- the psychological trauma of suffering an accident or disease
- coping with the chronic pain that may result
- the anxiety of wondering how to financially make ends meet
- social isolation and depression when removed from regular daily life and routines
- the stress of dealing with aggressive claims management practices by employers or the Board, with toxic work environments or with harassment
- the stigma and suspicion that still today place the blame on the victim, especially when the injury is invisible
- the additional challenges too often imposed on Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities
While the WSIB recognizes acute mental health injury …
Under the Board’s traumatic mental stress policies, workers are entitled to benefits for diagnosed mental health injuries resulting from a clearly identifiable and objectively traumatic work-related event. This is usually a sudden or unexpected event, such as witnessing a horrific accident, or being the object of violence.
In 2016 with Bill 163 post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) diagnosed in first responders is presumed to be a work-related injury, unless proven otherwise. This speeds up the claims process and gives emergency personnel (such as police, firefighters, paramedics) faster access to treatment. But while the Minister of Labour in December 2017 did announce the government’s intention to extend the presumption to front-line nurses, Ontario has not yet followed Manitoba’s lead in recognizing that events triggering PTSD can happen in any workplace and in any occupation.
… restoring compensation for chronic mental stress is a hard-won victory not yet fully realized
Until 1998 removed coverage, Ontario had compensated also mental health injuries acquired over time (chronic). With passage of Bill 99 Ontario’s compensation law and policy adopted a more restrictive approach and understanding of mental health issues. It now treated mental health injuries differently than physical injuries where workers are entitled to compensation whether the injury results from a single event (like a broken limb) or develops gradually (like repetitive strain injury).
In 2014 the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal found this restriction on chronic mental stress claims to be unconstitutional and discriminatory. While the Board and government refused to make requested changes to law and policy, a 2015 ONIWG/OFL report Prescription Over-ruled raised public awareness over long-standing concerns by Ontario psychologists and other health-care providers. In November 2016 a group of legal clinics and workers’ compensation lawyers lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman on WSIB refusal to compensate for chronic occupational stress.
In May 2017 the government responded with an amendment to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act in Bill 127 (with changes considered too little and too late by many advocates), and the WSIB issued a new draft policy for consultation. ONIWG, Injured Workers’ Consultants and injured worker Margery Wardle launched a class action lawsuit in July on behalf of workers with claims prior to 2018, who were left under the old legislation. In response to this court challenge, the government clarified the transitional provisions regarding retroactivity and reconsideration of claims, in amendments passed December 2017 in Bill 177 (see Minister of Labour’s comments). The new Chronic Mental Stress policy (Policy 15-03-14) and revised Traumatic Mental Stress policy (Policy 15-03-02) came into effect Jan. 1, 2018.
A WSIB internal audit has shown however that, since the legislation came into force, the Board has denied 94 per cent of chronic mental stress claims (Toronto Star, Dec. 4, 2018).
- Women of Inspiration. 2020 Apr. 23. Letter to the WSIB: re Black mental health and COVID-19
- Coalition. 2017 Oct. 12. Letter to the Premier re: WSIB’s Discrimination Against Workers with Mental Injuries. (Coalition concerns over WSIB’s new mental stress policy issued in October – and in effect Jan. 1, 2018)
- WSIB. 2017. Work-Related Chronic Mental Stress Policy Consultation (submissions)
- Mojtehedzadeh, Sara. 2016 Nov. 14. “Ombudsman Asked to Probe WSIB Treatment of Mentally Ill.” Toronto Star
- IWO. 2016. Fact Sheet: Workplace Chronic Mental Stress Claims.