Stress, workers’ compensation and the law

As legislators seek to limit claims, could more cases end up in court?
By Gavin Marshall
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

Statistics and anecdotal evidence support the view that stress in the workplace is a burgeoning phenomenon. Stress claims by their nature defy precise legal categorization and create headaches for human resources practitioners and lawyers alike.

As a medical condition, stress is often difficult to satisfactorily demonstrate. Moreover, issues of compensation typically turn on cause and the causes of stress are notoriously difficult to pinpoint. For employers, the problem from a legal standpoint has been compounded rather than eased by increased sensitivity on the part of the medical profession to the mental and psychological aspects of human health.

Recent developments affecting the legal landscape for workplace stress have come in two areas: the common law, and changes in workers compensation law, particularly in British Columbia where a wholesale review of workers’ compensation legislation has clarified the board’s policy concerning stress claims.