91% of employers implement mental-health standard because it’s ‘right thing to do’

While nearly half (47 per cent) of employers implemented the national standard of Canada for psychological health and safety in the workplace to save money, the vast majority (91 per cent) of respondents did so because it’s “the right thing to do,” according to a new study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

The study, which looked at 40 organizations, with a total of 250,000 employees, that had implemented the standard in 2014, also found 84 per cent of respondents introduced the standard to protect employees’ psychological health, 72 per cent to increase employee engagement and 41 per cent to reduce liability.

Read: Workplace psychological health on the rise, study finds

“Initially, our objective in adopting the standard was that it was the right thing to do,” an anonymous employer representative noted in the study. “This continues to be a high priority. We also saw this as a way to increase employee engagement and a method to better protect the health and safety of our employees.

“However, one outcome which we didn’t anticipate was how much adoption of the standard has affected our organizational reputation for the better, allowing us to be a leader with respect to best practices.”

Researchers found the most common action points were implementing respectful workplace policy and educational initiatives (78 per cent), providing employee and family assistance programs (70 per cent) and enhancing mental-health knowledge (66 per cent). Many organizations (59 per cent) also train managers about mental health and offer support for employees to stay at or return to work.

Read: Will increased mental-health coverage become a trend among employers?

Organizations that have an easier time implementing the standard have leaders that actively champion the programs and demonstrate that employee mental health is consistent with the workplace’s goals, according to the study. These organizations also connect their mental-health teams with occupational health and safety policies, employee representative groups and benefits managers, as well as external support groups.

The study also points out that an organization’s size can be an asset. Larger employers are more likely to have existing resources and data that can support mental-health initiatives, but they may be slower to implement change. Smaller employers can be nimbler in terms of communicating with employees about updating policies, but may lack resources and infrastructure.

“At Michael Garron Hospital, we understand that in order to provide excellent patient care, we must invest in the physical and mental health of our workforce,” said Sarah Downey, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, in a release. “While participating in the study, we have experienced a positive increase in staff engagement scores and a reduction in costs for long-term disability and medications for psychological disorders.”

Read: Michael Garron Hospital wins mental-health award for holistic approach