Recap: Virtual Employer Forum – Mental Health Matters

For our April Employer Forum, the focus was workplace mental health – a particularly timely topic given the widely-acknowledged negative impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on our mood, functioning and overall psychological wellbeing.

Forum facilitators lawyer Fiona McFarlane and former clinical counsellor (and current KEL co-owner) Wendy Woloshyn began the discussion with a brief review of the triggers and symptoms of anxiety, depression and grief and signs that suggest an employee might be struggling. They then turned their attention to an employer’s responsibilities under employment standards and human rights legislation when a worker is facing mental health challenges.

For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Be authentic. Acknowledge and share your own struggles with your team. As a recent Harvard Business Review article explained, “when managers describe their challenges, whether mental-health-related or not, it makes them appear human, relatable, and brave. Research has shown that authentic leadership can cultivate trust and improve employee engagement and performance.”
  2. Understand your obligations. Once an employer becomes aware that an employee is experiencing a mental health challenge, a duty to accommodate arises under human rights laws. What this duty entails, the nature of the accommodation, and whether the appropriate solution will cause the employer undue hardship all depends on the particular circumstances of the worker, the organization and the workplace.
  3. Support is available. Whether you are seeking legal or psychological resources, help is out there. Build your wellbeing team by including an employee assistance program in your benefits package, investing in mental health training for leaders and managers, and /or partnering with an experienced employment law lawyer with expertise in workplace mental health.

Our next Employer Forum, on the topic of non-competition agreements and other restrictive covenants, will take place in late May 2021.  If you’d like to attend or be added to our newsletter mailing list, please contact Fiona McFarlane at

Have questions about workplace mental health? Contact us!

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