There is a growing recognition that workplaces can be a direct cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It is generally harder to prove that a mental illness is a workplace injury because there are so many factors involved. For example, a high-stress environment may contribute to an episode of mental illness, but it’s not easy to demonstrate the connection.
The Canadian government passed the Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act in June 2018 after receiving all-party support in Parliament. The Act recognizes that all Canadians can be at risk for PTSD and that many workers face higher risks because of the nature of their work.
The Framework (Federal Framework on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Recognition, collaboration and support) was released in 2019 and outlines key priorities including the need for improved tracking of rates of PTSD and its associated economic and social costs, the sharing of best practices related to the diagnosis, treatment and management of PTSD, and an emphasis on increasing national awareness related to PTSD.
Learn more about what Canada is doing to address PTSD.
Seven provinces have passed legislation that makes a direct link between psychological disorders like PTSD and workplace trauma. Under most of these laws, some workers diagnosed with PTSD will be able to claim workers’ compensation benefits without having to prove that their illness was caused by their workplace. This kind of legislation presumes that PTSD is a workplace injury.
Only in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador are all workers covered by this legislation, in the rest of the provinces, only some first responders are covered.
Here are links and information about work-related PTSD in each of the provinces that have legislation covering it.
In 2012, Alberta became the first province to recognize presumptive coverage for PTSD. Under Alberta law, if first responders are diagnosed with PTSD, it will be assumed that their illness was caused by their work, and they will be eligible for WCB coverage.
The law applies to emergency medical technicians, firefighters, sheriffs, and police officers (excluding members of the RCMP).
The Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta has a PTSD factsheet here:
British Columbia’s WCB, called WorkSafeBC, does cover mental disorders.
However, the province does not have legislation presuming that a worker’s psychological injury is linked to workplace trauma. Under current BC law, workers have to prove that their psychological injury is linked to traumatic events at work – they don’t get the benefit of the doubt. (The relevant clause in the legislation is here
WCB Section 5.1
BC also recognizes workplace bullying and harassment as situations which can lead to compensation.
WorkSafeBC has information on how psychological injuries are covered here:
In Manitoba, if a worker “is exposed to certain types of traumatic events and is diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the WCB can presume the PTSD is caused by the worker’s employment unless the contrary is proven.”
In other words, it is not up to the worker to prove that the workplace caused PTSD. This legislation applies to all workers, and not just first responders – Manitoba is the first province to provide this coverage for all workers.
The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba has an overview here: https://www.wcb.mb.ca/ptsd-presumption-0
Newfoundland and Labrador
As of July 1, 2019, all workers in Newfoundland and Labrador covered by the workplace injury system became eligible for presumptive coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The legislation presumes workers to have developed their diagnosed PTSD as a result of a traumatic event or multiple events at work.
Learn more: https://www.gov.nl.ca/releases/2018/exec/1204n04/
In 2016, New Brunswick passed legislation that presumes if firefighters, police officers, sheriffs and paramedics are diagnosed with PTSD that it was caused by issues they dealt with on the job:
In 2016, Ontario passed legislation creating a presumption that PTSD in first responders is a workplace injury.
The legislation covers workers in these jobs:
- Police, including First Nations constables, and chiefs of police
- Full-time, part-time, and volunteer firefighters, fire investigators, and fire chiefs
- Paramedics, emergency medical attendants, and ambulance service managers
- Emergency service dispatchers
- Correctional officers and youth service workers
- Emergency response team members dispatched by a communications officers
In 2016, Saskatchewan updated its Workers’ Compensation Act. The law now says that if a worker suffers a psychological injury because of traumatic events that took place at work, it will be presumed that the injury is a result of workplace trauma.
Saskatchewan’s law covers all workers, not just first responders. Saskatchewan is also the only province that does not limit presumption to PTSD but includes all forms of psychological injury.
The presumption that a worker’s mental illness was caused in the workplace is rebuttable though. That means that workers are given the benefit of the doubt, but employers can still challenge the decision.
The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board has a factsheet on the changes here: