Hitting reset: Are you entitled to ‘stress leave’?

58% of Canadian employees are stressed on a daily basis

Hitting reset: Are you entitled to ‘stress leave’?

Feeling stressed? You’re not alone.

New figures from Accountemps revealed that 58% of Canadian employees are stressed on a daily basis.

The report uncovered a hidden culture of overwork and underappreciation, leading to burn out on a national scale.

The main trigger points were found to be heavy workloads and tight deadlines (41%), followed by a poor work-life balance (22%), and unrealistic management expectations (17%).

This miasma of stress is seeping into our subconscious, leaving workers feeling drained and fatigued – without really knowing why.

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As such, a renewed interest in ‘stress leave’ has come to Canada.

There’s no official declaration of ‘stress leave’ in Ontario – however, under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, employees are entitled to sick leave for stress or related mental health issues.

“There is no special or specific entitlement to stress leave,” explained Stephen Wolpert, partner at Toronto-based law firm Whitten & Lubbin.

“Stress is a part of life; we all experience it and are all expected to cope with it in the workplace. 

“However, sometimes stress goes beyond manageable levels and can actually be considered a disability – such as Acute Stress Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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“In those cases, employees can make use of sick leaves, which are protected in employment standards legislation and may sometimes be enhanced by the employer’s sick leave and disability policies.”

For many employees, the added pressure of work during the pandemic has led to spiralling mental health.

Wellbeing, on a global scale, has taken a downturn since COVID-19 – making it even more important that leaders safeguard their people’s psychological safety.

If, as an HR professional, you feel like one of your staff is suffering disproportionally, you must take action.

“For employees whose stress level rises to a disability, they would also be entitled to accommodations in the workplace,” added Wolpert.

“So, even if they have used all of their sick leave and their company does not provide top ups or disability coverage, employers would still typically have to work with the employee to facilitate their return to work in a manageable way.

“Many employees are often afraid to reveal their stress levels to their employers for fear of being ostracized, passed over for promotions, or even fired.

“While the situation is complex and there is no single right answer for all employees, in many cases raising stress levels with your employer – especially those that are disabling – is a good way for employees to protect their health and their jobs.”

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