Mental Health Accommodations in the Workplace
Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator
Historically, persons with mental illness have been considered by and large to be unemployable, or somehow undesirable as employees. However, in all but the rarest exceptions, the opposite is true. People with mental illness represent a largely untapped and vast source of labour, knowledge, and ideas. They are largely under-represented in the Canadian workforce. “Their potential productive energy has been overlooked at an enormous cost to the individual as well as at a significant social and economic cost to the community.”[i] The cost to the individual is akin to the cost that a person without mental illness would suffer if they couldn’t find work; a person who chronically struggles to find work/financial sustenance undergoes a great deal of stress and lowered self-esteem. Individuals who have mental illness are no different in this respect.
What is Mental Illness?
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) defines mental illness as when the brain does not work in the way that it is supposed to.[i] CMHA compares this to an illness where the lungs, or heart don’t work the way that they are supposed to, in order to drive home the fact the mental illness is just that: an illness. A person cannot stop being mentally ill no more than they can stop themselves from having cancer. Like an individual suffering from a physical ailment, people with mental illness can play a part in their recovery, but they do not choose to be ill. Examples of mental illnesses include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder, just to name a few. There are many more. Sometimes we work with individuals with a mental illness and do not ever realize it. Other times, coworkers with mental illness require accommodation. Additionally, sometimes employers wish to hire people with mental illness and are aware of their illness prior to hiring and want to accommodate them.
What is Stigma?
Sometimes people with mental illness choose not to disclose it in the workplace or ask for accommodation, even though accommodation may help make doing their job easier. The reason one may choose to keep a mental illness to themselves is because there is a stigma associated with mental illness and with accommodation. Stigma manifests itself in incorrect, negative stereo types and sometimes discriminatory (intentional or more likely, unintentional) behaviours.[i] The antidote to stigma is open discussion, accepting attitudes, and education about mental illness.
Without education and information, accommodations for individuals with mental illness may be perceived erroneously as favouritism, or preferential treatment. Changing this opinion is a major challenge for employers. The best way to help all workers understand accommodation and how it benefits both the employee and the overall organization is through open discussion, education, and information. If knowledge is power, the understanding mental illness and its impact on an individual will help workers accept accommodations as the employer’s way of providing equitable treatment to all workers in the workplace.
How can I Accommodate Mental Illness in my Workplace?
In her work Diversity Works: Accommodations in the Workplace for People with Mental Illness, Lana M. Frado outlines the following principles of accommodation:
- Create an environment where accommodations are accepted by addressing the individual needs of each employee
- Respect employees’ desire for confidentiality and identify the form and degree of confidentiality
- Be willing to engage in joint problem solving
- Make accommodations voluntary
- Be prepared to review accommodations and make changes as required
- Be flexible with traditional policies and their enforcement
- Put all accommodations in writing and be concrete and specific when identifying the parameters of the accommodations[i]
By keeping principles as the above in mind, employers can create a positive and accommodating environment for all workers.
Accommodations that can be made for employees are limited only by your imagination and the ideas of yourself and the worker. Examples of accommodations for mental illness include a private workspace for a person easily distracted, earlier start/end times for a person who gets anxious on crowded transit, flex time for a worker who has daytime mental health appointments, or a work from home arrangement for an employee who struggles with interpersonal interactions. Mental illness isn’t the only reason to allow accommodation. Consider the stress level of workers, and the sky is the limit with accommodation that can reduce their stress and make them happier, healthier, and therefore more productive: flexible start/end times to help parents with children in care, a work at home arrangement for those workers caring for elderly parents in the home (those workers caring for both children and elderly parents are known as the “sandwich generation”), allowing workers to bank OT to take time off, or allowing sick days to be used for physical illness and emotional illnesses.
Communication and Education are the Key
Without proper education and information, the stigma toward mental illness will persist. As soon as you educate workers and open the floor for open communication regarding mental illness, you will find that the primary accommodation desired by employees with mental illness is equitable treatment and a chance to prove themselves as a worker. Mental illness does not define a person; therefore, it does not define their ability. The move toward an accepting and open organizational climate is not one that will happen in a day; however, it is one that is already rapidly growing across Canada. As mental illness becomes more understood, so too does the need for accommodation.
[i] Frado, Lana M. Diversity Works: Accommodations in the Workplace for People with Mental Illness. Toronto. CMHA. 1993. P.2
[i] Frado, Lana M. Diversity Works: Accommodations in the Workplace for People with Mental Illness. Toronto. CMHA. 1993. P.6
[i] Frado, Lana M. Diversity Works: Accommodations in the Workplace for People with Mental Illness. Toronto. CMHA. 1993. P.9
Bill 70: New OHSA Rules Affecting Employers in Ontario
Written by Attorneys at LeClair and Associates
On December 8, 2016, the Ontario Legislature gave Royal Assent to Bill 70, the Building Ontario Up for Everyone Act (Budget Measures), 2016. Bill 70 introduced significant changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) and other legislation applicable to industry sectors across the province.
Employers should take note of the following changes to the OHSA as a result of the coming into force of Bill 70:
- The OHSA now includes the following definition for “health and safety management system”: “a coordinated system of procedures, processes and other measures that is designed to be implemented by employers in order to promote continuous improvement in occupational health and safety”;
- The OHSA now permits Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer (“CPO”) to set standards for the accreditation of health and safety management systems;
- The OHSA now empowers the CPO to “recognize” an employer’s workplace, upon the employer’s application, if the employer satisfies the CPO that it is a “certified user” of an accredited health and safety management system, and has met any applicable standards or criteria set by the CPO;
- The OHSA now authorizes the CPO to require employers or individuals seeking an accreditation to provide “whatever information, records or accounts” that the CPO “may require” in order to satisfy its accreditation requirements;
- The amendments authorize the CPO to publish, or otherwise make available to the public, information relating to accredited health and safety management systems, along with recognized/accredited employers.
The full text of Bill 70 can be found here. The relevant amendments to the OHSA are set out under Schedule 16 to the legislation.
Analysis and Effect on Employers
It is apparent that the changes to the OHSA under Bill 70 do not require an employer to implement an accredited health and safety management system. By enacting Bill 70, it appears that the legislature merely intended to incentivize employers to adopt “accredited” health and safety management systems.
At present, the CPO has yet to publish the applicable “standards” or “criteria” for providing accreditation to health and safety management systems. Until the CPO does so, the amendments to the OHSA under Bill 70 will have no practical effect.
It is also unclear at this time how the Ministry of Labour (“MOL”), or more specifically its Health and Safety Inspectors, intend to treat accredited and/or recognized health and safety management systems with respect to enforcing the OHSA. For instance, it is unclear whether or not an employer’s “accredited” status will serve as a mitigating factor (i.e. leading to reduced fines or penalties) in the event that an MOL Inspector discovers a breach of the OHSA.
Industry stakeholders have expressed concerns regarding Bill 70 and its potential effect, and the MOL has indicated that it will consult with interested parties before publishing its “accreditation” standards and guidelines.
Stay tuned for updates as and when the MOL publishes further information regarding these issues.
Ask the Expert: How to Improve Workplace Safety Communication
Written by Jeff Thorne | Manager of Training and Consulting
Over the past two decades I have had the pleasure of dealing with many safety leaders and supervisors that know their stuff; yet they find that their team sometimes doesn’t follow the direction provided. Problems are arising and the solution isn’t apparent. In many cases, poor communication is the root cause of the problem.
Many of us speak but we are not heard, some speak down to others with the expectation that the message being sent will be understood with very little explanation or follow-up. There are those that have poor communication skills and aren’t quite sure how to get the message across. Here are some tips that will assist how the safety message is delivered.
Provide explanations for standards and procedures. Adults need to see relevancy in the information provided. Ensure standards and procedures are clear and the purpose is reinforced. Educate employees as to why they exist and provide concrete examples as to how they are a benefit.
Allow time for the team or individuals to speak and actively listen. Listen to the message that is being sent or returned, and do not interrupt. Provide time to gain perspective on what you are being told, deliberate, and then decide your course of action.
Ensure the proper medium and forum is used when communicating. If the message being sent affects the whole team, ensure that message gets to everyone. Hold an open forum and allow opportunities for feedback. Do not single people out in front of their peers.
Be direct, use tact and provide positive reinforcement. Even if the conversation is a critical one, how you approach the situation and open up the conversation can determine whether the communication will be successful or not. Keep it simple and avoid long drawn out explanations and ask employees for solutions to identified issues. Reinforce safe work behaviour with positive feedback, as this supports the behaviour and increases the likelihood of that behaviour being repeated.
Address the substandard act or practice and not the individual. The model of communication involves sending and receiving messages. If the message becomes accusatory, this destroys the open lines of communication very quickly, so always be respectful.
Look for partnership opportunities during the conversation. Listen intently and find areas during the conversation where you can agree with the person or team. This helps to find common ground and assists with arriving at a solution more efficiently.
Be mindful of your body language. So much of what we communicate and how our audience perceives it, comes from our body language. The way you move, sit, and stand affects the way others perceive you. Improving body language centers on being aware of your emotions and the emotions of others.
Provide guidance and support. Identified substandard acts or practices should be followed by positive corrective action and specific direction to improve the undesired behaviour. Don’t just point out what is being done wrong.
Lead by example and set an example. Senior employees that know how to do the job safely may have picked up some bad habits or they may have identified short cuts. Address these situations quickly by providing brief corrective feedback and remind them to set an example for others.
Be an advocate for your team. When issues are brought forward, solve them when they are raised. For issues that cannot be solved immediately, ensure you keep your team informed of progress. This will improve communication and the likelihood of issues being raised in the future.
Ultimately, effective communication allows us to learn from one another. Applying these tips will allow for more open and constructive communication and can lead to the desired results you are looking for.
Effective Workplace Goal Setting
Written by Jenna Kressler | Curriculum Developer
The year 2016 has come to an end, and with January started, you may have tried to start checking off some of the resolutions on your New Year’s list. You know, the typical “I’m going to lose 15 pounds” (8 lbs which you gained just in the last two weeks) or the re-occurring goal of finally taking your last drag from that cigarette you spend way too much money on and is terrible for your health (Redundant, I know). We often set personal resolutions for ourselves, but have you thought to include professional goals on your list?
How do you get that promotion you’ve been vying for? How do you incorporate your passion for teaching within your current role? How do you expand your current skill set?
In other words, how do we actually accomplish the professional goals we set out for ourselves? Our family and friends can help us be held accountable, but can our workplace help us achieve our goals as well?
The answer: absolutely!
Setting goals in the workplace motives employees, boosts morale, and makes the company operate more efficiently. One study found that only 8% of people
achieve their New Year’s goals, with an outstanding 92% failure rate. Employees like to see how their professional goals contribute to their workplace, but the goals must be meaningful for the employee to be fully engaged and to follow through.
How can managers play an effective role in goal setting in the workplace?
Managers should be providing support to their employees by:
- Connecting employee goals with larger company goals
- Making sure goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART)
- Creating a specific and thorough plan
- Monitoring progress
- Track daily and / or weekly goals
- Adjust steps towards the goal if something isn’t working out
- Providing feedback
- Celebrating success and learning from failure
Benefits of goal setting
- Sense of purpose
- Increases motivation
- Positive emotions
- Sense of pride
- Reduces stress
- Increased self-confidence
Goals are more likely to be met when workplaces provide a supportive culture and there’s a co-accountability dynamic between manager and employee. This type of collaboration promotes a culture of teamwork, but it has to start at the top.
So, what are you going to accomplish in 2017?
BE A LEADER
Dawn McKinlay & Randy Atkinson
Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator
At OSG, all of our staff are Health and Safety Leaders. This month, we are featuring two outstanding leaders: Dawn McKinlay & Randy Atkinson. Dawn is one of OSG’s Client Relationship Managers, whose professional goal is to ensure that all of her valued clients are kept up-to-date with both ever-evolving and new legislation. Dawn has been working for OSG for 12 years in the customer relationship department, and continues to deliver top-notch customer service to all her clients. She is known around the office for her hard work and dedication to her clients, as well as her positive and bubbly attitude. Outside of OSG, Dawn loves to challenge herself and she has a true entrepreneurial spirit. Most recently, she earned her lash technician certificate. Dawn also enjoys playing golf. “You would ask a real estate agent, socially, what they think your house is worth, but don’t ask safety professionals how to stay safe at work. Ask me! I can help.” -Dawn McKinlay Randy has been an OSG trainer and consultant for three years. He is known by all of the OSG staff for his friendly and positive attitude. He holds a diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Labour studies, and he is an Ontario certified instructor. He has a passion for delivering health and safety training with clarity, and with an aim to help save lives. Randy’s concise delivery, coupled with his vast health and safety knowledge and his unique brand of humour, make him a client favourite. When he isn’t training WHMIS, Lift Truck, Supervisor Competency, or one his many other specialty titles, Randy can be found restoring old cars. He is also a very dedicated family man, citing his love for his family as his greatest motivator. “Don’t assign a job to worker that you wouldn’t assign to a loved one or to yourself.” -Randy Atkinson
Dawn is one of OSG’s Client Relationship Managers, whose professional goal is to ensure that all of her valued clients are kept up-to-date with both ever-evolving and new legislation. Dawn has been working for OSG for 12 years in the customer relationship department, and continues to deliver top-notch customer service to all her clients. She is known around the office for her hard work and dedication to her clients, as well as her positive and bubbly attitude. Outside of OSG, Dawn loves to challenge herself and she has a true entrepreneurial spirit. Most recently, she earned her lash technician certificate. Dawn also enjoys playing golf.
“You would ask a real estate agent, socially, what they think your house is worth, but don’t ask safety professionals how to stay safe at work. Ask me! I can help.”
Randy has been an OSG trainer and consultant for three years. He is known by all of the OSG staff for his friendly and positive attitude. He holds a diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Labour studies, and he is an Ontario certified instructor. He has a passion for delivering health and safety training with clarity, and with an aim to help save lives. Randy’s concise delivery, coupled with his vast health and safety knowledge and his unique brand of humour, make him a client favourite. When he isn’t training WHMIS, Lift Truck, Supervisor Competency, or one his many other specialty titles, Randy can be found restoring old cars. He is also a very dedicated family man, citing his love for his family as his greatest motivator.
“Don’t assign a job to worker that you wouldn’t assign to a loved one or to yourself.”
Next time you are in OSG’s London office, say hello to Dawn and Randy. They are OSG Safety Leaders who embody safety culture in the workplace.
Health & Safety Management Systems
Written by Sharon Thornton | Sales Manager
As discussed in the Be Compliant section, Bill 70 received royal assent and health and safety managements systems will soon be accredited by the Ministry of Labour. In order to be proactive on these developments, you may wish to review our Health & Safety Management System Development consulting services.
Health & Safety Management System Development
Having an effective health and safety program is an essential component to a healthy and safe work environment, and a successful business.
Designing and implementing a health and safety program on your own consumes time and resources. Let our consultants help to reduce your workload.
Our health and safety management system is designed to meet the needs of your business. This service includes an electronic database that allows for simpler health and safety management. It features access to all policies, with live links to corresponding forms. We have also included many working templates that are ready for you to use!Learn More
BE THE FUTURE
New Workplace Mental Health Awareness Course
Written by Sarah Kin | General Manager
In light of a strong focus on mental health within the workplace, we have launched a new online training course for Workplace Mental Health Awareness. This course will provide basic information about mental health in the workplace, with emphasis on the most common mental health issues currently present. Learn more about our online training system and sign up for the course today!Learn More
Health & Safety in the News
Researched by Jeff Thorne | Manager of Training and Consulting
Upcoming Ministry of Labour Blitzes
Researched by Jeff Thorne | Manager of Training and Consulting
Health & Safety – Western Ontario, Farm Elevating Platforms Sector
Oct. 1st, 2016 – Mar. 31st, 2017
Health & Safety – Central Ontario, Landscapers & Snow removal
Nov. 1st, 2016 – Mar. 31st, 2017
Health & Safety – Central Ontario, Construction Toilets & Wash-up Facilities
Jan. 1st, 2017 – Feb. 28th, 2017
Safe Work Practices – Mining Sector
Feb. 1st, 2017 – Mar. 31st, 2017
Upcoming Health & Safety Events
Provided by Nick Hollinger | Marketing Coordinator
The Human Recourses Professionals Association (HRPA) is holding is celebrating its 75th year at the 2017 conference and tradeshow. We are proud to announce that we will be an exhibitor at the tradeshow. If you would like to attend the event, get your complementary pass today!Complimentary Pass
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