Legal News

Mental Disorder Provisions of Workers Compensation Act Amended

On May 2, 2012, the Minister of Labour introduced amendments to Bill 14, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011, proposing further changes to Section 5.1 of the Workers Compensation Act. Section 5.1 addresses compensation for mental disorders that do not result from an otherwise compensable injury.

The new amendments clarify that a worker is entitled to compensation for a “mental disorder”, as opposed to mental stress, if that mental disorder is either: (i) a reaction to one or more traumatic events arising out of and in the course of employment, or (ii) predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying and harassment, or a cumulative series of such stressors, arising out of and in the course of employment. The mental disorder must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Finally, as has always been the case, in order to be eligible for compensation, the workplace stressor(s) cannot be caused by a decision of the worker’s employer relating to the worker’s employment, including a decision to change the work to be performed or working conditions, to discipline the worker, or to terminate the worker’s employment.

The impact of these recent proposed changes appears to be a narrowing of the types of claims that will be accepted by WorkSafeBC relating to mental conditions than had been previously contemplated in the initial draft of Bill 14. Most notably, the mental disorder must be “predominantly caused” by a significant workplace stressor(s) In addition, diagnosis of the recognized mental disorder must made by a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist, rather than a General Practitioner.

If enacted, the changes would apply to all decisions of WorkSafeBC or the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal on or after July 1, 2012 including decisions in respect of claims made but not finally adjudicated before July 1, 2012.

Bill 14, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011 is not yet in force. The recently proposed amendments to the Bill can be found here.

If you have any questions regarding the information in this article, please contact Alan Winter, Partner.