A recent change to Saskatchewan’s Workers’ Compensation Act has been introduced that will expand workers’ compensation coverage to workers suffering psychological injuries.
The amendment establishes a rebuttal presumption for all forms of psychological injuries, meaning it is presumed that a worker has a work-related injury and would not have to prove it occurred in the workplace.
“We are committed to protecting our workers, especially those who protect us,” Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said.
“Many of the people suffering from psychological injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder are our first responders who are exposed to traumatic situations because of their jobs.”
To qualify for coverage, a worker will need to provide a diagnosis from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Previously, workers were required to provide additional proof that their psychological injury was work-related when filing their Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) claim to be eligible for compensation.
“We know the stigma attached to psychological injuries and illnesses often prevents people from getting help,” Morgan said. “By reducing barriers, our hope is that more people feel confident seeking support, including applying for benefits from the WCB.”
The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) welcomed the legislative change.
“We know that many front-line workers suffer from psychological illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of the stressful, dangerous and sometimes violent nature of the work they do,” said Bob Bymoen, SGEU president. “Emergency medical workers, corrections workers, social workers, crisis workers and many others who confront dangerous and disturbing events in the course of their work lives need and deserve a wide range of supports.”
The union pointed to a 2003 study that identified significant levels of PTSD in provincial corrections staff. More than 25 per cent of corrections employees reported symptom levels suggesting a probable clinical diagnosis of PTSD. This is a rate much higher than in the general population and comparable to rates identified in other high-risk groups, such as combat veterans, prisoners of war, disaster survivors and emergency first responders, SGEU said.
“It is likely that exposure to traumatic events, and the damaging consequences to corrections workers, has increased over the past decade because facilities have become more violent, dangerous places as a result of issues like overcrowding and gang-related violence,” Bymoen said.
While other provinces have established a rebuttal presumption for post-traumatic stress disorder, Saskatchewan is the first province to enact legislation that covers other forms of psychological injury workers could suffer as a result of being exposed to traumatic events or situations at work.
This article originally appeared in the December/January 2017 issue of COS.