Home|Professional Learning Programs|Mental Health at Work

Professional Learning Programs, presented by the University of Toronto Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources with Lancaster House

Mental Health at Work: Meeting legal obligations, providing effective support


June 18 - 19, 2019 (two-day program)
The Westin Edmonton



Register Now


In association with:


Upon completion of this program, participants will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Toronto's Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources (CIRHR).



Session Leaders

Dr. Mike Condra
Program Leader, Adjunct Professor and Clinical Psychologist

Ayla Akgungor
Employer Counsel
Field Law
Stacie Klimosko
Senior Disability Management Consultant
City of Edmonton
David Lardner
Disputes and Arbitration Representative
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees
Patrick Nugent
Union Counsel
Nugent Law


Program

In a 12 month period, one in five Canadian adults will develop a serious mental health problem, and mental health problems are rated one of the top three drivers of both short and long term disability claims by more than 80% of Canadian employers.

The Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto and Lancaster House have designed this program to provide labour relations professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote mental well-being in the workplace, compassionately and responsibly support employees who are mentally unwell, and fulfil their legal obligation to accommodate employees experiencing mental health problems.

You should attend this session if you want to

  • Understand the medical/psychological concepts of mental health, mental illness and substance dependence as well as the legal concept of mental disability
  • Promote mental well-being in the workplace
  • Better understand stigma and know how to combat it
  • Approach employees about their mental health in a helpful, non-threatening way
  • Support and accommodate employees with mental health disabilities
  • Help employees in crisis
  • Develop effective, legally-compliant accommodation and return-to-work plans
  • Effectively request medical/psychological information needed for accommodation
  • Protect employee privacy


Agenda


Agenda — Day One

Please Note: This schedule is a draft only and is subject to change.

9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

 INTRODUCTION 


The session leader, Dr. Mike Condra, will review the agenda and goals for the 2-day session.

9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

 PART 1:  Introduction to Mental Health and Mental Illness


Topics to be discussed include:

  • What is the continuum of mental health? Why is it important?
  • Where is the dividing line between temporary distress and mental illness?
  • Why do people become mentally unwell?
  • What mental health conditions are most commonly encountered in the workplace?
    • (depression, anxiety disorders, bi-polar disorder, substance use disorders)
  • What other types of mental disorders or mental disabilities should workplace parties be aware of?
    • A brief introduction to other mental disabilities that may be encountered in the workplace, including personality disorders, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities
  • What expertise do different mental health professionals have (e.g. psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, EAP counsellors)? What roles do these professionals play in providing assistance to workers who are mentally unwell?
  • What are some commonly-held misunderstandings about mental illness?
  • How does the stigma attached to mental health conditions affect the workplace?
  • What can unions and employer do to combat stigma?

Exercise: Using case vignettes, participants will work in groups on developing anti-stigma responses to the presence of stigma.

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

MORNING BREAK


10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 PART 2:  The Workplace and Mental Health


  • What is the relationship between the workplace and mental health?
  • How does workplace stress affect mental health? What are the signs that an employee is experiencing harmful levels of stress?
  • What workplace practices promote mental well-being? Should the focus be on the organization and design of work itself, or on encouraging individual employees to make personal adjustments through mindfulness, diet, exercise and the like?
  • What role does the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace have in promoting mental wellness?
  • What should workplace parties do to create an organizational culture of accessibility and accommodation?

Exercise: Participants will be encouraged to discuss initiatives from their own workplaces that they feel are effective in promoting mental well-being and a culture of accessibility and accommodation.

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

LUNCH


1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

 PART 3:  Helping Skills and Communication


Exercise: Participants will work in groups to identify behaviours indicative of a mental health problem.

Dr. Condra will provide feedback and guidance on recognizing the signs of a mental health problem and introduce helping skills that participants will be able to use in the workplace. Topics to be discussed include:

  • What workplace behaviours suggest that someone might be mentally unwell?
  • How, where, and when should you ask someone in your workplace if he or she is mentally unwell? Who is best-suited to having such conversations: direct supervisors, human resources professionals, union representatives?
  • What are some practical tips for discussing mental health in the workplace?
  • What type of help or support is it proper to offer a co-worker or subordinate?
  • In cases of mental illness, what does the recovery process look like? What should be done to help someone throughout the process?
  • How should managers and union representatives deal with someone's reluctance to disclose a mental health condition? How should they deal with denial in the face of evidence to the contrary?

Exercise: Using short Case Studies, participants will work in groups on developing effective communication and supporting skills.

2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

AFTERNOON BREAK


2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

 PART 4:  Responding to Crises


Dr. Condra will introduce strategies for dealing with mental health crises arising in the workplace. Specific issues to be discussed include:

  • What can be done to support an employee who is experiencing a panic attack?
  • What are the signs that someone may be suicidal? What can managers, union representatives, and co-workers do to assist someone whom they believe may be suicidal?
  • What is self-harming behaviour? Is it a mental health "emergency" or crisis? How should managers, union representatives, and co-workers speak with someone whom they believe may be self-harming?
  • Is it legitimate for other employees to be concerned for their own safety if a co-worker engages in self-harming behaviour, or are such concerns discriminatory?
  • What is the appropriate response to someone who appears to have lost touch with reality?
  • How should supervisors/managers approach someone who appears to be high or intoxicated at work?
  • In general, what should employers and unions do to protect the health of workers who experience crises or traumatic events at work?

4:00 p.m.

END OF DAY ONE

 

Agenda — Day Two

Please Note: This schedule is a draft only and is subject to change.

9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

 INTRODUCTION 


The session leader, Dr. Mike Condra, will introduce the union and management lawyers participating in the session, and review the agenda and goals for the day.

9:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

 REVIEW:  Brief Review of Key Concepts from Day 1


  • The continuum of mental health
  • The relationship between the workplace (and work-related stress) and mental health
  • The role of laypersons (e.g. union and management representatives) in approaching, listening, referring and supporting people who are mentally unwell

9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

 PART 5:  The Legal Concept of Disability and the Duty to Inquire


  • What is the relationship between the psychological or medical concept of illness or disorder and the legal concept of disability?
  • Must someone have a diagnosis of a recognized mental disorder in order to be considered a person with a disability attracting the protection of human rights legislation?
  • How should supervisors, managers, or human resources personnel respond to an employee who appears stressed or says that he or she is stressed? Is "stress" a disability giving rise to the duty to accommodate in law? Is it a serious occupational health and safety issue?
  • When do employers or union representatives have a duty to ask an employee if she or he requires accommodation because of a mental disability? When will a union need to inquire into an employee's mental health in order to meet its duty of fair representation?
  • If an employee has not disclosed a mental disability but is nonetheless suspected of being mentally unwell, can the employer discipline or discharge the employee for attendance or performance problems?
  • How do mental health disorders affect an employee's choice or control over conduct in the workplace? Are employees under mental stress or experiencing an episode of mental illness likely to make threats that they have no intention of carrying out? How should employers and unions respond when an employee makes a statement that raises a concern that he or she may be violent?
  • Does the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal alter the duty to inquire? Are employees with a disability now prevented from raising discrimination and accommodation arguments at arbitration if they did not notify the employer before discipline for disability-related misconduct was imposed?

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

MORNING BREAK


10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 PART 6:  The Duty to Accommodate


  • What are the legal obligations of employers, unions and employees in the accommodation process? Must the union always be involved in the accommodation process or can the employer and/or the employee exclude the union?
  • How might a mental illness interfere with an employee's ability to fully meet his or her obligations in the accommodation process?
  • What are some examples of accommodations that might help an employee who is mentally unwell stay at work? Should employers alter performance or attendance standards? How can workplace parties determine what elements of a job are bona fide occupational requirements?
  • When should an employee go off work on sick leave or disability leave, rather than continue working with accommodations? Who makes the decision: the employee or the employer?
  • How should the employer and union communicate with a person on sick leave? What role should the employee's wishes play in the nature and frequency of contact? Where should the line be drawn between legitimate communication and harassment?
  • When is it appropriate to attempt a return to work? Is a gradual return to work always advisable?
  • What are the key components of a return-to-work plan, both from a legal and psychological perspective? How should such plans be drafted?
  • What provisions should be made for preventing relapse and reviewing accommodation?
  • When will accommodating an employee with a mental illness constitute undue hardship? Would it be undue hardship to accommodate an employee who experiences multiple relapses of a condition?
  • Are "last chance agreements" appropriate tools to use in cases of employees with mental health disabilities?
  • What inquiries regarding an employee's ability to work/prognosis must an employer make prior to dismissing an employee with a mental disability on the basis that the employee is unable to meet the essential requirements of the job/further accommodation would constitute undue hardship? Are there any restrictions on such a dismissal (e.g. benefits, severance pay, etc.)?

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

LUNCH


1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

 PART 7:  Privacy and Medical Information


Topics to be discussed include:

  • What medical information can employers request to justify a leave of absence, initiate a return to work, or support the accommodation process?
  • What unique privacy concerns are raised by the provision of medical information related to mental health disabilities? How should workplace parties address those concerns?
  • Are employers justified in being skeptical of medical information and limitations related to mental health conditions on the basis that such information is based largely on self-reporting? Or is such skepticism rooted in the stigma and stereotypical assumptions associated with mental illness? How can the "objectivity" and adequacy of mental health information be assessed, given that psychiatry and psychology are based on subjective judgments and examinations and rely on self-reporting?
  • When is it appropriate for an employer to ask for an independent medical examination? In what situations might an independent medical examination be beneficial to the employee/union? Might IMEs aggravate certain types of mental disabilities?
  • When is it appropriate to require an employee to provide medical information to prove he or she is fit for duty and/or does not pose a health and safety risk?
  • Once medical information has been obtained, what measures should be put in place to ensure privacy?
  • What information relating to an employee's mental health condition may be shared without an employee's express consent? Does the mere communication of the fact that an employee has a disability and certain limitations constitute sharing personal information that may engage privacy protections?
  • How can employers and/or unions address questions or concerns raised by co-workers of an accommodated employee without violating the employee's privacy?

Exercise: Working in groups, participants will assess the pros and cons of various templates for requesting medical information.

2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

AFTERNOON BREAK


2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

 EXERCISE:  Putting It All Together


Participants will develop an accommodation plan appropriate for an individual described in a scenario drawn from real-life.

Workshop leaders will provide guidance and feedback.

4:00 p.m.

END OF DAY TWO

 

Click here to find out more information regarding CPD and the hour requirements in your province.

"Mental Health at Work" Professional Learning Program

  • This program has been approved by CPHR Alberta for 11.0 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours.