Implementing the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

Rationale / Objectives

In Canada, $51 billion economic cost per year is attributed to mental illness, $20 billion of which is due to workplace losses. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) developed the world’s first National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (Standard) to help employers across the country to safeguard the mental health of their employees. The Standard provides a framework to promote the mental health of, and prevent the psychological harm to, employees, providing guidance on resources to help organizations of all sizes and sectors. This voluntary tool benefits all employees and positively affects organizational health, including the bottom line. The MHCC initiated a three-year Case Study Research Project in February 2014 to follow 41 organizations on their implementation journey. The goals of this project are to monitor progress,identify promising practices, as well as challenges and barriers to implementation, and develop tools that will enhance adoption of the Standard across Canada. 

Project/Program Description & Major Achievements

This research project is mid-way through and progress-to-date of the 41 participating organizations is highlighted, as well as barriers to implementation, and the identification of key promising practices. Participating organizations have achieved 65% of the specified elements in the Standard at the interim project phase. Some notable examples include Toronto East General Hospital, which designated Standard implementation as a strategic priority, including increasing staff engagement. The hospital has demonstrated a 7% decrease in overal healthcare costs over the past 4 years and a decrease in days absent (10.66 in 2008 to 6.55 in 2014).

Lessons Learned

The organizations making the most progress in implementing the Standard are those that have a champion actively involved throughout the implementation process, who will participate in meetings, events and training programs, and is able to inform and influence members of the senior leadership team. Success is dependent on ensuring adequate support to those responsible for implementation. Linking initiatives to existing programs can help facilitate sustained improvements.

Further Description

A formative research methodology was used to focus on assessing the change process of participating organizations rather than on specific outcomes. This involved assessing short-term actions and associated results, making improvements and repeating the cycle to allow for ongoing refinement. An on-line self-assessment called an Organizational Review (OR) was completed by representatives from each participating organization. The OR tool included both qualitative and quantitative data and was used to provide an overall perspective on workplace characteristics that impact employee psychological health and safety. An online Implementation Questionnaire (IQ) was used to assess the steps leading to full compliance with the MHCC Standard.

Major Achievements

90% of the participating organizations noted “Protecting the psychological health of employees” as the top reason for implementing the Standard, followed by “Right thing to do,” cited by 85% of the organizations. Most are increasingly using sources of data such as absenteeism rates (74%), EAP utilization (85%), and short and long-term disability rates (72%), etc., to assess employee psychological health. 80% of participating organizations have reviewed/updated their policies to include psychological health and safety in the workplace and 67% report having a policy statement focused on psychological health and safety.

Metric Result Detail 
% of organizations who reported having reviewed/upated their policies to include psychological health and safety in the workplace


Data captured from an online organizational self-assessment at the interim of the project
% of organizations who report having a policy statement focused on organizational health and safety 67%  
% of organizations who are taking actions to create respectful workplaces, enhance psychological health & safety knowledge among workers, support work-life balance, provide stress management training & build resilience among workers 60%  
% of organizations who provide Employee Assisstance Program (EAP) services to their workers and include (or are working to enhance) services related to psychological health & safety 80%