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Integrating the psychological health and safety standard into existing organizational policies and processes

On January 16, 2013, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) published a new national standard dealing with psychological health and safety in the workplace. Although not a mandatory standard at this time, it is foreseeable that legislators, health and safety officers and inspectors, adjudicators and tribunals will be influenced by the standard when dealing with psychological and mental health issues in the workplace. In addition, such standards may be absorbed into the employer’s general duty to protect workers from harm in the workplace, which exists in all jurisdictions in Canada.

Employers should take the time to review the standard in its entirety which is available for download on the CSA website at: CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013.

The authors of the standard establish a psychological health and safety system consisting of three key “strategic pillars”: prevention, promotion and resolution. They conclude that

The psychological health and safety system should be consistent with the integration into the existing, and future, organizational policies and processes, including occupational health and safety, across the organizational structure.” (Introduction CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013, page 2).

Employers should also scrutinize their workplace operations, policies, procedures and processes under the auspices of the psychological health and safety system recommended in the standard. Without limiting such review, the following workplace policies may be of particular relevance to the prevention of psychological health and safety issues, the promotion of mental health and the resolution of issues in the workplace which affect psychological health and safety:

  1. Employment policies – the employer’s overarching commitment to a workplace which is psychologically healthy and safe should be stated in Employment Principles. Even more important, however, is what approach the employer will take to fulfill such commitment. Consider also, how the following employment policies can effect psychological health and safety in the workplace:
    • Orientation and Training
    • Hours of Work/Overtime
    • Flexible Work Arrangements
  2. Pay and Performance policies –how an employer manages and communicates its pay, performance and absenteeism policies is key to how you effectively deal with psychological health and safety in the workplace to ensure a healthy workplace, employee productivity, employee success and satisfaction, and workplace wellness. The following employer policies are particularly important:
    • Job Performance Review
    • Absenteeism
  3. Benefits policies – the provision and fair management of benefits to employees can make a significant difference to employees` abilities to manage work and personal life stresses. Employers should pay particular attention to the following policies:
    • Vacation
    • Short-Term Disability
    • Medical/Dental Benefits
    • Personal Leave of Absence
    • Employee Assistance Program
  4. Employee Relations policies –an employer`s Employee Relations policies are crucial in providing leadership in how employees relate to each other, how management and employees relate to each other, and in setting the culture of the workplace. Consider the following policies in the context of psychological health and safety:
    • Employee Relations Principles
    • Harassment in the Workplace
    • Whistleblower
    • Dispute Resolution
    • Accommodation of Disabilities/Religious Accommodation
    • Conduct and Behaviour
  5. Health and safety policies –As it would be difficult for an employee to feel psychologically safe in a workplace in which they did not feel physically safe, the health and safety policies of a workplace are key to psychological health and safety. Employers should also ensure that their Joint Health and Safety Committees or Health and Safety Representatives are key partners in the commitment to psychological health and safety in the workplace. Consider the following policies in the context of psychological health and safety:
    • Health and Safety principles
    • Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC)
    • Personal Protective Equipment
    • Alcohol
    • Workplace violence
  6. Standard for employment under the AODA – The accessibility standard for employment under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation is one of the five standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The employment standard sets out specific requirements for recruitment, selection, hiring, retention, performance management, disability management, career development and redeployment. The employment standard augments the pre-existing obligation under the Ontario Human Rights Code to accommodate employees with disabilities. It creates specific obligations for employers with respect to establishing an accessible work environment. It provides accessibility requirements for employees and potential employees in all phases of the employment cycle, and may obligate employers to make significant changes in their human resources practices and processes. This standard requires an organization that is an employer to engage in the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers hindering the full participation in employment of persons with disabilities; this includes employees and applicants with psychological and mental illnesses. Considering the national standard of psychological health and safety in the workplace will go a long way to help employers remove barriers to accessibility in their workplace and do a better job at accommodating persons with disabilities.

If you want to know more about the legal rules, interpretations and principles surrounding the above topics, please consult the following First Reference publication, The Human Resources Advisor, Ontario, Western or Atlantic Editions. To know how to draft the above policies (i.e., Employment Policies, Benefits Policies, Pay and Performance Policies, Employee Relations Policies and Health and Safety Policies and cover all your bases (including how to incorporate the Accessible employment standards rules within the required policies), consult the Human Resources PolicyPro, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba & Saskatchewan, Ontario, Atlantic Editions.

Don’t forget, First Reference provides a policy-building resource and tool to help organizations prepare their policies, procedures and practices to meet the requirements under the Accessible employment standards, and much more. Accessibility Standards PolicyPro provides you with commentaries on your legal obligations and best practice guidelines to help you understand your compliance requirements.

Michele Glassford
Editor of Human Resources PolicyPro
published by First Reference Inc.

Michele Glassford

President and Managing Editor at DRH and Lawyer at MacKinnon Law Associates
Michele Glassford, is a lawyer, researcher and policy analyst with a background in employment and labour law.In addition to a part-time law practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michele has worked in the field of labour adjustment for the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Program and has been a Researcher for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Michele also holds the position of President and Managing Editor at D.R. Hancocks & Associates Inc., author of the Human Resources PolicyPros. Read more
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