Mental health problems and illnesses have a $50-billion impact on Canada’s economy each year, and 30% of short term and long term disability claims are associated with mental health issues. It’s hoped that Wednesday morning’s release of the long-awaited National Standard of Canada Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace will start to help improve those numbers.

“In the workforce, the problem has become too widespread and too expensive to ignore,” said David Goldbloom, chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). “It may seem obvious that Canadian workplaces should protect mental health in the workplace, as well as physical health. But until now, this simple reality has not been acted on.”

The standards—a result of a collaborative effort between the MHCC, the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) and the CSA Group—will serve as a voluntary framework for employers to help guide them toward more psychologically healthy workplaces. This standard is not just a Canadian first, but a global first.

“The standard offers guidance to Canadian businesses and organizations’ structures and processes for addressing mental health and mental illness in the workplace,” says Mary Ann Baynton, program director of the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace. “It is intended to help promote good mental health and prevent harm for all employees, whether or not they may have a mental illness.”

“The standard is also important for risk management,” she added. “Employers are increasingly being held legally responsible for psychological health and safety in the workplace. As a result, employers may be held liable for claims, for example, if an employee is harassed or bullied or chronically overworked.”

Call to action
“[The standard] contains tools, not rules….It’s fresh [and] immediate, and will result in real change. It’s time to put it to work,” said Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the MHCC.

George Cope, president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, says his organization will have no problem adopting the standard. The company has already taken action on improving the psychological safety of its workplaces. “You must step up to the standard,” Cope urged employers. “The government has done its part, now businesses have to.”

The Centre for Addition and Mental Health, Morneau Shepell and Lundbeck Canada have already come forward publicly saying they will be early adopters of the standard.

“While it’s only voluntary, it’s a crucial first step in creating safer workplaces,” said Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

The standard was funded by the Government of Canada (through Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada) as well as through financial contributions from Bell Canada and the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.

The standard can be downloaded here.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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