“Presenteeism” – Working Through Disability

“Presenteeism” – Working Through Disability

The provincial government recently enacted a series of modifications to the disability plan it offers its employees – public servants – in an attempt to counter what was seen as an issue with absenteeism. However, critics say the new disability benefit plan won’t help those with mental health issues.

David Gallson, associate national executive director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, claims that thousands of workers do go to work with the debilitating symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. The problem, he says, is that depression is hard to quantify. When a hand is injured, for example, it directly affects the ability to type or handle complex work that involves the hands. When someone is experiencing depression, the effects are harder to define and thus workers are determined to be “cognitively” fit for work.


Yet, it is estimated that so-called presenteeism actually costs businesses far more than absenteeism.  Some experts put the figure at three times higher or more – more, in fact, than the health plan benefits a company or organization may be paying for.

When someone is absent from work, presumably the work itself is still done, simply by another individual or divided between a group of individuals. When someone comes in sick with depression and still works, however, there may be many issues with the results.

  • They may fall behind in their work
  • Trouble concentrating may result in more errors
  • Inability to make effective and timely decisions
  • Fatigue, headaches and other physical symptoms
  • Difficulties in getting along with co-workers and others

Coming in Sick

Now many people may come in to work now and then when they have a cold or sniffles for practical reasons and one or two days work at reduced efficiency typically isn’t a serious issue. However, when people are routinely trying to work through depression, anxiety or other mental health issues simply because they can’t prove functional disability or – as is often the case – because they’re very concerned about the stigma attached to mental health issues, it hurts both the employer and the employee.

You shouldn’t have to second guess when it comes to your health and your work. Ideally, your workplace should be supportive and encourage a proactive approach that lets you deal with any health issues – including mental health issues – before they become serious and affect your work. Ideally,

  • Your managers should be trained to recognize symptoms of depression
  • You should be able to voice your concerns without fear of reprisal and judgement
  • You should have support when you go back to work

Sadly, that’s often not the case.

Petrillo Law has been providing competent, caring legal advice to disability insurance clients in Mississauga, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and across Ontario for over 20 years. We can help you to get the disability benefits and accommodations you are entitled to.

Contact our disability insurance specialists for a consultation today.

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