Proposed Ontario legislation presumes PTSD in first responders is work-related

Post-traumatic stress disorder, first responders, and presumed entitlement to worker’s compensation benefits: What does it mean for Ontario employers?
By Carissa Tanzola
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/06/2016

On Feb. 18, 2016, the Ontario government proposed Bill 163: An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA) and the Ministry of Labour Act (MOLA) — also known as Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), 2016. As of Feb. 23, 2016, Bill 163 made it to second reading.

If passed, Bill 163 will allow first responders faster access to Ontario WSIA benefits by removing the need to prove a causal link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a workplace event, and instead creating a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in a first responder was sustained “out of and in the course of employment.” This assumption is intended to address the fact that first responders are at least twice as likely as members of the general public to suffer PTSD given the risk of routine exposure to traumatic stressors. The proposed legislation would apply to more than 73,000 first responders in Ontario including employees of healthcare providers, municipalities and correctional services.

As the likely result of Bill 163 will be an increase in successful PTSD claims, the cost of  worker’s compensation coverage, primarily for Schedule 2 employers, is expected to rise. Affected employers should therefore look for ways now to proactively manage these anticipated costs and, at the very least, budget for them.