Tips for implementing mental-health policy
By Sara Malkin and Emily Russell
'Invisible' disabilities have equal human rights protections in the workplace.
Canadian legislation has continued to evolve to ensure that invisible disabilities are acknowledged, respected and accommodated to the point of undue hardship.
As such, it is more important than ever before to ensure that employers have considered and enacted workplace policies which clearly contemplate the interplay of mental health in the workplace.
To ensure that your workplace is following best practices in recognizing mental-health conditions, employers ought to consider the following:
- Make sure that all policies which interact with health or wellness in the workplace contemplate mental health. This means reviewing any discrimination, violence or harassment policies to ensure that issues of mental health are appropriately considered.
- Where possible, ensure that employee family assistance plans available to workers through group benefits provide resources to support employees’ mental health, wellness and ultimate ability to stay healthy and safe at work.
- All employees should be trained on policies which address mental-health conditions in the workplace, and ought to be given copies of the policy so they feel empowered and have the appropriate tools.
- Members of the management team — including HR — should be provided advanced training on these policies to ensure they are comfortable and prepared to assist employees where
- Where complaints of harassment or bullying are raised — with an employee claiming that they have suffered in their mental health as a result — employers must conduct investigations in a timely matter that are appropriate in the circumstances, resulting in appropriate rehabilitation or corrective-action measures where violations of law or policy has occurred. Victims should be supported to facilitate their ongoing active employment.
- Employers must remember that although a disability may be “invisible,” it has the same protection as any other prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Code and will attract the same duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. Remember that the duty to accommodate has both a procedural and substantive element!
- In light of evolving workers’ compensation entitlement across Canada, employers should consider whether their policies appropriately address up-to-date workplace injury reporting obligations. Employers should consider addressing mental-health and mental-stress “injuries” similarly to how physical injuries are addressed in their policies, from an accident-reporting standpoint as well as accommodation.
- Employers should also consider whether it may be appropriate to establish different reporting protocols and contacts for mental-
stress “injuries,” noting that some may be related to more sensitive and confidential matters.
Sara Malkin is a labour and employment associate at Mathews Dinsdale in Toronto. Emily Russell is a paralegal with the firm’s CompClaim consulting group.
This feature was published alongside the cover story in the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of OHS Canada.