04 Jul How is chronic mental illness managed in the workplace?
It can be extremely difficult for employees to admit to having a mental illness, especially to their employer. When people think about work, they visualize the best version of themselves. A person with amazing efficiency, performance, and omitting an impressive amount of energy. A lot of people prepare for failures, but never picture those possible bumps in the road becoming a reality.
Many people suffer with mental illness, some more severe than others – and companies are starting to become more aware and proficient in responding to mental health. But most of the programs that companies incorporate in the workplace are preventative measures and not substantial support. A company organizing a yoga retreat for a weekend is a great way to find momentary peace and relaxation but offers no long-term solution for someone’s chronic depression or anxiety.
Even if employers did incorporate professional therapy in the workplace or offered to pay for sessions – they don’t necessarily plan for constant support. It is expected that this struggle is temporary and can be fixed when given the right attention and help.
An employee who suffers from a chronic mental illness is eligible to receive benefits from their employer, but how can an employee’s chronic mental stress become legally legitimized?
An employee can be entitled to chronic mental stress benefits at the workplace if they have undergone substantial mental stressors at the workplace and the environment was the primary cause for their stress. For the mental stress to be defined as substantial, is must be severe stress and/or continual over a period. Substantial work-related stress can also include experience of harassment or abuse at the workplace.
An employee cannot claim that they have chronic mental illness in response to termination of employment, demotion to an inferior role, discipline, transferring to an alternate workplace, altering hours, or changes to the terms and conditions of their employment role.
For an employee to be legally considered as struggling with chronic mental illness, they need to be diagnosed by a qualified health care professional using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The employee must be identified as someone possessing acute stress disorder, PTSD, anxiety disorder, depression disorder, or adjustment disorder (a severe shift in someone’s behaviour or emotions brought on by major change).
If the employee is diagnosed as someone with a chronic mental illness, they are eligible to file a claim to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) that can provide coverage for their health care or support when returning to the workplace if a leave of absence was taken.
An actionable way employers can help employees navigate their mental illness is through Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers over the phone counselling and opportunities for the best suggestions for long-term help. However, it would be beneficial for employers to provide information on how they will respond to mental illness in the workplace, and the benefits available for their employees. Engaging in this conversation could help employees navigate their illness while working and allow them to be more comfortable with the help and support they may need.
If you are an employee struggling with a mental illness and are being mistreated at the workplace as a result, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.