Notice to clients on new harassment and stress policies at the WSIB

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The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) is the provincial agency responsible for administering the workers’ compensation system under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act prohibits entitlement for the condition known as “chronic stress.” This has meant that many persons with psychological or physical reactions to repeated stressors at work have no right to claim benefits. Under pressure to open entitlement in such cases, the WSIB has developed the notion of “serial or cumulative traumatic events” such as incidents of harassment, to permit these persons to collect benefits.

In a June 8, 2001 letter to Emond Harnden and other stakeholders, WSIB Policy Vice President Linda Jolley advised that a new policy proposal will consider workplace harassment to be a series of traumatic events, with a “cumulative effect” causing injury. In a related policy change, persons working in stressful jobs such as health care, firefighting, policing and others will be entitled to claim a “stress injury” due to the cumulative effects of events which occur on the job.

The implications for employers are very significant. Since January 1998 it has not been legal for persons to claim benefits in Ontario for cases such as sexual or other harassment, or other “cumulative” stressors. The new policy will open that channel of benefits for employees, increasing the liability employers will face in such cases. (For more recent developments, see “Workplace Safety and Insurance Board releases new mental stress policy” on our What’s New page.)

The WSIB is consulting with stakeholders until September 7, 2001, after which the policy is likely to take effect. Concerns or comment can be directed to David Law, or directly to the WSIB at the following address:

Consultation on “Mental Stress” Policy
c/o Slavica Todorovic, Director Benefits Policy
WSIB
18th Floor 200 Front Street West
Toronto Ontario M5V 3J1
Fax: (416) 344-4333
e-mail: rose_abate-dragonetti@wsib.on.ca

If you wish to learn more about the policy proposal, please contact Colleen Dunlop at (613) 940-2734.