*UPDATED* 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 is implementing a holistic approach to Work-Related Mental Stress policies that would come into effect the beginning of next year.
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 approved which would make it easier for workers to make a claim for traumatic or chronic mental stress.
Changes to traumatic mental stress entitlement
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.
Chronic mental stress entitlement
Under the impending policy for chronic mental stress, claims will be considered if the worker has a diagnosis from an appropriate health care provider and if the work-related stressor is the predominant cause of the mental injury.
Proposed change to accident dates
Recently, there has been a proposed change to allow workers diagnosed with mental stress on or after April 29, 2014 who have not previously filed a claim for benefits to be able to file a claim with the WSIB before July 1, 2018. In addition, if a worker filed a claim for mental stress before January 1, 2018, and the claim remains pending at the WSIB on January 1, 2018, the worker may be entitled to benefits under the new policy.
Concerns about the changes
While it is vitally important that mental health issues be considered under WSIB, many are concerned that the changes lack specifics. For example, the difference between a high-stress and low-stress job were not defined, and will be left up to the Tribunal to define through case law.
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 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 changes for WSIB 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.