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Mental Health in the Workplace: An Employer’s Duty to Inquire

By Ayla Salyn (posts)

Most employers know that when an employee approaches them with a mental health issue, the employer may have obligations to accommodate that employee.

However, what is an employer’s obligation when they suspect a team member is struggling with a mental health issue, but that team member has not yet let the employer know?  In short, the employer may have a duty to be proactive and make inquiries.

This ‘duty to inquire’ exists when an employer knows, or should know, that an employee’s mental health is the cause of a workplace issue.   For example, if an employee’s behaviour is significantly different from what you know or are used to, they are absent or late to work more often, or their productivity is down, then an employer has a duty to ask if they are okay, and if they need accommodation.  These inquiries need to be made before an employer takes any disciplinary action against an employee, or the employer risks being found to have discriminated against the employee.

The weight of the COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on everyone.  For many people, the pandemic has changed the way they live and work, or both.  It has taken a toll on the mental health of many employees, and as a result, an employer’s duty to inquire has never been more important.

We are here to assist employers in fulfilling their duty to inquire if they suspect that an employee is suffering from a mental health disability that is affecting their performance.

If you have questions, contact Ayla Salyn or a member of our Workplace Law team.

We’re here to help.

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