Chronic Stress and WCB - are changes coming in Nova Scotia?

For years, WCB in Nova Scotia has treated psychological injuries differently than physical injuries.

WCB NS has long recognized that physical injuries can occur over time.   Occupational diseases, repetitive strain injuries and other similar conditions that are caused by work can be covered by WCB.

But the Nova Scotia Workers Compensation Act says that psychological injuries aren’t covered unless they are caused by, “an acute reaction to a traumatic event”.  This leaves workers who suffered psychological injuries caused by chronic stress – for example, harassment, bullying, or high stress jobs – without any benefits or assistance.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits discriminating against someone because of a mental disability.  We believed that WCB’s law that treats psychological injuries differently from physical injuries is discriminatory.  Now it seems the justice system in Nova Scotia is agreeing with us.

In a September 11, 2019 decision the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) found, “the exclusion of gradual onset stress from the definition of accident infringes section 15 of the Charter”.   The worker’s claim for chronic stress was accepted.

This decision is an exciting development.  We’re waiting to find out how the WCB and the government plan to address the decision – it will require changes to the legislation and policy.  But when all is said and done, this decision will result in improved protections for thousands of vulnerable workers in this province.

If you’re interested, you can read the full WCAT decision here.