Mental Health in the Workplace 

Every week, at least 500,000 Canadians miss work every week due to mental illness. The stigma associated with mental health issues may prevent your employees from asking for accommodation or seeking help.   

If neglected, poor mental health in the workplace can lead to absenteeism, low morale and productivity, high turnover, and employee burnout – all of which negatively impact your bottom line. 

It is critical that employers create a workplace culture that focuses on employee wellness, prevents work-related chronic stress in the workplace, and provides support to address any employee mental health concerns.  

Am I required to provide stress leave to employees?  

While there is no specific leave for chronic stress or mental health, all Canadian jurisdictions offer sick leave [or personal and family responsibility leave in the case of Alberta] to staff. As chronic stress impacts physical and mental wellness, it qualifies as a sickness.  

Your employees can use their sick leave entitlements if they need time off due to mental health concerns or chronic stress. Employers can also offer more leave (paid or unpaid) than the minimum entitlements outlined in their provincial employment standards legislation.   

Do I have to accommodate an employee with a mental illness?  

Yes. Employers have a legal duty to accommodate employees with a disability to the point of undue hardship.  

According to human rights law, employers cannot discriminate against their employees based on any protected ground. Disability is a protected ground and includes mental illness. Employers must not discriminate against an employee because they have a mental health issue. Discriminatory action would include harassing or firing the employee or denying them a promotion.  

How can I create a mentally healthy workplace?  

We recommend that you:  

  • Start a conversation at work on the importance of getting help for mental health issues   
  • Train managers on how to notice and address signs of poor mental health/chronic stress   
  • Offer an Employee Assistance Program to provide counselling to those struggling   
  • Connect staff to free mental health resources provided by the government  
  • Create a mental health policy to guide employees/supervisors on the next steps  

Do you need help creating a mental health policy for your workplace?  

EmployerLine can help you create a clear and comprehensive workplace mental health policy that is in accordance with your provincial laws. To learn more about your obligations as an employer when it comes to mental health in the workplace, call our free adviceline today at 1-833-247-3650.