Vancouver, British Columbia

Hyatt Regency Vancouver

Thursday, May 30, 2019, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm Hotel information
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Continuing Professional Development

CPHR Continuing Professional Development

This program has been approved by the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia & Yukon (CPHR BC & YK) for 5.5 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours.

  • This program has been approved by the Law Society of British Columbia for 5.5 Continuing Professional Development hours.

Working-age Canadians are likely to spend most of their waking hours in the workplace, which means that managers, union representatives, and co-workers are likely to be among the first people to observe changes in behaviour that may indicate that someone is developing a mental health problem.

Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable approaching a co-worker or employee who appears mentally unwell, which may result not only in further deterioration for the employee in question, but also in legal liability for employers and costly, time-consuming litigation.

This one-day skills training session will equip managers, supervisors, and union representatives with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote mental well-being in the workplace, support employees who are mentally unwell, and fulfil their legal obligation to accommodate employees experiencing poor mental health.

You should attend this session if you want to:

  • Understand the medical/psychological concepts of mental health, mental illness, and psychological health and safety, as well as the legal concept of mental disability.
  • Identify ways in which both individuals and organizations can contribute to a psychologically safe and healthy workplace.
  • Approach employees about their mental health in a helpful, non-threatening way and have a useful conversation.
  • Help distressed employees to stay at work in a safe and productive manner.
  • Develop effective, legally-compliant accommodation and return-to-work plans.


Dan Bilsker

Psychologist and Co‑founder
Vancouver Psych Health + Safety Inc.
Merv Gilbert

Psychologist and Co‑founder
Vancouver Psych Health + Safety Inc.
Lindsay Lyster

Union Counsel
Moore Edgar Lyster
Stephanie Vellins

Employer Counsel
Harris & Company


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

9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.


The session leaders will review the agenda and goals for the day.

9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

 PART 1:  Introduction to Psychological Health and Mental Illness

Topics to be discussed include:

  • What is psychological health and safety? How is it related to occupational health and safety?
  • Why does this matter in the workplace?
  • Where is the dividing line between temporary distress and mental illness? What mental health conditions are most commonly encountered in the workplace?
  • How does the stigma attached to mental health conditions affect the workplace?
  • What is the relationship between the workplace and mental health? What workplace psychosocial factors impact employee psychological health and safety?
  • What is the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace?
  • What is a psychologically healthy and safe work culture? What is the responsibility of the employer? What is the responsibility of the worker?

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.


10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 PART 2:  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?
  • 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?
  • How might a mental illness interfere with an employee's ability to fully meet his or her obligations in the accommodation process?
  • 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?

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.


1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

 PART 3:  Helping Skills and Communication

Doctors Gilbert and Bilsker will provide feedback and guidance on recognizing the behavioural signs of employee psychological distress 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 have a psychological health issue? What is within the employee's scope of interest?
  • How should a manager/supervisor have a helpful conversation with a distressed employee? What are reasonable expectations? What is the role of HR? What is the role of the Union?
  • If an employee indicates that they have a diagnosed mental health condition what information can be asked of their health care provider? How is employee privacy and confidentiality maintained?
  • What kind of supports can be provided to an employee to help them while at work? What is psychological self-care?
  • Should an employee take time off work to deal with psychological distress? What are the pros and cons?

Exercise: Participants will work in groups to develop effective communication and problem-solving skills.

2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.


2:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

 PART 4  Leaves of Absence, Accommodated Work, and Undue Hardship

  • If an employee is off on leave, what information can be requested from the employee? From his/her health care provider? Where should the line be drawn between legitimate communication and harassment?
  • If an employee has a diagnosed psychiatric disorder, what treatment is typically provided by the healthcare system? What are other empirically-supported options?
  • What is a realistic expectation with respect to the course of illness? What level of recovery is reasonable for work return?
  • What are useful accommodations for a person who is returning to work? What are the key components of a return-to-work plan, both from a legal and psychological perspective?
  • How can the employer support the employee who is returning to work after a leave? What provisions should be made for preventing relapse and minimizing the risk of RTD (Return to Disability)?
  • 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 there any restrictions on dismissing an employee on the basis that the employee is unable to meet the essential requirements of the job or because further accommodation would constitute undue hardship (e.g. benefits, severance pay, etc.)?

3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

 EXERCISE  Putting It All Together

Working in groups, participants will discuss supports and accommodations for successful work return. The workshop leaders will provide closing comments.