February 6, 2020

As a result of recent but profound changes to working practices — and a general shift to a knowledge-based economy — workplace psychosocial hazards and work-related stress are emerging as major occupational health and safety issues. In order to address these hazards, the Mental Health Commission of Canada sponsored the development of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, which provides a framework for promoting the mental health of employees and preventing psychological harm in the workplace. In this session, leading experts will outline the legal and business cases for implementing the Standard and identify promising practices and common barriers faced when implementing comprehensive workplace psychological health and safety policies and programs. Specific issues affecting employers and unions include the following:

  • How is “psychological health and safety” defined in the Standard? Is this a generally accepted definition? Why is psychological health and safety becoming increasingly important to workers, regulators, and employers?
  • What is the “legal case” for implementing the Standard or some other comprehensive workplace psychological health and safety policy? Do employers have a legal duty to ensure that the way they manage the workplace does not cause employees unnecessary or undue stress or otherwise cause mental injury? Are there any indications that the Standard may become mandatory in the near future?
  • What is the “business case” for ensuring workplace psychological health and safety? What are the potential financial costs to employers that fail to ensure psychologically healthy workplaces in terms of reduced productivity, increased insurance costs, and legal damage awards?
  • What role should the Standard play in workplace psychological health and safety policies and programs? Is it possible to develop policies and procedures to effectively address workplace psychological health and safety without referring to the Standard?
  • How does implementation of the Standard — or other comprehensive workplace psychological health and safety policy — integrate with work that organizations are already undertaking to protect workers from harassment (including sexual harassment) and violence?
  • What do unions, employees, and employers stand to gain from a cooperative approach to psychological health and safety? Is there evidence that joint strategies are any more or less effective than psychological health and safety or wellness policies unilaterally promulgated by the employer? What are the potential drawbacks of joint strategies?
  • What are some key obstacles to developing effective workplace psychological health and safety policies? What are some promising practices?
  • How can workplace parties evaluate whether their approach to psychological health and safety is effective? What has been the experience of workplaces that have implemented the Standard? Does implementation result in demonstrable improvements to the bottom line, attendance, morale, or employee wellness?
  • What readily available external resources have proven helpful to organizations implementing the Standard?