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While the awareness of mental health in the workplace appears to be growing each year, many employees still battle with their mental well-being. Approximately one in three Canadian workers take time off due to mental health reasons. Employers in Ontario, like in many other jurisdictions, are realizing the importance of creating a supportive environment that addresses the mental well-being of their employees. 

In this blog post, we will explore employers’ obligations to support the mental health of employees in Ontario and how employers can navigate it effectively.

Duty to Accommodate

The Ontario Human Rights Code emphasizes the duty of employers to accommodate employees with mental health disabilities. This duty extends to the point of undue hardship, requiring employers to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to support employees dealing with mental health challenges. This may include:

  • flexible work hours; 
  • modified duties; 
  • changing work location;
  • adjusting the physical workplace; 
  • adjusting hours of work or schedules; or 
  • other accommodations tailored to the individual’s needs.

Normalizing Mental Health

Employers are encouraged to create a culture that promotes openness and understanding in terms of mental health. By fostering an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health concerns, employers contribute to reducing any stigma and demonstrating their commitment to employee well-being.

Policy Development

To meet legal obligations and create a positive work environment, employers should consider developing mental health policies. These policies can outline the company’s commitment to mental health, provide resources for employees, and establish procedures for addressing mental health-related concerns. Regular training for employees and managers on these policies is also crucial. Policies can include:

  • communication channels; 
  • flexible work arrangements;
  • equal treatment;
  • anti-discrimination;
  • company’s statement of commitment;
  • resources and support;
  • return to work programs;
  • regular reviews; and
  • monitoring and reporting.

Accommodation Process

When an employee discloses a mental health issue, employers must engage in an accommodation process. This involves an open and interactive conversation to determine the employee’s needs and identify reasonable accommodations. Navigating this process with sensitivity, respect, and adherence to legal guidelines is essential for employers.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee Assistance Programs are valuable tools for providing mental health support. Employers in Ontario should ensure that their EAPs are accessible and effectively communicate the available resources to employees. 

These resources may be available within the company, through the company’s benefits provider, or be facilitated by Health Canada. This proactive approach not only benefits employees but also demonstrates an employer’s commitment to a mentally healthy workplace. 

Workplace Training

Regular training sessions on mental health awareness, destigmatization, and creating a supportive workplace culture are essential. Employers can seek legal guidance to ensure that their training programs align with Ontario’s legal requirements and contribute to a psychologically safe work environment. 

Legal Framework in Ontario

Ontario’s employment laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), require employers to take reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of their workers. This extends to both physical and mental well-being. Failure to provide a safe work environment, which includes addressing mental health concerns, can lead to legal consequences for employers.

Takeaway

In Ontario, the legal landscape emphasizes the importance of mental health support in the workplace. Employers play a crucial role in fostering an environment that not only complies with legal obligations but goes above and beyond to support the mental well-being of their employees. 

By proactively addressing mental health concerns, creating policies, and providing resources, employers contribute not only to legal compliance but also to the overall health and productivity of their workforce. In doing so, they not only meet legal requirements but also cultivate a workplace culture that values and prioritizes mental health. 

If you are struggling with health-related matters and have found it has impacted your employment, or if you are an employer and believe you may benefit from support on workplace mental health matters, contact employment lawyers, Sultan Lawyers, to discuss your options. Contact us online or by telephone at (416) 214-5111.


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