Canada launches workplace standards for mental health and safety
TheStar.com – living/health
January 16, 2013. Andrea Gordon, Staff Reporter
It’s one of the top reasons for disability claims, absenteeism and lost productivity. It affects one in five Canadians, mostly in their prime working years, and has a major impact on workplaces and the bottom line. Mental illness is something businesses cannot afford to ignore.
Now, for the first time, Canadian companies have a standardized tool to help them tackle the issue by creating workplaces that promote mental health, reduce stress and support employees dealing with mental illness.
The new national standard for workplace mental health and safety, released Wednesday by a partnership of federal and business leaders, is a framework that can be adapted for organizations with 10 employees or 10,000, said Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
“We’ve created something that this country hasn’t seen before,” she told a Toronto news conference. “This voluntary standard is the first of its kind in the world.”
The commission developed the standard, called Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, in collaboration with the Bureau de normalisation du Quebec and the non-profit association CSA Group after years of consultation with business, unions and mental health experts.
Bradley noted that with 20 per cent of Canadians dealing with mental health problems at some point in their lives, reducing stigma in the workplace and ensuring there are policies to support them and their co-workers is critical.
Bringing mental health into the open in offices, plants and other work sites is necessary to change both attitudes and company policies, added federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who referred to her own experience with post-partum depression in 2004.
“As in my case, people who suffer from mental illness are afraid. They’re afraid they’re going to be treated differently, they’re afraid they’re not going to be as respected if they reveal they have a problem. And some may even be afraid of losing their jobs. It’s a topic we still don’t talk enough about.”
Mental illness is also the fastest-growing reason for short- and long-term disability claims, accounting for about 30 per cent in Canada and costing business $6 billion in lost productivity and absenteeism in 2011, according to the mental health commission. In its national strategy last May, the commission listed new health and safety standards among its key recommendations.
The new standard — which is free and available by download — has guidelines to help companies identify potential hazards to mental health and where they can improve policies and practices.
It is “a significant step forward” at a time when corporate downsizing, increased work loads and global competition are leading to stress and anxiety for many employees, said Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti.
The new standard allows organizations to analyze their own workplaces to assess and control risks associated with organizational changes and job demands, introduce practices to support psychological well-being and review how well policies and approaches are working.
The project was funded by the federal government, Bell Canada and Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.
Companies that quickly announced they will adopt the guidelines on Wednesday included the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Bell Canada and national consulting firm Morneau Shepell.
< http://www.thestar.com/living/health/article/1315858–canada-launches-workplace-standards-for-mental-health-and-safety >