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Mental Health and Human Rights

May 6, 2020

The COVID-19 global outbreak has led to an increase in mental health issues, both by exacerbating existing mental health conditions and by causing new ones. The loss of loved ones, job losses, reduced or lost income, self-isolation, and social/physical distancing are having adverse effects on peoples’ mental health.

The ripple effect of COVID-19 is being seen in social interactions in workplaces, on the streets, at shopping centers, places of worship, and in homes. Employers, landlords, business owners, educational institutions, and citizens generally should expect to deal with people with mental health challenges on a continuing basis.

In The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, mental health falls under the protected ground of disability. The Code expressly prohibits discrimination against a person because of a disability. In the workplace, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to persons with mental health issues, to the point of undue hardship.

What constitutes undue hardship depends on the facts of each case. Though an employer is not required to keep an employee with a mental health disability at work at all costs, an employer is required to make as much reasonable adjustments as possible, including reduced workloads, suitable shifts, etc.

The fight against COVID-19 is a fight by one and all. As members of one human family, we must work together to address the stigmatization of, and the discrimination against, people with mental health issues. The Code advances the equality and dignity of all human people. So too must all citizens. We each have that responsibility.

David M. Arnot, Chief Commissioner
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission