Stress can come from many different sources, and if those sources of stress aren’t addressed, the buildup can cause serious health risks that can even lead to mental or physical disabilities that require immediate and ongoing care.
Much attention has been paid to stress and mental health in the workplace, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on everyone’s mental well-being. It’s crucial to take the time and support needed to alleviate stress before it disrupts your life.
Employment laws allow for sick days that can be used for stress leave in Ontario. Learning about your right stress leave rights is the first step in protecting your mental health.
How To Find Out Your Workplace Entitlements
Whenever you need to know what you’re entitled to in the workplace, including how much time you’re allowed for sick leave to deal with stress, and other important workplace rights, such as notice of termination, vacation days and vacation pay, the first place to look is your employment contract (or the collective bargaining agreement if you are in a unionized workplace).
If you’re uncertain about the information provided in your contract, speak with your HR rep, supervisor or the union steward if you’re in a union.
Before signing an employment contract, it’s always best to consult an employment lawyer for guidance on its terms and conditions and how they may impact you immediately and later on down the road.
How Much Stress Leave Are You Entitled to In Ontario?
The Employment Standards Act requires most Ontario employers to provide their employees with a minimum of three unpaid days off each year for personal injuries, illnesses, or medical emergencies as part of their right to sick leave. Sick leave provided by the ESA can not be carried forward to subsequent years.
Some occupations, however, are regulated by different, special rules in the ESA that are specific to their sectors, and they are excluded from the ESA‘s minimum provisions. Examples include occupations in emergency services, hospitality and agriculture.
Another exception to the ESA minimums regarding workplace entitlements is employment contracts that provide for a greater benefit than the ESA. In these cases, the right afforded to you by your employment contract becomes your minimum entitlement, and your employer can not revert to providing you with the ESA minimums regarding those entitlements.
So in the context of sick leave, if your employment contract allows for a longer leave, or paid leave, that becomes your minimum sick leave entitlement.
Stress Leave Entitlements For Federally-Regulated Workers
If you work in a federally-regulated industry, such as banking, airline travel or TV broadcasting, you are allowed a minimum of five unpaid days off per calendar year for “personal leave” according to the Canada Labour Code.
However, after three consecutive months of continuous employment, employees covered by federal regulation are entitled to paid time off for the first three days of their leave at their usual rate of pay.
Rights that Protect Your Job if You Need to Take Stress Leave in Ontario
The law in Ontario offers job protection rights surrounding sick and stress leave, some of which include:
- The right to be free from reprisals for exercising your sick leave rights. This means that you can not be penalized in any way for inquiring about, planning or taking a leave you are entitled to.
- The right to be returned to the job you held prior to taking a leave or a comparable one if the position no longer exists. You are also entitled to the same rate of pay and even a raise if you would have earned one while you were on leave.
- The right to accrue time towards your length of service while on sick leave for stress.
The ESA also allows for other leaves, including bereavement leave and critical illness leave. You are allowed to combine your sick/stress leave with the other leaves guaranteed in the ESA if your stress is brought on by circumstances covered by those leaves.