Report urges Newfoundland to introduce legislation for work-related stress

A new report is calling on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to establish presumptive legislation for post-traumatic stress disorder and occupational stress, as well as a law that outlines an employer’s responsibility in developing an approach to preventing those types of injuries.

The report, published by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment, noted the province is one of the last without presumptive legislation around those issues, but it suggested it has the opportunity to create the most comprehensive and inclusive laws in Canada to date.

Read: Ontario passes legislation to support first responders with PTSD

Specifically, it recommended presumptive legislation that:

  • Includes mental-health injuries resulting from chronic stress, either tied to operational or organizational stressors in the workplace;
  • Recognizes that all mental-health injuries, including chronic stress related to work-related activities, are occupational illnesses that can result from cumulative- and single-stress events.
  • Provides the benefit of the doubt to employees making a claim for compensation, such that workers won’t have to prove that work was the cause of their diagnosed disorder in order to receive compensation benefits;
  • Recognizes, and includes under coverage, the notion that work experiences wrap around events and experiences outside of work and that workplace trauma can have direct or indirect implications for cumulative trauma, acute incidents and chronic stress; and
  • Covers mental-health injuries retroactively.

Read: How to deal with PTSD in the workplace

The report also recommended that the government establish in law an employer’s responsibility to develop an integrated and systematic approach to the prevention of stress and psychological injuries.

According to the report, the minister responsible for both WorkplaceNL and the province’s public procurement agency requested a review of the mental-stress coverage in the worker’s compensation legislation in November 2017. In addition, the leader of the province’s opposition party has repeatedly called for changes to the mental-health policy to ensure coverage for first responders who experience occupational stress injury or trauma, including firefighters, paramedics, police officers, dispatchers and health professionals. As well, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees advocates covering all employees, regardless of occupation, under any new legislation.

“As one of the last provinces to do so, there is a clear need in Newfoundland and Labrador to introduce presumptive legislation for work-related stress injuries,” wrote co-authors Rosemary Ricciardelli and Alan Hall of Memorial University’s department of sociology.

“With respect to legislation covering stress-related work injuries, the presumption policy in Canada has revolved mainly around the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder within particular occupations believed to have a greater risk of PTSD,” they wrote.

“However, more progressive provinces have expanded their definitions to include other diagnoses and/or a wider spectrum of occupational groups, which we advocate is the preferred option for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Read: WSIB shares experience implementing PTSD legislation