An Employer’s Duty: Preventing Emotional Harm at Work

While it is still possible for employers to ignore the trend toward a mentally safe workplace, the boundaries of what is acceptable conduct at work are becoming increasingly narrowed, according to Martin Shain, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ont. “Employers who persist in their denial of such developments are, in my view, playing Russian roulette with their liability exposure,” Shain said at a conference of the KFL&A Health Unit in Kingston. Mental health claims are the fastest growing category of disability in the workplace, soon to rival the costs of cardiovascular diseases, says Shain.

Mental health problems such as anger, stress and depression are becoming increasingly detrimental to organizational health. Health Canada estimates that upwards of $30 billion is lost in the Canadian economy annually due to mental health and addiction problems. In fact, the World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world, up from fourth place in 1996.

Given the devastating impact of emotional problems on individual and family well-being and work productivity, it is critical for employers to understand the nature of emotional problems in more detail.

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