Saskatchewan is the first province to pass a bill that gives compensation to workers with psychological injuries.
Kyle Sereda, president of the Emergency Medical Services Association of Saskatchewan believes the new legislation will help people who suffer from injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“It’s important because it gives paramedics, policemen, firemen, many of the emergency personnel, as well as all workers in Saskatchewan…the access to receive benefits if they experience this as a result of their work,” says Sereda.
An amendment to the Worker’s Compensation Act was introduced and received a third reading during Saskatchewan’s legislative assembly on Oct. 25. During the second reading, Don Morgan, Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, spoke of the importance of mental health in the workplace.
“Often people must turn to the WCB (Worker’s Compensation Board) when they suffer physical or psychological harm,” he said. “Our goal is to reduce the barriers they may face when seeking support for these injuries.”
Workers must be diagnosed with a psychological injury by a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The amendment also states that a psychological injury will be presumed to have happened at work, unless there is strong evidence to believe otherwise. This means the onus is not on the workers to prove their injury happened in the course of their employment.
“So this allows them a little bit more ability to say, Yes I do experience this and I'm not going to have to prove it to many, many people in order to either get benefits or get some help,” says Sereda, who is also chief of the Moose Jaw and district Emergency Medical Services.
Aaron Ziffle is an advanced care paramedic in Moose Jaw who has worked in the emergency services industry for 15 years. He was diagnosed with PTSD about two years ago, after witnessing many traumatic events in the course of his work.
“It accumulated to a point where I had my own family and started applying the things that I saw to my own life and worrying about them happening to myself, or my wife, or my own children,” says Ziffle. He had to use his holidays, banked days and sick days to take the time he needed for his mental health.
With the new legislation, people like Ziffle will be able to take time off of work without losing pay or even their jobs.
“I think that will encourage a lot of people to take that step with the guarantee that they will have coverage while they figure out whatever is the next step for them in their career or their recovery.”