According to Statistics Canada, over 6 million Canadians consider themselves to be “quite a bit” or “extremely stressed” during most days. Chronic mental stress can interfere with the body’s immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems, which can interfere with a person’s work life in a significant way.
Until recently, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) did not give benefits to workers in Ontario for chronic stress caused in the workplace. However, the passage of amendments to the Workplace Safety Insurance Act on January 1, 2018, allows employees to claim coverage to get WSIB for chronic stress. The WSIB concurrently passed a new policy on how to handle cases of chronic mental stress.
How Workers Can Get WSIB for Mental Stress
According to the WSIB Operational Policy for Chronic Mental Stress, a worker in Ontario is entitled to benefits for chronic stress if all the following criteria are met:
- Worker has been diagnosed with a mental stress injury
- The injury is caused by a substantial work-related stressor arising in and out of the course of the worker’s employment
- The WSIB is able to identify the specific event or events that caused the chronic stress
Can You Get WSIB for Routine Mental Stress?
For routine mental stress that does not meet the criteria for a mental stress injury, a worker may receive WSIB benefits only if, “consistent exposure to a high level of routine stress over time may qualify as a substantial work-related stressor.”
The policy notes that “jobs with a high degree of routine stress would typically have one or both of the following characteristics: responsibility over matters involving life and death, or routine work in extremely dangerous circumstances.”
Filipe Mendes, an employment law lawyer at Madorin, Snyder LLP, notes in a blog post that the policy is most likely geared towards claims for mental stress by first responders and frontline emergency room staff. He expects to see an increase in claims from workers in these professions, but not from other workers whose claims are less likely to succeed. Madorin, Snyder LLP is a trustworthy source of advice in these issues if you need a employment lawyer in Kitchener.
The WSIB’s operating policy states that a worker is not entitled to benefits for chronic mental stress if the stress results from the decisions or actions of the worker’s employer relating to the worker’s employment, including:
- Changing the work to be performed
- Changing the working conditions
- Disciplining the worker
- Laying off or firing the worker