Employers’ Perspectives on the Canadian National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace


Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Canada, with costs estimated at 51 billion dollars annually in addition to significant social costs. The Canadian National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard), recently released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, aims to promote psychological health and safety in Canadian workplaces. The purpose of this study was to explore the perspectives of Canadian employers on the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Ten employers from large, medium, and small workplaces participated in qualitative semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed and thematic analysis was used to identify themes. Employers are concerned with workplace mental health and see value in the Standard, but are relatively uninformed about it. Employers identified leadership as a critical ingredient for effective Standard implementation, and believed that benefits of the Standard can be far reaching. Roger’s (2003) Diffusion of Innovations model is applied to conceptualize the uptake of this important social change. Employers’ perspectives and foundational knowledge about the Standard provides a starting point for collaborations between human resource professionals, workplace consultants, and workplace leaders to move the implementation of the Standard forward and create psychologically healthy work environments.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101. doi:10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Canadian Medical Association (2008). 8th annual national report card on health care. Ipsos Reid Public Affairs.

  4. Commonwealth of Australia (2014). Safe Work Australia. http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/pages/about.

  5. CSA Group & Mental Health Commission of Canada (2014). Assembling the pieces: an implementation guide to the national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace. Retrieved from: http://www.csagroup.org/documents/codes-and-standards/publications/SPE-Z1003-Guidebook.pdf.

  6. Dobson, S. (2013). National psychological Standard ‘evolution’ of health and safety. Canadian HR Reporter, 26(3), 19. http://www.hrreporterdigital.com/hrreporter /20130211?pg=22#pg22.

  7. EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. (2011). Mental health promotion in the workplace – a good practice report. Retrieved from: https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/reports/mental-health-promotion-workplace_TEWE11004ENN.

  8. Gillen, M., Goldenhar, L.M., Hecker, S., Schneider, S. (2014). Safety culture and climate in construction: bridging the gap between research and practice. Report of the workshop, June 11–12, 2013, sponsored by NIOSH and CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training. Washington, D.C.

  9. Government of Canada (2011). Canadian Industry Statistics. http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cis-sic.nsf/eng/h_00005.html.

  10. Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: a meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(2), 268. doi:10.1037//0021-9010.87.2.268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Kelloway, E. K., & Day, A. L. (2005). Building healthy workplaces: what we know so far. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement, 37(4), 223. doi:10.1037/h0087259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Kohles, J. C., Bligh, M. C., & Carsten, M. K. (2013). The vision integration process: applying Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory to leader-follower communications. Leadership, 9(4), 446–485.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Krupa, T., Kirsh, B., Cockburn, L., & Gewurtz, R. (2009). Understanding the stigma of mental illness in employment. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation, 33(4), 413–425. doi:10.3233/WOR-2009-0890.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Leka, S., & Cox, T. (2008). The European framework for psychosocial risk management: PRIMA-EF. Nottingham: IWHO Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Lim, K. L., Jacobs, P., Ohinmaa, A., Schopflocher, D., & Dewa, C. S. (2008). A new population-based measure of the economic burden of mental illness in Canada. Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28(3), 92–98. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/cdic-mcbc/28-3/pdf/cdic28-3-2eng.pdf.

  16. Luthans, F. (2002). The need for and meaning of positive organizational behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23(6), 695–706. doi:10.1002/job.165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Marchand, A., & Blanc, M. E. (2010). The contribution of work and non-work factors to the onset of psychological distress: an eight-year study of a representative sample of employees in Canada. Journal of Occupational Health, 52, 176–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Mental Health Commission of Canada (2012). Changing directions changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada. (No. 978-0-9813795-2-4). Calgary: Mental Health Commission of Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2013a). Making the case for investing in mental health in Canada. Mental Health Commission of Canada.

  20. Mental Health Commission of Canada (2013b). Psychological health and safety in the workplace – prevention, promotion and guidance to staged implementation. Quebec: BNQ and CSA Group.

    Google Scholar 

  21. O’donoghue, T. (2006). Planning your qualitative research project: An introduction to interpretivist research in education. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of innovations, 5th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-5823-4.

  23. Sauter, S. L., Murphy, L. R., & Hurrell, J. J. (1990). Prevention of work-related psychological disorders: a national strategy proposed by the national institute for occupational safety and health (NIOSH). American Psychologist, 45(10), 1146. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.45.10.1146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Scott-Clark, A. (2013). Mental health standard gets strong employer support. Benefits Canada.

  25. The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. (2015). Heads up. http://www.headsup.org.au/home.

Download references


We would like to thank all our interviewees for their participation and the rich information they provided.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Laura Kalef.

Additional information

Laura Kalef and Courtney Rubin were MSc(OT) students in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the time of writing. Cindy Malachowski was a doctoral candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto at time of writing.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kalef, L., Rubin, C., Malachowski, C. et al. Employers’ Perspectives on the Canadian National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Employ Respons Rights J 28, 101–112 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10672-015-9270-9

Download citation


  • Standard
  • Mental health
  • Workplace
  • Psychological health and safety