Canadian HR: Voluntary Standards – Psychological Health In the Workplace

Today’s employers find that they have several employees who either are affected, directly or indirectly, by psychological malady, or are in potential danger of psychological hazards while on the job. Typically, these hazards can produce human capital challenges, as well as extended employee absences, bringing with that sophisticated and complex accommodation situations.

To assist employers in developing and promoting best practices for their employees’ mental welfare, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, in partnership with the Standards Council of Canada, the CSA Group, and the Bureau du normalization du Quebec, have launched a nation-wide voluntary employer standard called Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation (the “Voluntary Standard” or “the standard“) in January this year.

What is the Voluntary Standard?

The Voluntary Standard sets out guidelines and recommendations that employers are able to modify to fit their organization in their efforts to encourage and promote a healthy psychological work environment. Additionally, it provides implementation recommendations specifically for small, as well as large employers, should they wish to adopt the standard’s requirements.

Small to large employers, health care teams, municipalities, provincial and federal ministries, and media organizations have all provided input for the Voluntary Standard with the united goal of ensuring its ability and adaptability across the country.

Employers Adopting the Voluntary Standard – Psychological Health Promotion

As part of adopting the Voluntary Standard, employers are required to commit to procedures for preventing and protecting against both physical and psychological harm. These procedures embody being sensitive to employees’ work-related, and non-work-related mental health difficulties.

In the promotion of psychological well-being, employers are advised by the standard to:

  • provide employees with mental health resources written or created by the employer, and other resources drawn from the general public; and
  • enhance awareness concerning mental health within the workplace by:
  • training employees to spot and mitigate psychological hazards within the workplace;
  • educating employees on the issues of mental health stigma and safety; and
  • providing employees the chance to raise concepts and suggestions for improvement within the employer’s psychological safety efforts.

Shall Employers Adopt the Voluntary Standard?

At this time, employers are not required to adopt the Voluntary Standard. In fact, before adopting the Voluntary Standard, employers may want to review the standard to determine if portions of it will assist with its goals – whether or not to maintain organizational sustainability, or improve the attraction and retention of top talent.

At a minimum, employers will likely want to take the opportunity to review the Standard, to achieve a better understanding of current views on mental health and the problems associated with workplace psychological safety and risk – notably, if decision-makers start using the Standard as a resource.

Research Sources: Mondaq, Fasken Martineau

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