Most people are familiar with the negative impacts that stress can have on individual workers. Stress can result in health issues, cause turmoil in one’s personal life and greatly impact workplace performance. However, employees are not the only ones who may face consequences in a stressful work environment. In some cases, employers could face financial or legal responsibilities resulting from a stressed-out workforce.
A type of legal liability employers could face if employees have stress-related health issues is a workers’ compensation claim. Case law from British Columbia and across Canada shows how these cases play out. One common outcome is that the employee is unable to prove that the stress was from work specifically; therefore, the individual is unable to make the case. However, there are also examples of employees being successful in these types of cases. Stressful workplaces have included workers being obligated to go beyond the expectations of their employment contract, or unreasonable demands from employers outside working hours.
Overall, it is clear that stress in and out of the workplace is a growing concern for mental health as well as workplace safety. A recent study found that almost half of Canadians were more stressed at the start of 2022 than they were two years prior. The risk stress poses for leadership can be highly impactful for labour shortages and employee turnover. Businesses with questions or concerns about how stress could impact their legal exposure, or those who are facing legal action for stress-related reasons, are encouraged to contact someone for our legal team with experience in these claims.