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Addressing Mental Health and Consequently Medical Leaves

Mental health issues have a huge impact on our society. So much so in fact, that the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) designated a full week in May as Mental Health Awareness week over 60 years ago. According to CMHA, approximately 7 million Canadians live with some form of mental illness – that’s one in five people!

Since roughly 20% of the population has suffered from some form of mental illness, it goes without saying that you have people in your life who are affected.

But how does this translate into the workplace?

Symptoms of mental illness may include loss of ability to focus, depression, erratic behaviour, etc. which can sometimes be perceived as performance issues by employers. If treated with disciplinary action, it can increase stress and worsen symptoms thereby creating a vicious cycle.

Despite increased levels of awareness about mental illness, employees are often reluctant to take medical leave for these issues for fear of termination, missing out on promotions or the appearance of “faking it”. Employers therefore need to find ways to address mental health and related medical leaves in order to support the health of their employees.

Addressing Mental Health from a Legal Perspective

Under Human Rights laws in Ontario, a mental illness or a diagnosed addiction is considered a disability and is protected under the Human Rights Code. Employers are required to reasonably accommodate special needs of these employees.

Employees, in turn, are expected to keep the employer reasonably informed of any performance issues or absences due to a medical condition.

Addressing Mental Health from a Business Perspective

In addition to creating mental health policies to avoid liability and potential financial settlements, having a mental health policy in place is just good business sense.

As an employer, you are not just competing against other businesses for customers, you are also competing to get the best employees. And more and more employees are evaluating work environment along with other factors such as pay etc. New grads are looking to work for companies that take care of their employees.

By having policies and procedures in place that support those with mental health issues, your company is contributing to increased productivity, retention and employee satisfaction. While you can and should allow for medical leave when needed, having such a program in place can actually help to reduce absenteeism, health costs and employee turnover.

How TeksMed Can Help

If you have never implemented a policy for mental health in your company, it can be hard to know where to start. Just like you would evaluate your workplace for physical hazards to health and safety, it is important to evaluate it for psychological hazards as well. It is important to create an environment of respect between co-workers and management, fairness and trust.

The team at TeksMed has expertise in helping companies incorporate mental wellness into their overall health and safety plan and developing proper procedures to address medical leave. Contact us today and let us work to develop a plan for your business.

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