Mental Stress - Capilano University Faculty Association

Mental Stress:
Changes in law and policy in BC workplaces
Presentation to Capilano University
Faculty Association
• Workplace stress emerging as critical
• Research shows it has serious
consequences for workers and
• Law, policy and regulatory reforms
are playing catch-up.
• Recent court decisions and legislative
changes highlight the pressure to
close the gap.
Overview: Research
• Surveys show workplace stress more than
• NIOSH report showed:
– 40% of workers reported their job was
stressful or very stressful
– 25% view their jobs as the number one
stressor in their lives
Overview: Research
– 75% of employees believe that workers
have more on-the-job stress than a
generation ago
– 26% of respondents said they often or very
often felt burned out by work
– Job stress is more strongly associated with
health complaints than financial or family
Overview: Part of a Larger Continuum
• Policy debate: crossover from mental stress to mental
• Where is the onus on employers to guard against mental
stress and its potential for causing greater problems?
– CMHA: 20% of Canadians will experience a mental
illness in their lifetime
– Mental illness affects people of all incomes, ages,
occupations, cultures
Overview: Management practices that
precipitate or aggravate mental stress
• Report by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs,
Science and Technology, “Transforming Mental Health, Mental
Illness and Addiction Services in Canada”
– Unreasonable demands on subordinates
– Withholding important information
– Refusing to give reasonable discretion
– Failing to credit or acknowledge contributions and/or
– Creating a treadmill at work — too much to do, all at once,
all the time
Overview: Management practices that
precipitate or aggravate mental stress
– Creating perpetual doubt — employees never sure
what’s happening
– Allowing mistrust to take root
– Tolerating ambiguity and unclear expectations
– Sub-par performance management practices
– Lack of two-way communications
– Management rejecting, out of hand, employee
concerns about workload
Law & Policy Change in BC
• 2009 BC Court of Appeal said WCB Act
• BC Human Rights Tribunal complaints re:
gradual onset stress.
• Legal opinion from AG said law needed to
• BC Human Rights Tribunal complaints put on
Law & Policy Change in BC
• Bill 14 introduced, November 2011
• First reading, “mental stress”, “physician”
• Third reading, “mental disorder”,
“psychiatrist” “registered psychologist”,
“DSM diagnosis”
• Bullying and harassment added
• Excludes claim related to labour relations
Law & Policy Change in BC
• Policy defines conditions for
coverage. Early days, evolving
• Criteria include one or more
traumatic events.
• Events must be identifiable.
• “predominantly” caused by workrelated stressor or cumulative.
Law & Policy Change in BC
• Predominant cause test: significant
work-related stressor or cumulative
are the primary cause of disorder.
• Causative significance: more than
• Assess connection between
stressors and work.
Law & Policy Change in BC
• Labour relations exclusions include:
• Decision to change work or
• Discipline
• Termination
Law & Policy Change in BC
• Bullying and harassment cited in
the legislation as examples of
significant work-related stressors
• Predominant cause test applies.
• Cumulative and traumatic also
factor into this.
Law & Policy Change: Implications for OH&S
• Prevention parallels access to coverage
• Workplace health and safety plan
• Strategy to prevent problems
• Role of the Workplace OH&S Committee
• Mandatory training of OH&S Committee

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