by Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP - Cathy Chandler
Originally published: March 28, 2016
The workplace can play an essential role in helping individuals maintain positive mental health. However, it can also be a stressful environment that may contribute to mental health issues and illness. Three out of ten Canadian employees report that their work environments are not psychologically safe or healthy (PDF). Mental health is an important occupational health and safety issue. However, many organizations have no system or process in place to address workplace psychological risks and stressors.
Employers' Legal Obligations
Workplace mental health was not a significant issue on most employers' radar a decade ago. Today, however, workplace legislation continues to evolve in ways that enhance employers' obligations in respect of their employees' physical and mental health. Under provincial human rights and accessibility legislation, employers have a duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, including mental disabilities. Most occupational health and safety legislation across Canada includes provisions requiring employers to take steps to prevent and manage risks of workplace harassment and violence. In some cases, the legislation has been expanded to include "harm to psychological well-being" within the definition of harassment. A bill recently received Royal Asset in the Ontario Legislature, Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2015, which, among other matters, amends Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act to include significant obligations on employers to protect individuals from sexual harassment.