The Canadian Mental Health Association recognizes May
5th through 11th each year as Mental Health
Week in Canada. The impact of psychological illness in the
workplace is becoming increasingly prevalent, resulting in
decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and impacts on an
employer's health care programs, as well as negative
consequences for employee engagement and morale, employee
well-being and organizational culture.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that one in five
Canadians will experience a mental health illness or problem each
year, and that nearly one in four members of the working population
is affected by mental health illness which may lead to absenteeism
or "presenteeism"1 (i.e. when employees are
physically present, but due to a physical or emotional issue, are
distracted to the point of reduced productivity).2
Approximately 30% of short and long-term disability claims in
Canada are attributed to mental health problems and illnesses,
amounting to an economic impact of approximately $20 billion
annually from workplace losses.3
The DSM-5 ("Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders"), which provides practitioners and regulatory
bodies with a comprehensive inventory of mental disorders, was
amended in 2013 to include a number of new disorders including but
not limited to: Caffeine Withdrawal, Cannabis Withdrawal, Mild
Neurocognitive Disorder, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and
treating extended grief over the loss of a loved one as depression.
As Toronto Partner, Daniel Pugen,
points out the inclusion of these types of disorders may
increase employee leaves of absence as well as the cost of
employer's health care programs.
It is critical, that employers be proactive and transparent in
their approach to dealing with the mental health of their
Implementing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide
employees and their dependents with a confidential resource, and
ensuring that the contact information is provided to all employees
as well as posted in a conspicuous area in the workplace;
Training managers and employees alike on the importance of
tolerance, mutual respect and how to recognize and address signs of
a problem; and
Promoting mental health awareness, generating discussion and
communication, and implementing programs and initiatives to remove
the negative stigma associated with mental illness.
Best Practice Tips
Consider contracting out the adjudication of short-term
disability claims, in order to save costs (i.e. engaging an ASO
When considering employee accommodations or return to work, HR
should seek physician statements from specialists, not simply from
the individual's family doctor, in order to make the most
When developing Physical Demands Analysis for each position in
your organization, ensure that a Psychological Demands Analysis is
completed simultaneously. Understanding the cognitive impacts of
each role will aid in assessing risk, preventing exposure and
ensuring that individuals are appropriately accommodated, whenever
necessary, for an early and safe return to work.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).