If there is one common thread linking all people in Canada together, it’s that COVID-19 has affected all facets of everyone’s lives. From their everyday routines and families, to finances and employment. But the recent reopening of the economy has allowed some people to return to their jobs. However, for people experiencing increased anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic, returning to their job is often overwhelming. And for those who turn to their insurance benefits for assistance, many are being denied.
The labour market disruption caused by COVID-19 is having considerable effects on short-term disability and long-term disability claims in Ontario.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at his June 5th briefing, said he has offered provinces and territories up to $14 billion in new federal transfers if they work with Ottawa on a “safe-restart agreement” that will help Canadians return to more normal living without a massive surge in new COVID-19 cases. Included in the offer was money to cover 10 days of paid sick leave for workers. Premier Ford has commented he does not support the increase in sick days.
Three unpaid sick days are currently minimum employment standards in Ontario, though workers may be entitled to more days based on their employment contract. An employment contract may stipulate how many sick days they are entitled per year, as well as if they are paid or unpaid.
As a result of this pandemic, our offices continue to receive calls from people who have had their benefits denied as a result of workplace stress. This is an issue as experiencing stress in the workplace can be severely overwhelming and not only affect their ability to perform work duties but also may have various psychological effects, such as a lack of confidence, difficulties making decisions and concentrating.
Workers who are suffering increased anxiety and depression or even an increase in Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms as a result of the coronavirus pandemic may be eligible to claim short- and long-term disability benefits even if they themselves have not contracted coronavirus disease.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), defines stress as the body’s reaction to a real or perceived threat, which is known as the instinctual fight or flight response. The everyday threats faced today often do not require a fight or flight response, rather they are problems people have to work through. In the workplace, stress is usually experienced when there is a conflict between job demands and the amount of control an employee has over meeting those demands.
If your ability to work has been impacted by anxiety or depression, here are important tips to be aware of when applying for disability benefits:
Your claim must provide medical evidence from your family doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist and/or another appropriate health care professional, explaining that your symptoms prevent you from performing the required tasks of your current job.
The insurance company will scrutinize your claim for any indication that your description of your symptoms conflicts with your medical records.
Medical evidence of your reported symptoms, diagnosis and treatment is the most important facet of your claim.
Keep any personal documents that specifically document the nature of your struggle with depression or anxiety. These can include emails or texts.
Be aware that insurers will be perusing your social media accounts to find photos or posts that contradict your claim that depression or anxiety symptoms negatively impact your ability to function.
According to Statistics Canada, Ontario lost 689,200 jobs in April; the province’s unemployment rate climbed to 11.3 per cent, the highest since 1993. An estimated 2.2 million people in the province have been affected by the shutdown; 1.1 million have lost their jobs, and another 1.1 million have had their hours significantly reduced.
It’s important not only that employers offer a safe working environment for their employees, but that people unable to work due to stress receive the assistance they need to get better and get back to work.
An increase in disability claims from front-line workers is expected, due to greater workloads and an increase in workplace stressors, which they are subjected to every day. Front-line workers can be defined as physicians, nurses, paramedics, personal support workers, long term care home staff, as well as other health care professionals who are exposed to COVID-19 in their line of work.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), front-line workers are the most susceptible to experiencing negative mental health, due to the level of exposure they have with the virus on a daily basis. The elevated risk of contracting the virus on the job can create feelings of anxiety, since there is an overlapping fear of passing the virus to family members and vulnerable people. Once the pandemic is over, many frontline workers may experience burnout from taking on greater workloads for extended periods of time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the nature of work, as the entire country has rapidly transitioned to working from home. Working for home creates a new set of challenges for employees, as makeshift workspaces or home offices may not be conducive to working long hours. Using workspaces that are not ergonomically designed can be uncomfortable and strenuous on the body, especially the back, neck and shoulder. An increase in claims relating to certain musculoskeletal injuries are expected post pandemic, which is the result of improper work environments.
Stressors related to quarantining can perpetuate mental health disabilities, as depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can arise when experiencing disrupted routines and isolation, coupled with financial losses and fear of contracting the virus. If you are experiencing negative physical or mental health be sure to track your symptoms, as you will need this information if you are planning to file a short-term disability claim. If you are unable to see your doctor in person due to COVID-19, telemedicine is an effective method of getting help.
Short term and long term disability benefits will cover any mental health condition, as long as your doctor is willing to state that your symptoms are severe enough to stop you from doing your job. That means that depression, anxiety, that arise or worsen during the COVID pandemic are covered whether or not you have any of the physical symptoms associated with the virus.
It is important to have an opinion from a physician that the symptoms prevent the person from working. It’s not just the diagnosis itself that is relevant.
KOTAK LAW DISABILITY LAWYERS CAN HELP YOU
We understand that being denied short term disability or long term disability benefits can be frustrating and devastating. Your time to fight your disability insurance company is limited. Please do not delay in calling a long term disability claim lawyer at Kotak Personal Injury Law. We have successfully sued numerous disability insurance companies including Manulife, Sunlife, Desjardins, Great West Life, Blue Cross, Equitable Life, London Life, Empire Life, AIG, SSQ, RBC, Industrial Alliance and more.
Call your trusted long term disability lawyers at 1-888-GOKOTAK (Toll Free for all of Canada), or (416) 816-1500 (Local Number for Ontario Residents), (403) 319-0071, (587) 414-1010 (Local Numbers for Alberta Residents). Our consultation is free and we don’t get paid until you do. We will meet you by telephone, email or videoconference. We represent disabled people throughout Ontario and Alberta, including Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, Georgetown, Orangeville, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, St.Catharines, Niagara Falls, Stoney Creek, Kitchener/Waterloo, Cambridge, London, Windsor, Markham, Pickering, Oshawa, Peterborough, Keswick, Kingston, Ottawa, Banff, Brooks, Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Jasper, Lake Louise, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Saint Albert and other locations.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to supply general information to the public. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, as laws change quickly, the reader should always ensure the accuracy and applicability of such information with respect to their particular case. The information contained in this article cannot replace a thorough and complete review of the reader’s situation by competent legal counsel who has had an opportunity to review all of the facts.