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Workers Compensation Act – presumptions

Currently, the Workers Compensation Act provides any worker with workers’ compensation for a mental disorder caused by their work, including PTSD.

There are two recognized situations of work-related mental disorders:

1) a reaction to one or more traumatic events at work; or

2) one primarily caused by significant work-related stressors, such as bullying or harassment.

In order for the claim to be accepted, medical and/or scientific evidence must be provided to establish that the condition arose out of their employment, in addition to a diagnosis by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

A presumption under the act provides that, if a worker has been employed in certain occupations and develops a disease or disorder that is recognized as being associated with that occupation, then the condition is presumed to have been due to the nature of their work, unless the contrary is proved. With a presumptive condition, there is no longer a need to prove that a claimant’s disease or disorder is work related.

The proposed legislative amendments will establish a new mental disorder presumption when the condition is a reaction to traumatic events at work. It will apply specifically to first responders: firefighters, police, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers.

Currently, seven other Canadian jurisdictions – Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Yukon – have legislation around PTSD/mental disorder presumptions for workers’ compensation.

The amendments will expand existing cancer presumptions to federal firefighters employed on military bases. Federal firefighters currently qualify for the heart disease and injury presumptions, but the cancer presumptions have been limited to local government firefighters.

Municipal fire departments combat structural fires that potentially expose them to more carcinogens than other firefighters, such as those dealing with forest fires. This change recognizes that firefighters from military bases may also be exposed to dangerous substances during structural fires, and frequently assist municipalities at off-base incidents.