On Thursday last week, the B.C. government announced that it will amend the B.C. Workers Compensation Act to extend coverage for mental stress claims. Employees who suffer from a mental stress condition arising out of the workplace will now be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Currently only those who suffer from an “acute reaction to a sudden and traumatic event” are eligible. The change will now benefit those who suffer mental stress as a result of on-going or cumulative events in the workplace.
This change will bring B.C. in line with the law in other provinces, including Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and the three northern territories.
Several studies have found that stress is the primary reason for absenteeism from the workplace. Many employees claim that that stress is caused by their work environment: unmanageable workloads, overly-demanding superiors, or tense relations between co-workers. Undoubtedly this amendment will significantly increase the number of workers’ compensation claims that are made . In fact, the Labour Minister has estimated that WorkSafe BC’s yearly costs will increase between $10 million and $18 million.
The B.C. government has yet to announce when the proposed new legislation will be tabled, or what the amendment will look like. Stay tuned …