Sask. workers' compensation benefits expanded for psychological injury
Government and Opposition work together to make changes in one day
Paramedics, police officers and other first responders were at the Saskatchewan Legislature on Tuesday afternoon to see their lobbying pay off as the government and Opposition came together to expand workers' compensation coverage for those suffering from psychological injuries.
The NDP had introduced its own bill in the spring sitting, but the government said it would respond this fall.
The change vaults Saskatchewan ahead of other provinces by not only covering post-traumatic stress disorder, but any psychological injury.
Onus taken off workers
Paul Hills, a paramedic with MD Ambulance in Saskatoon, says the change takes the onus off workers to prove they were injured on the job.
"To try and sit there and talk to a psychologist or a doctor or a workmans' comp person and say, 'Hey, I can't pinpoint what it is. I just know it's not from me going to get groceries at Sobey's or driving in Regina traffic,'" Hills told reporters.
Labour Minister Don Morgan said the government was convinced by the personal accounts of first responders who have been lobbying for the change.
"What we heard from workers over the summer... people that were first responders, people that worked in a variety of different professions, we thought it's the least we can do for workers in our province," Morgan said.
The government says workers will need to provide a diagnosis from a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but it will be presumed that their injury was work-related unless proven otherwise.
"Your employer may come back and try to rebut the presumption, but it puts you in the position that you've met the initial threshold," Morgan told reporters.
All workers covered by change
He says the government has made the change for all workers, not just first responders, because he says it would be impossible to list all of the jobs that should quality.
Morgan says one of the workers whose stories convinced him of the need for the change, was Jennifer Chouinard, a trauma and crisis social worker.
Morgan said he would not have thought of her profession as one that may cause a psychological injury. "You think of police officers. You think of firefighters," he said.
The Opposition's health critic, Danielle Chartier, is pleased that the government is making these changes and that they will apply to all workers.
"The reality is you could be a convenience store worker experiencing an armed robbery, you could be a construction worker experiencing someone falling off ladder, you could be a mine worker watching a colleague injured or killed by equipment," Chartier said. "So that was the whole point that all workers needed to be covered."
The government says the new rules should be in effect in a week or two.