Mental Health in the Workplace: Employer Responsibilities

Written by on November 28, 2017 in Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues
Psychiatrist woman attending a depressed woman who has been terminated


Although mental illness is often invisible, we must not underestimate its prevalence in society and its impact on the workplace. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health or addiction problem. It is a leading cause of employee absenteeism and reduced productivity.

Although some strides have been made thanks to mental health awareness campaigns, mental illness remains a stigmatized issue, and employees are often reluctant to confide in their employers about mental health problems.

There are a few things that employers can do to address mental illness in the workplace, from promotion of a healthy work environment to accommodation of employees suffering from mental health issues.

Employers should have management strategies for psychological health in the workplace. The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests the creation of a Healthy Workplace Committee in each workplace to implement a healthy workplace plan that reflects staff needs and considers the structure and culture of the workplace.

Employers can also lead the way by fostering a positive workplace culture and ensuring that their employees feel properly supported. Harassment or toxic workplace culture should be addressed quickly and efficiently. Education in the form of posters, newsletters, or lunch and learn sessions can help employees develop coping strategies while removing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Managers should obtain training so that they are able to recognize mental health related issues in the workplace and learn appropriate communication strategies when dealing with these issues. They should also ensure that employees are aware of mental health resources available to them.

Finally, employers in Ontario have a duty to accommodate employees suffering from mental illness. They must not only permit absences due to mental illness but should also have a return to work process and techniques for accommodating employee restrictions due to mental illness, from modifying communication methods to altering the physical environment to allowing flexibility in job scheduling and duties.

With so many Canadians suffering from mental health issues, employers cannot afford to ignore them. Enabling employees with mental illness to access support can increase their productivity in the workplace and foster a more positive, effective work environment. Moreover, if employees suffering from mental illness are able to receive the treatment they need, long-term disability costs may be avoided.

Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can help. Contact us to see how.

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