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Work-Related Chronic Mental Stress Policy Consultation

Update: On November 14, the provincial government introduced additional amendments to the mental stress provisions of Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997. If passed, these amendments would mean that people who were diagnosed with a work-related chronic mental stress disorder on or after April 29, 2014 may be eligible for WSIB benefits. People who have not yet received a final decision on their mental stress claim by the WSIB and/or the WSIAT as of January 1, 2018 may also be eligible for benefits. If these amendments are passed, the WSIB will update its policies and procedures accordingly.

We have completed consultations on our draft Chronic Mental Stress policy. We carefully reviewed the submissions we received from individual Ontarians and businesses, as well as from stakeholder associations along with worker and employer representatives. Some of the key themes that emerged from the consultation were considerations regarding application date, what makes a workplace stressor substantial, and how to determine cause. For details on the consultation submissions and the WSIB’s response, please see our Chronic Mental Stress Policy Consultation Summary (PDF).

We have incorporated the input we received through the consultation process, and the new Chronic Mental Stress policy (Policy 15-03-14) (PDF) has been finalized and approved. We have also made changes to the Traumatic Mental Stress policy (Policy 15-03-02) (PDF) to provide clarity between the two types of work-related mental stress. These policy changes will come into effect on January 1, 2018. For more information see the Policy updates/clarification page.

Illustrative examples

Here are examples of what would and would not likely qualify for benefits under the proposed legislation and policy: 

Situation Likely entitled to benefits?
Traumatic Mental Stress

A construction worker develops post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing a horrific workplace accident.
Yes
Chronic Mental Stress

A teacher is the subject of demeaning comments from her vice-principal on a regular basis, quite often in front of her teaching colleagues and develops an anxiety disorder as a result.
Yes
A housekeeping attendant is the subject of inappropriate and harassing comments from several co-workers on a regular basis. He attempts to confront his co-workers but the harassment continues and in fact increases, and he develops a depression disorder as a result. Yes
Excluded

A grocery clerk's shift schedule is changed by the employer.
No
A general labourer has been observed on a number of occasions not adhering to company safety rules. He is eventually suspended by the employer due to continued safety violations. No
After several extensions of a probationary account representative's contract, she becomes upset with the employer’s decision not to offer her permanent employment. No


FAQs

Q1. Why has the WSIB introduced a policy on work-related chronic mental stress?

A1. Good mental health is key to having healthy and productive workplaces in Ontario. We want anyone suffering from work-related chronic mental stress to get the support and help they need to return to work.

The policy supports the part of the Ontario government’s 2017 budget legislation that will allow compensation for work-related chronic mental stress.

Q2. What is work-related chronic mental stress?

A2. Work-related chronic mental stress is any diagnosable mental disorder that has been predominantly caused by a substantial work-related stressor or series of stressors.

A work-related stressor would generally be considered substantial if it is excessive in intensity and/or duration compared with the normal pressures and tensions experienced by people working in similar circumstances.

For example, work-related chronic mental stress could be a mental disorder resulting from being subjected to harassment or bullying at work.

Q3. Who is entitled to benefits for work-related chronic mental stress under the policy?

 A3. Three conditions need to be met for a person to be entitled to WSIB benefits under this policy:

  1. an appropriate regulated health professional, such as a family physician, provides a diagnosis based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
  2. the person has experienced a substantial work-related stressor(s), like workplace bullying or harassment, and
  3. the work-related stressor(s) was the predominant cause of the appropriately diagnosed mental stress injury.

Q4. What’s the difference between work-related chronic mental stress and traumatic mental stress?

A4.Work-related traumatic mental stress involves events that are generally accepted as traumatic, such as a criminal act or a horrific accident. In most cases a traumatic event will be sudden and unexpected. For example, witnessing a workplace fatality or a horrific accident could be the cause of work-related traumatic mental stress.

Work-related chronic mental stress involves identifiable stressful events that are not traumatic, but are substantial, which means that they are excessive in intensity and/or duration compared with normal pressures and tensions experienced by other people working in similar circumstances. For example, being the target of a co-worker who persistently uses racial epithets and abusive language.

Q5. What changes were made to the Traumatic Mental Stress policy?

A5. The definition of workplace harassment has changed to better align with the language in the Occupational Health and Safety Act(OHSA). We have removed the requirement that the traumatic event be “sudden and unexpected” (in accordance with the legislative change). We have also changed the diagnostic criteria to line up with the diagnostic criteria in the new Chronic Mental Stress policy. Finally, a cross-reference to the Chronic Mental Stress policy has been added to help clarify the distinction between the two types of mental stress injury.

Q6. When is chronic mental stress or traumatic mental stress excluded from entitlement under the legislation?

A6. An employer’s decisions or actions that are part of the managerial function would not be considered causes of traumatic or chronic mental stress. For example:

  • terminations 
  • demotions 
  • transfers 
  • discipline 
  • changes in working hours, or 
  • changes in productivity expectations.

Q7. When do the policies take effect?

A7. The new Chronic Mental Stress policy and the revised Traumatic Mental Stress policy comes into effect on January 1, 2018. This is the ‘coming into force date’ of the legislation.

You can find Bill 127 on the website of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Q8. When will people with chronic mental stress be eligible under the proposed legislation?

A8. People who first seek medical attention or are diagnosed (referred to as the “accident date”) with a work-related chronic mental stress disorder on or after January 1, 2018 may be entitled to benefits under the new legislation. This is the ‘coming into force date’ of the legislation.

If the recently proposed amendments to the legislation pass, someone who has developed a work-related chronic mental stress disorder on or after April 29, 2014, and has not filed a claim with the WSIB for that injury before January 1, 2018 may be eligible for benefits as long as the claim is filed on or before July 1, 2018. People who have not yet received a final decision on their mental stress claim by the WSIB and/or the WSIAT as of January 1, 2018 may also be eligible for benefits.

Q9. Who participated in the policy consultation? What did they say?

 A9. You can read the consultations submissions and our Chronic Mental Stress Policy Consultation Summary (PDF).

Q10. What can employers do to reduce their employees’ risk of developing a work-related CMS disorder?

A10. Ontario’s Health and Safety Partners have tools and resources that employers can use to help prevent work-related CMS. Visit www.thinkmentalhealth.ca for more information.

Q11. How can employees reduce their risk of developing a work-related CMS disorder?

A11. All workplaces can be stressful. Employees should take action to report significant stressors like bullying and harassment to their employers. Everyone can help reduce work-related CMS by learning about best practices to maintain their mental health on the job. Visit www.thinkmentalhealth.ca for more information.

Stakeholder submissions received to date

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