do you have (if possible) an Employment Assistance Program to support employees returning to work?
  • Have you notified employees and the union that employees who return to work following injury are maintained at their regular salary, seniority and benefits?

1 Hospitality Workers Training Centre, A Brief., 2016.
2 Tourism HR Canada, Fast Facts,, 2015
3 The Future of Canada’s Tourism Sector: Shortages to Resurface as Labour Markets Tighten, March 2012.
4 New York Makes Work Pay,
5 The Road to Inclusion,, Deloitte, July 2010.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Don’t Lower the Bar – Whitepaper by Mark Wafer, April 2014.
9 New York Makes Work Pay,
10 Can people with disabilities solve Ontario’s labour shortage? Ingrid Muschta and Joe Dale, October 2017.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid.
13 Can people with disabilities solve Ontario’s labour shortage? Ingrid Muschta and Joe Dale, October 2017
14 Ibid.
15 The Fundamentals - Return-to-Work Plan. Government of Canada, 2011.

For a full list of resources and research consulted in the development of this resource, please visit our Full Bibliography.

About Hospitality Workers
Training Centre (HWTC)

The Hospitality Workers Training Centre [HWTC] is a non-profit organization working in service of Toronto’s hospitality and food service industries. Based on a sector-focused workforce development approach, HWTC provides free training to new entrants and existing workers for employment and career development. Our goal is to strengthen the workforce of our city’s hospitality industry by connecting people in need of employment to job opportunities – through high-quality training and strong partnerships with the industry.

We contribute to a strong hospitality industry in Toronto with good jobs by developing training solutions collaboratively with employers and workers to support access, industry-standard skill development, and growing hospitality sector employment opportunities.

We believe in the potential of people and show it through high standards for their and our performance. We continue to believe in people’s potential until they do.

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