WSIB Chronic Mental Stress Claims: What You Need To Know

Anyone who has experienced mental stress as a result of the condition of their workplace knows that this can be every bit as painful and debilitating as a physical injury.  Historically, however, the WSIB hasn’t always recognized or allowed claims for mental stress.

As a result of this, for years, advocates called for an end to discrimination against workers with mental illness arising from their working conditions. And now, as of January 1, 2018, the WSIB has updated policies covering two types of mental stress: chronic mental stress and traumatic mental stress. In this post we’ll look at some frequently asked questions about chronic mental stress WSIB claims.

What exactly does WSIB consider to be chronic work-related metal stress?

Chronic work-related mental stress often presents in the form of anxiety or depression disorders. These disorders can result from bullying or workplace harassment, which can take many different forms.

At its core, “workplace harassment occurs when a person or persons, while in the course of the employment, engage in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker, including bullying, that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”

Inappropriate or demeaning comments, or ongoing interpersonal conflict that a reasonable person would perceive as egregious or abusive, may also be considered workplace harassment.

What are the criteria for a chronic mental stress claim need to meet?
There are three main criteria that WSIB says you must meet in order to be eligible for benefits:

  • Diagnosis: you need to have a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnosis from a regulated medical professional (such as family doctor, nurse practitioner, psychologist or psychiatrist)
  • Proof of stressors: you need to be able to prove that during the course of your work, you experienced substantial work-related stressors that resulted in mental stress
  • Causation: you must be able to establish that the events that triggered your stress were the predominant cause of the stress.

In addition to these three main criteria, to be covered under these policies, the events that caused the stress had to have happened on or after April 29, 2014.

The policy also says the work-related stressors must be substantial. Substantial means “excessive in intensity and/or duration compared with the normal pressures and tensions experienced by people working in similar circumstances.”

But what about jobs where high stress is normal?

By their very nature, certain types of jobs have a higher level of routine stress than others. These types of jobs would be those having responsibility over matters involving life and death or routine work in extremely dangerous circumstances. In relation to this type of employment, the consistent exposure to a high level of routine stress over time may qualify as a substantial work-related stressor.

Wondering about post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders? That’s covered under its own policy.

What’s not covered under the policy?
Mental stress injuries caused by management decisions (such as scheduling, disciplinary actions or suspensions, or terms of employment) are usually not covered by WSIB.

In our next post, we’ll look at traumatic mental stress and how it is different from chronic mental stress in the eyes of the WSIB. For more information on chronic mental health claims, you can visit the WSIB’s FAQ page.