On December 4th, Premier Dwight Ball, Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh and WorkplaceNL CEO Dennis Hogan announced a bill to amend the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act to include presumptive post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coverage for all workers, effective July 1, 2019.
The legislation will presume that PTSD was the result of a workplace event(s) if the following are demonstrated in a worker’s compensation claim:
- exposure to a traumatic event, or the cumulative impact of traumatic events, at work
- medical diagnosis of PTSD by a psychiatrist or registered psychologist
Presumptive claims will be subjected to a “simplified claim process” and an expedited adjudication process, not subjected to the same level of investigation and weighing of evidence as a typical claim. The presumption will be rebuttable. It will not be retroactive, and will apply only to injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2019. Claims that do not meet the threshold for presumption may still be adjudicated in the current manner under mental stress policy, EN-18. This policy was expanded earlier this year.
Rate reduction announced, to potentially be cancelled out by cost of presumption in future years
Government also announced a 21-cent reduction in the workers’ compensation employer assessment rate for January 1, 2019. What was not announced in the press conference was that the changes made under presumption will increase employer assessments by an estimated 9 to 18 cents annually in future years. The cost of presumptive PTSD coverage is estimated to be between $7.6 and $15.1 million annually to the workers’ compensation system. Government, as a self insured employer, will also be impacted. The cost for government for this coverage is estimated to be a maximum of $2.5 million.
Minister to consider expanding presumption to cover all psychological injuries/illnesses
The Minister also made a commitment during the press conference that (if still in power), by 2020 government will review the extension of presumptive coverage for all mental illnesses and injuries. This would include anxiety, adjustment disorder, depression etc. Such a move would add a significant number of new mental stress claims to WorkplaceNL, potentially including non-work related illnesses. This would add dramatically to the costs of the WorkplaceNL system, and duration of claims, and in turn increase employer assessments.
Employers’ Council expresses public concern with this legislation
The Employers’ Council has publicly opposed presumptive legislation, as it is a deviation from the principles of worker’s compensation as a no-fault workplace insurance system that compensates for work related injuries. The Employers’ Council was the only employer organization in attendance at yesterday’s announcement. Executive Director Richard Alexander repeated our concerns with this legislation to the media. The Employers’ Council supports access to worker’s compensation for all worker’s suffering from PTSD or other mental illnesses due to workplace incidents. That coverage existed prior to yesterday’s announcement, and we supported changes in March that expanded this coverage. Yesterday’s announcement, however, assumes that all cases of PTSD are work related, without the same level of investigation provided to other injury claims. This creates an issue of fairness to other workers, and jeopardizes the integrity of the worker’s compensation system.