Retail Council of Canada (RCC) has succeeded in its advocacy with the Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) regarding the WCB’s new policy dealing with psychological Injury claims.

RCC spent the past year expressing the concern of its members over the initial draft policy.  Specifically, RCC voiced its concerns surrounding the proposed addition of cumulative onset stress or a cumulative response to a traumatic event.  It was felt that these additions were too broad in scope and would subject employers to significant potential costs and administrative challenges.  RCC was concerned that the NS WCB was trying to mirror the federal government, which allows ‘gradual onset stress’ as a compensable entitlement for employees. 

Worker health and safety is paramount and retailers support sensible government initiatives to assist workers in their time of need.  RCC members feared that the NS WCB’s original draft policy would have resulted in a number of appeals and Court challenges; while subjecting the system to claims of cumulative onset stress that would have been difficult to diagnose.  Given the NS WCB’s current unfunded liability; it was obvious that the original draft policy would have been detrimental to employers and the worker’s compensation system.

Member To Do:

RCC members are encouraged to examine the policy change from the NS WCB. RCC Members should make particular note of policies 1.3.6 and 1.3.9 of the WCB policy manual.

What RCC Did/Next Steps:

RCC has had numerous meetings on this issue with WCB officials and other industry stakeholders.  These meetings were organized by the Nova Scotia Office of the Employer Advisor (OEA).  By working through the OEA, industry groups were able to reach consensus on issues of concern.  This improved the advocacy of employers on this issue.


Working together with the OEA, employers achieved the following changes to the new policy:

To receive consideration for compensation due to stress an applicant must be able to show that the stress resulted from an “acute” reaction to a traumatic event.  A claimant must meet the following four criteria to be eligible for compensation for “psychological injury”:

  • there must be a “traumatic event”; psychological conditions arising out of the usual workplace issues (e.g. change in working conditions, disciplinary decisions) are not compensable;
  • the event must arise in the course of employment;
  • the response to the event must cause the worker to suffer from a recognized mental or physical condition described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM); and
  • the condition must be diagnosed in accordance with the DSM by a health care provider (i.e. psychiatrist or clinically trained registered psychologist).

Harassment and bullying will not be included as examples of traumatic events.  However, the report stated that extreme workplace harassment could be considered compensable if it meets the definition of a “traumatic event”.

The WCB will be tasked with making an objective assessment as to whether or not an event is traumatic.  The WCB will determine if a reasonable person would have reacted to the event in the same way as the claimant.

RCC was pleased that the NS WCB listened to the concerns of employers.  As an active member of the Nova Scotia Office of the OEA, RCC will continue to work with the OEA to advocate on behalf of the employer community in Nova Scotia.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  [email protected] or 902-422-4144.