Anxiety is on the rise as employees are expected to return to the office
Post by: / September 13, 2022

Anxiety is on the rise as employees are expected to return to the office

For many Canadians, this September will mark the end to remote work as more employees are expected to return to the office. However, this transition is revealing the impact of the pandemic on workplace mental health and along with it, long-term disability.

What are the long-term psychological effects of a pandemic?

According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 81 per cent of Canadian workers report that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. In particular, the Mental Health Commission of Canada found that employees experiencing return-to-work anxiety report difficulties managing anxiety due to the increased risk of infection, new social expectations and sudden changes to work routines.

Anxiety, depression or panic attacks can cause reduced work motivation and productivity. For some people, these symptoms are so debilitating that they may impede their ability to earn income.

Do long-term disability benefits cover return-to-work anxiety?

Yes, employees may qualify for long-term disability benefits in Ontario based on a diagnosed mental health condition. In fact, the Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that 30 per cent of disability claims in Canada are attributed to mental health issues.

These may include mental health conditions such as:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Mood Disorders and Bipolar Disorder

What are the eligibility requirements for long-term disability benefits?

In order to qualify for benefits, most insurance policies state that the disability must be serious, long-lasting and prevent the individual from performing the required duties of their job for an extended period of time. However, every long-term disability policy in Ontario contains different language which can exclude or limit the coverage an individual is entitled to.

For example, insurance policies will usually include a definition of disability. The language in insurance policies is often complicated and difficult to understand, but this definition is important as the degree of an individual’s disability can impact whether or not they receive benefits.

Many policies test disability based on whether the individual is able to work in their own occupation for the first two-year period. Thereafter, the test is stricter and requires the individual to be unable to work in any occupation.

How is filing a long-term disability claim for a mental health condition different from a physical condition?

Psychological disabilities are often called “invisible disabilities”, as they are not always easily measurable by an objective diagnostic tool. While this can make claims difficult to prove, our experienced long-term disability lawyers will know what documentation is needed to establish that the applicant cannot perform the essential tasks of their occupation due to their mental health condition.

Every case is different, but these documents may include:

  • Medical records and record of treatment

  • Medications and documented side effects

  • Employment records that show the places an individual tried to work and accommodations made

  • Signed statements from an employer or co-worker describing the individual’s struggle to work

What happens when a long-term disability claim is denied?

It is unfortunately common for insurance companies to deny disability claims for mental health conditions due to the subjective nature of the disability claims process. In addition, applicants have a stronger case when they can present an official diagnosis from a specialist, but this can be difficult to obtain for the 10 per cent of Canadians who wait up to four months for initial mental health counselling.

Most often, a long-term disability applicant will receive a letter from their insurance company informing them of the claim denial. From there, the individual has two options for contesting the decision:

  1. File an internal or external appeal with the insurance company.

  2. File a lawsuit against the insurance company for wrongful disability benefits denial.

The appeals process can be complex and difficult to manage for those who are not familiar with the process. As there are deadlines for filing an appeal, contacting a lawyer who specializes in disability claims is an important first step for those who have been denied benefits. Our long-term disability lawyers simplify the appeals process and can help an individual better understand the terms and language used in their denial letter, which can greatly increase the chances of claim approval.

For help with long-term disability claims, contact Singer Katz for a free consultation.

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