Proposed Changes to WSIB’s Work-Related Mental Stress Policy – Is Your Business Ready?

Over the past few years, the importance of mental health has gained some much deserved attention both in the media and by our policy makers. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has made significant progress in recognizing mental illness brought on by stressful conditions in the workplace and has proposed new Work-Related Mental Stress policies that would come into effect the beginning of next year.

However, while mental stress can be just as debilitating as a physical injury, creating policy around it is more complex. Employers are often ill-prepared to address issues that may cause chronic mental stress in the workplace.

Background

Under current WSIB policies, the only type of mental stress disorder that is eligible for a claim is traumatic stress that has been triggered by a sudden and unexpected event in the workplace. This has been deemed unconstitutional as it excludes those who experience expected traumatic events (i.e. paramedics, nurses, etc.) as well as those who may suffer from work-related chronic stress (i.e. workplace bullying).

As a result, various changes to WSIB policy have been proposed which would make it easier for workers to make a claim for traumatic or chronic mental stress.

Proposed changes for traumatic mental stress

Under the current criteria, workers may make a WSIB claim for traumatic mental stress if a worker has an acute psychological response to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event. Such a claim must be made within four weeks of the event or the worker must provide substantial and convincing evidence that their response was caused by the event.

Under the proposed changes, a traumatic event will no longer be required to be sudden or unexpected to be eligible for workers to claim traumatic stress. Additionally, workers will still be eligible to make a claim should their symptoms come on gradually rather than acutely.

Proposed changes for chronic mental stress

Under the proposed changes for chronic mental stress, claims will be considered if the worker has a diagnosis from an appropriate health care provider and if the stress is caused by and significantly contributed to by a work-related stressor such as harassment or bullying.

Concerns about the proposed changes

While it is vitally important that mental health issues be considered under WSIB, many are concerned that the proposed changes lack specifics. For example, the difference between a high-stress and low-stress job have yet to be defined.

This lack of clearly defined terms could lead to workers’ claims being dragged out as the Tribunal navigates their way through the first few years of claims, making new case law as it goes.

There is also concern among employers, that these policy changes will almost certainly result in an increase in WSIB premiums and possibly affect their experience rating as more workers begin to make claims related to mental stress.

The time to prepare is now

It is only a matter of time before the proposed changes for WSIB (or similar ones) come into effect. It is important for employers to learn now what these changes will mean for them.

To learn more about WSIB’s expanded Work-Related Mental Stress policy, click here.

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