Working mental health-related proposals into our bargaining packages

When preparing for our bargaining proposal meetings, it’s helpful to ask a number of vital questions to keep our mental health top of mind.

Training and Standards

The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace offers a systematic approach to mentally healthy workplaces.

  • Does your contract include mandatory joint training or union training for mental health?
  • Can you negotiate all or part of the National Standard into your collective agreement?
  • Can you bargain for joint training or union training on the Mental Injury Toolkit

These tools are designed to identify problems that may exist within our workplaces and provide possible avenues to address them.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be an accessible way for members to get short-term help. While some unions leave supervision of EAPs to the employer, there are advantages to being more proactive and bargaining better EAP services.

  • Who is covered by the EAP? Many programs cover family members as well as workers—including university students at school in other provinces.
  • How many appointments are members entitled to? What is the maximum per issue? Is there a yearly maximum? Can this be increased if needed? Try to bargain more visits for members to be able to exceed the maximum in some circumstances.
  • What kind of counsellors are available and what are their credentials? Psychologists? Social workers? Therapists with a Masters of Counselling? All of these providers may offer different kinds and levels of treatment and support. Unions should check what types of counsellors are available, what kinds of support they can provide, and if that support is the most helpful to members.
  • Are appointments in-person, over the phone, or online? Do members receive paid time off to attend appointments?
  • Is the EAP process completely confidential? Is it run by an experienced outside third party.
  • Does the union receive regular generic statistics about EAP usage in order to improve the service over time?

Drug Coverage

Are drugs for mental illness like depression or anxiety medications covered?

Types of Leave

Treatment and support for mental health often involves needing leave for members and their families. Taking care of our mental health involves appointments with doctors, therapists, and other professionals.

  • Does your agreement have paid or unpaid leave for health appointments?
  • Is this leave available to people who require care only? Are members caring for someone in their family able to take leave to help them get to appointments?
  • How much sick leave are members entitled to?
  • Do they need a doctor’s note? If they do, who pays for the note?

Short-term and long-term disability

Mental illness is often episodic. People can cycle through periods of being well, followed by episodes in which they may need care or time off.

  • Is short-term disability easily accessible for mental health reasons?
  • Does your contract include long-term disability coverage? If you take long-term leave, what percentage of your earnings do you maintain? Can you bargain an increase?

Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits / Compassionate Leave Top-up

Under Employment Insurance (EI), workers can take maternity or parental leave for a percentage of their salary. Many collective agreements top up this amount.

  • Does your contract provide a top-up for members on EI sickness benefits?
  • Does it top up the salaries of workers taking compassionate care leave for a family member with mental illness?

Other considerations

  • Does your duty to accommodate language clearly cover mental health concerns?
  • Do you have a clear accommodation process that laying out responsibilities of the employer, worker, and union?
  • Does your contract include explicit health privacy guarantees?
  • Does your contract include coverage for wage loss if an accommodated worker is temporarily not able to work full time?