BC's WCB Act to be amended to broaden coverage for mental stress conditions arising in workplace
The British Columbia Government has introduced amendments to the Workers Compensation Act that, among other features, broaden compensation coverage for mental stress conditions arising in the workplace.
The amendments were introduced in the legislature on November 3, 2011. In the government's news release, Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government Margaret MacDiarmid states:
Our government recognizes that we need to treat job-related mental stress the same way we treat physical illness and injuries. We know mental stress has a significant impact on workers, their families and their workplace.
The Ministry's Backgrounder that accompanied the news release states:
What are the effects of mental stress?
Since mental stress most often results in physical and psychological symptoms, it has a significant effect on workers and their families.
It can also impact the workplace through reduced efficiency, frequent absences, indifference, decreased creativity and poor decisions that can result in accidents and injury.
How will this amendment affect workers with mental stress?
Bill 14 proposes expanding compensation for mental stress arising from the course of the worker's employment to go beyond the current requirement of "an acute reaction to a sudden and traumatic event" and include:
- The reaction to one or more traumatic events;
- The reaction to a significant work-related stressor; or
- The reaction to a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors.
Stress resulting from employment decisions like discipline, termination or a change in working conditions will continue to be excluded from coverage.
To be eligible for mental stress compensation in B.C., a recognized diagnosis will be required.
What are some examples of when this expanded coverage might apply?
Mental stress conditions can be caused by many different work circumstances. WorkSafeBC will be developing policy on when mental stress will be eligible for compensation. Examples that other jurisdictions have accepted include:
- Emergency service personnel who gradually develop post-traumatic stress or another recognized stress disorder as a reaction to the traumatic events they may regularly experience as part of their job.
- Exposure to workplace violence or bullying.
- Ongoing sexual harassment.