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Employment: Incentives and Accommodations

February 3, 2012

The Canadian Mental Health Association, through research and experience, has proved that people who experience mental illness can be employed successfully. Persons with mental illness can and do hold responsible jobs and make significant contributions in their work, home and leisure lives. However, not all persons who could be employed are working because they, potential employers, professional caregivers, and the public emphasize their disabilities, not their capabilities.

Government

The Canadian Mental Health Association urges government:

a. to ensure that social assistance programs provide necessary support without creating disincentives to employment. Flexible programs encourage people to be employed and self-employed when they are able without losing eligibility for assistance if needed. The government should provide ways for people to fast track back onto social assistance
b. to assist people with disabilities to obtain and maintain, for as long as required, necessary support services such as prescribed medication in order to ensure that they can work successfully

c. to ensure that minimum wages are maintained at a level that allows all workers to live above poverty levels

d. to legislate that employers provide part-time workers with pro-rated benefits, such as sick leave and pension plans

e. to recognize the extra costs faced by persons with disabilities through income tax credits

f. to create employment placement programs that recognize the abilities and education of persons with disabilities and that lead to long-term employment at a living wage.

g. to promote the concept of life long learning so that persons whose education is interrupted by illness can resume, and continue, studies with credit for previous training, and to recognize the value of self education as well as formal education

h. to recognize persons with mental illness have potential for successful self-employment and to develop start-up and support programs to meet their abilities and needs

Professional Caregivers

The Canadian Mental Health Association urges professional caregivers:

a. to see persons with mental illness as employable and work with them to improve their ability to find and maintain employment

b. to plan for employment and optimum functioning when prescribing medications and therapy

c. for job counsellors to match a person’s skills with suitable employment recognizing the skills, experience and education the person with mental illness can offer

d. to recognize education and employment as a part of living “well” in health, financial and social terms. Include preparation and ongoing support for employment as goals and components of care

e. to recognize and support the potential of people with mental illness to be providers of mental health services

Employers

The Canadian Mental Health Association, through example and education, urges employers:

a. to hire persons with mental health disabilities for their skills, abilities and education, including life experience and self education as well as formal training

b. to match employees with jobs, focusing on the task to be accomplished. Explore (and allow the employee to experiment with) creative ways to achieve that goal, for example, job-sharing, flex time, contracts, part-time work, week on and week off scheduling

c. to respect all employees — maintain realistic standards and expectations that monitor work load, encourage ongoing training, and prepare for increased responsibility and promotion

d. to recognize that necessary medical and support appointments are important for the health and productivity of employees

e. to provide regular evaluations to encourage and improve job performance and satisfaction

f. to consult with a person who self-identifies with mental illness about the most helpful support, accommodations, and potential interventions necessary to maximize their contribution

In all cases, employers shall follow the Human Rights codes of their respective provinces.

The Canadian Mental Health Association supports persons who experience mental illness:

a. to initiate and create suitable employment opportunities for themselves and others

b. to advocate for their right and their ability to participate in satisfying, adequately paid employment

September 1996

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