As of January 2013, Canada is now the first country in the world to adopt a national standard for mental health in the workplace. Several health and safety and human rights legislation across Canada already address providing safe and healthy workplaces, the prevention of harassment that includes bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination based on disability which includes mental illnesses. However, this new standard now gives employers and employees support to make their workplaces psychologically safe and healthy. Although there are many factors that can impact mental health, the Standard addresses aspects that are within the control of the employer and can have an affect in the workplace and on the workforce.
A good point was made by Karla Thorpe, Associate Director of Compensation and Industrial Relations at a Conference Board of Canada event… she said:
Mental health is a significant business issue that requires the attention of organizations. People who experience mental health issues face incredible challenges in the workplace. Many are misunderstood, shunned and underutilized. In a world where shortages of critical skills are top of mind for many organizations, employers cannot afford to allow this situation to continue.”
There are four main areas of consideration that an employer should look at in order to see the business value of psychological health and safety in the workplace:
- Risk mitigation – including compliance with existing legislation and regulation
- Cost effectiveness
- recruitment and retention
- Organizational excellence and sustainability
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, mental illness is the fastest-growing reason for Short-Term Disability (STD) and Long-Term Disabilit (LTD) claims, accounting for about 30 percent in Canada and costing business $6 billion in lost productivity and absenteeism in 2011. Although the standard is currently voluntary for most business, knowing these statistics and knowing that mental health can affect everyone – directly or indirectly – it seems beneficial to adopt the Standard and promoting a safe and healthy workplaces. Workplaces that chose to have a proactive approach to psychological health and safety will be better able to:
- Recruit and retain talent
- Improve on employee engagement
- Enhance productivity
- Reduce workplace grievances, turnover, disability, injury rates and absenteeism
The implementation of this Standard is not a “yes or no” response. It will be a continual process of improvement for employers and employees. Employers should address the needs and gaps in psychological safety in their workplace, and then integrate the Standard into the existing organizational policies and processes. The Standard will help employers continuously improve their approach to promoting mental health and prevention for all employees – whether they have a mental illness or not.
Creating and maintaining a “culture of safety” at your business is critical for protecting the well-being of your employees and for creating a productive, effective working environment and that includes mental health.
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