BC Federation of Labour welcomes expansion of mental health presumption coverage

But group wants the presumption extended to all workers

BC Federation of Labour welcomes expansion of mental health presumption coverage

The British Columbia Federation of Labour (BCFED) welcomed the recent announcement from the provincial government that provides more workers with easier access to workers’ compensation for psychological injuries caused by work-related trauma.

Recently, the provincial government added 11 occupations to the mental health presumption under the Workers Compensation Act. These include:

  • community-integration specialists
  • coroners
  • harm-reduction workers
  • parole officers
  • probation officers
  • respiratory therapists
  • shelter workers
  • social workers
  • transition house workers
  • victim service workers
  • withdrawal-management workers

The change took effect June 10.

‘Clear the path for all workers who suffer a workplace psychological injury’

“It’s good to see these new occupations join those with fast-tracked claims and timely access to treatment and Workers’ Compensation Board benefits when they suffer a workplace psychological injury,” said Sussanne Skidmore, BCFED president.

“But as BC’s unions have pointed out, every worker could potentially be exposed to a traumatic event or events and sustain a psychological injury. And there’s no good reason to make them jump through extra hoops to get the support they deserve.”

Under presumption, workers who sustain psychological injuries as a result of work-related trauma don’t have the added burden of proving those injuries were caused by their work; the WCB presumes they were unless the employer proves otherwise. Without presumption, the burden of proof is on the worker.

The act and regulations outline specific cancers, heart injury and diseases that impact firefighter groups with respect to presumptions. Amendments to the act in May 2018 added mental-health disorders to the list of presumptions for federal and municipal firefighters, as well as police, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers.

The B.C. Ministry of Labour developed two criteria for extending the mental-health presumption to other eligible occupations:

  • workers in the proposed occupation must be exposed to traumatic events because of the nature of their work in that occupation; and
  • the occupation can be clearly defined to designate the workers who are exposed to traumatic events due to the nature of their work.

BCFED wants the provincial government to extend the mental health presumption to all workers.

“Presumptive coverage is a good thing – it helps workers get the treatment they need quickly, and the support they need to return to work,” said Hermender Singh Kailley, BCFED secretary-treasurer.

“Now let’s take the next step. We urge the government to clear the path for all workers who suffer a workplace psychological injury. Provinces like PEI and Saskatchewan have done this; it’s time BC extended presumptive coverage to all workers.”