The Legal and Regulatory Case
“A psychologically safe workplace is no longer a nice to do, but is now a must do”
— Dr. Martin Shain
Sourced from the Mental Health Commission of Canada Mental Health in the Workplace page
For the first time in Canadian history, employers are confronted with a legal duty to maintain not only a physically safe workplace, but also a psychologically safe work environment.
Previously, only egregious management actions that caused catastrophic psychological harm created risk of legal liability. Now, common workplace practices that create foreseeable risks of mental injury can lead to legal liability under certain circumstances:
Canadian employers face a “perfect legal storm” for failing to provide or maintain a psychologically safe workplace.
- Chronic stress caused by work conditions.
- Excessive demand management.
- Unpaid overtime that can lead to mental harm.
Recent reports prepared by Dr. Martin Shain (University of Toronto) for the Workforce Advisory Committee of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) highlight these ongoing legal developments.
Shain defines a psychologically safe workplace as “one in which every practical effort is made to avoid reasonably foreseeable injury to the mental health of employees.”
The reports explain how Canadian courts and tribunals are:
- Increasingly intolerant of workplace factors that threaten psychological safety.
- Ordering management to change workplace habits that threaten employees.
- Imposing dramatically increased financial punishments for transgressions.
Mental injury at work has become a recognized category of harm in the law over the last 15 years and stories that come from actual experiences in the field of workplace mental health. By sharing the worst case scenario – being held legally liable for causing mental injury to an employee – along with the successful approaches used by others, you will learn what to avoid as well as practical strategies to prevent problems.