Disability InsurersEmployers

Rise in Mental Illness Disability Claims

Workplace Mental Health

In recent years, employees’ mental health has become a growing consideration for employers. Poor mental health in the workplace can be costly for an employer, from poor employee performance to absences due to mental health leaves.

A report by the CAMH from 2020 discusses the costs of mental health on the economy and in the workplace. Poor mental health is considered a “top cost” for employers and an economic burden of approximately $6.3 billion resulting from lost productivity.

By 2041, CAMH estimates that costs from poor mental health will accumulate to a cost exceeding $2.5 trillion. Even more staggering are the roughly ⅓ of short- and long-term disability claims resulting from mental illness.

Statistics Canada reported that the proportion of employees with a mental health-related disability grew from 6.4% in 2019, to 8.7% in 2021. This rising number notably began during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has subsequently caused increased absenteeism and more mental health disability claims. Statistics from 2021 indicated that mental illness-related disability claims increased by 5%, unlike previous years where the increase was typically around 0.5% to 1% year over year.

While employers have a duty to accommodate their employees’ medical or mental health leaves, it is also important to understand your rights as an employer. In some circumstances, such as an especially long leave of absence, employers are entitled to seek additional information regarding the necessity of the leave.

As employees have a right to accommodation, employers must ensure such accommodations are supportable. One way to determine that is to request an IME or an Independent Medical Examination.

Benefits of obtaining an IME:


1. Having an objective opinion

As an employer, it can be difficult to determine if an employee’s medical reasoning or length of leave is justified. Requesting an IME allows employers to receive an objective medical opinion and helps them make an informed decision. Obtaining documentation from a general practitioner can be particularly valuable information for the specialist performing the IME. Obtaining an IME allows employers to remain impartial and act in the employee’s best interest while remaining informed.

2. Eliminating unnecessary costs

An employee’s absence can be costly for an employer. Employers may have to hire a temporary worker to fill the role or rely on other employees to cover for the absentee. Obtaining an IME could help reduce this costly process. Insurance companies may be responsible for arranging and paying for IMEs, at no extra cost. Asking an insurer to obtain an IME utilizes the resources already available to employers and ensures an employee is absent for an appropriate amount of time, preventing costs associated with an unnecessarily long absence.

3. Increasing employee productivity

Having employees return to the office after the pandemic has been a challenge for many employers. For those struggling with mental health, returning to the office is likely even more difficult and promotes a desire to remain at home. Obtaining an IME can assist employers by promoting a safe return to work. A recent survey found that being in the office can actually increase an employee’s productivity, despite many wishing to stay at home.

4. Enhancing employee wellness

Getting employees back to work supports financial stability for their families and reinforces their self-esteem. Furthermore, an IME can short circuit the long wait times for referral to a specialist and resolve diagnostic concerns much faster, at no cost to the employee. With a medical assessment from a specialist, employees may have greater peace of mind that they can safely return to their regular occupation.

IMEs by Western Medical Assessments offer clarity and assurance for employers – we call that process Evidence-Based Empathy™.

Contact us today to for a free discussion of your needs and how we can help you.