Recognition by Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) of Chronic Mental Stress as compensable workplace injury a big step forward

A decision by the Ontario WSIB (aka Workers’ Compensation) to recognize chronic mental stress as a compensable injury is a major step forward in ensuring Agriculture Union members in that province do not have to choose between their mental health and financial well-being.

Chronic mental stress is a virtual epidemic in many federal government workplaces. Along with our bargaining agent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Agriculture Union has been working over the past several years in partnership with the employer to address this pervasive problem.

The Chronic Mental Stress Policy applies to all accidents on or after January 1, 2018. This policy also applies to the claims identified in the “Transitional provisions” section of the policy.

Transitional provisions

(accidents on or after April 29, 2014 – submit claim before July 1, 2018)

If a worker has chronic mental stress which occurs on or after April 29, 2014, and the worker has not filed a claim with the WSIB for the chronic mental stress before January 1, 2018, the worker or the worker’s survivor may file a claim for the chronic mental stress with the WSIB, as long as such claim is filed on or before July 1, 2018.

A union-management Joint Task Force recently released its third major report, aimed at creating a cultural shift in how mental health issues are addressed in the federal workplace. One of its key recommendations, the creation of a Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace, will launch later this year.

Such preventative measures are welcome. However, current victims of chronic mental stress are being additionally penalized as their condition is not recognized as a compensable injury by some provincial workplace insurance boards.

As a result, all too many of our members have been forced to take sick leave, vacation or even leave-without-pay as a result of chronic mental stress brought on by workplace violence or harassment.

So we are delighted to note that Ontario’s WSIB has now recognized chronic mental stress as a compensable workplace injury. If a claim is allowed, benefits can include psychological assessment, treatment, prescription medications, wage replacement and return-to-work services.

We encourage all our members to take the time to visit the WSIB’s Web page on chronic mental stress. It can be found below. While aimed at Ontario residents, it provides an excellent overview of the issue.