Do You Need a Stress Leave From Work?
If you are a human being, then you are going to experience stress on a regular basis. Sometimes this is “good” stress, and sometimes this is “bad” stress. For some people, at some times, the stress is too much and they need to take a break from work. 62% of Canadians rate work as their biggest source of stress. This stat was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We can only imagine how this has changed with the variety of factors from the past two years of lockdowns, school closures, sick days, and the disruption to our routines.
Leaving work for a short period of time due to stress is known as taking a “stress leave.” Stress leave can be helpful to provide ourselves with the chance to pause, recharge our batteries and get back on track. If you think you are in a position where a stress leave is something you need, we hope this blog helps you to,
- To look deeply into your life, your stress, and to ask yourself some questions about why you think you need a stress leave. It is important to consider what actions to take in your life to reduce the likelihood of the pile up of stress from happening again. Maybe your work environment is not a good place for you, maybe you need to make personal changes. From there, you can develop your innate capacity for resilience and well-being to live in a manner that reduces the likelihood of developing long-term burnout, and that helps you live a healthier and more enjoyable life.
- Understand how to proceed through your employer to ask for the leave with the intention of giving yourself the necessary time you need to realign your life and get back or get into a place where you can perform at your best.
Part 1, Self-Reflection; Do I Need To Take Stress Leave?
What Can I Do To Enhance My Resilience And Well-Being
Part 1 is all about our motto and brand, “Starts With Me”. If you are in a position in which you need a stress leave, then you are most likely at a crossroad in your life. Digging into this existential question is fundamental to getting back on track and understanding where in your life you can make changes.
It can be a variety of personal changes, such as (not limited by)
- substance use
- physical fitness
- social life
- family life
- lack of purpose
- intimate relationships
- how you take care of your mental health and well-being
There is no point taking a stress leave if you do not adjust the factors that contributed to the need for a leave. Sometimes, life happens and things outside our control pile up and we end up in a position where it’s too much and we need a break. The important question to ask yourself is, how much of this is my responsibility. We would argue, much more than you think or are willing to admit. Yes, this is a slight assumption and judgement on our part, nevertheless, it is usually true.
We encourage you to do an inventory of your life based on some of the topics mentioned above or other life factors not mentioned here. The important thing is that you actually do it!
We encourage you to remember that you can’t do this alone. Perhaps you need the support of your EAP program, a therapist or trusted coach, guide, friend or family member. Everyone needs support and guidance, and in particular with our mental health.
If you want a place to start, you can download our free Self-Awareness and Well-Being Guide or search out other resources on how to go on this journey.
Remember, there are no shortcuts, but there are many solutions.
Part 2, Understanding Stress Leave in Ontario.
There are specific rules and regulations surrounding stress leave. If you are considering taking stress leave from your job, it is important to understand the process and what you need to do in order to qualify.
Employees who are experiencing stress or mental health issues can take a stress leave, if they think they need a break so that their mental health does not deteriorate to a place in which they completely cannot function and end up in a place that is much worse from where they currently stand. “Individuals who experienced severe stress are eligible to take “sick leave”, whether it is under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 or under a policy included in their employment contract.”(Reference)
We will outline a few factors that add to your ability to take a stress leave.
To be eligible for stress leave in Ontario, you need to:
- have been employed for at least 13 weeks
- be off work for at least seven consecutive days
- provide your employer with a medical certificate that indicates you are suffering from a mental health disorder and cannot perform the essential duties of your job.
A licensed health care professional listed below must complete the certificate,
- family physician
- nurse practitioner
You can take stress leave in one block or as multiple shorter leaves, as long as the total is at least seven days.
When you contact HR, they will probably ask you to provide a medical note from your doctor or mental health professional outlining your condition and explaining why you need time off work. Once you have provided this documentation, your employer will make a decision on whether or not to approve your leave.
Your employer may request a second opinion if they have questions about your diagnosis or if the first certificate you provide does not satisfy them.
If they approve your leave, they will determine how long you can take off and what type of benefits, if any, you will be entitled to during your leave.
Many of our clients have discussed the value of being in touch with their employer or colleagues while on leave. Sometimes, this is allowed and supported. In other situations, the rules are such that no contact is allowed between the employee and the employer. Be sure to check about this, as it often depends on the nature of your work, your employer, and your specific situation.
If you are considering taking a stress leave from work, be sure to familiarize yourself with the eligibility requirements and process beforehand. This is essential! Each workplace, policy, and benefit plan is different. By doing so, you can ensure that you make the best and most informed decision in order to take the time off work that you need or to have the difficult conversation with your employer about your needs.
References & disclaimer
This post is not legal or medical advice. It is meant to help you increase your awareness and knowledge of what is involved in a decision to take a leave from work.
For a thorough review of the legality of the process, you can check out this post by employment lawyers that might be helpful. https://sultanlawyers.com/blog/everything-you-want-to-know-about-stress-leave-in-ontario/