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Mental Health in the Workplace Can't Be Ignored

posted 3 years ago

The underbelly of the vaccination roll out in Canada is the verbal abuse and threatening behaviour clinic staff have endured week in and week out since vaccinations began. The Toronto Sun reported in June this year that Toronto clinic workers have been subject to “racist and sexist” harassment.

Toronto Mayor John Tory acknowledged the troubling trend stating: “We are hearing about the abuse of the staff at those clinics by the clients. This is going beyond aggressive behavior by people wanting to get their second dose.”

In Ontario and most jurisdictions, the law requires that employers provide a safe working environment to all employees. This includes a workplace free from workplace violence and harassment.

Clearly, Toronto frontline workers may be questioning whether or not their workplaces are safe. The consequences of course are huge if safe workplaces aren’t provided to frontline workers. If clients continue to abuse frontline workers, municipalities will have no choice but to shut down vaccination clinics to protect employees.

There is no telling how this intense mistreatment impacts the mental health of our frontline workers.

More broadly, many employees throughout the course of the pandemic have reported elevated levels of stress, isolation and burnout.

In May 2021, Forbes reported: “More than half of employees around the world suffered ‘significant damage’ to their health as a result of COVID-19,” citing research from Gartner, an advisory firm that surveyed more than 200,000 people.

The law protects employees with respect to mental health. While the stigma associated with mental health continues to be a pervasive trend in the workplace, employers are required, by law, to accommodate mental health disabilities. The definition of “disability” is extremely broad and includes conditions of mental impairment (i.e. anxiety, depression) that may be temporary and not permanent.

As many employees are now working remotely, employers have much less visibility into the needs of their workers. Now more than ever, it is important that employees understand, and exercise their mental health rights and seek appropriate accommodations. I have worked with many clients who have required time away (sometimes a few weeks to several months), modified duties, alternate reporting relationships and other requests to accommodate their mental health needs.

Here are some tips for employees to consider when seeking an accommodation:

1. Back it up with medical evidence – Speaking to a healthcare provider about your mental health is often critical to supporting any medical accommodation you may be seeking in the workplace. Medical documentation significantly streamlines the process.

2. Speak to your manager and HR – Too often employees wait too long to seek a medical accommodation in the workplace. Schedule a meeting and send an email to your manager about the changes you need.

3. Discuss messaging – Employees who are seeking medical accommodations can often feel nervous about messaging to co-workers. You are not required to share the details of your mental health condition with your employer. You should however discuss how your current projects will be transferred or modified with HR or your manager to ensure everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

BY SUNIRA CHAUDHRI

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE TORONTO SUN AND IS REPRODUCED HERE WITH PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR: https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/chaudhri-mental-health-in-the-workplace-cant-be-ignored

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posted 6 days ago

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