Stress is a part of everyone’s daily existence. And whether we like it or not, ignoring stress when it begins to accumulate can result in mental and physical diseases that can do serious harm and have a much larger impact on our lives than standing up and asking for help or guidance.
So who is eligible for stress leave in Ontario? Essentially all workers as it is an employment right guaranteed by law. Stress leave is generally included as part of the mandatory sick leave in the workplace. Read on to learn more about your rights regarding sick and stress leave.
Applicable Stress Leave Laws
If you work in a federally-regulated industry, you must refer to the Canada Labour Code to know your minimum employment rights, including your rights to sick and stress leave.
Otherwise, employment rights in Ontario are outlined in the Employment Standards Act. There are professions and industries, however, that are exempted from the minimum rights afforded by the ESA. Healthcare and hospitality workers, for example, have their own specific rules and rights. You can check to see if you fall under any of the exemptions on this page.
Currently, if you have worked for your current company for at least two weeks straight, you are entitled to three unpaid, non-transferable days off for illnesses, injuries and/or stress leave each calendar year.
For employees who are subject to provincial regulation, that is the base entitlement. You are eligible to any additional time off, paid time off, or other benefits that are higher than the ESA or CLC minimums if your job contract or collective bargaining agreement stipulates it. Your employer cannot withhold this benefit, even if it exceeds the legal minimum.
Stress Leave and Other Legally-Protected Leaves
You should be aware that if you need more time off and are under stress because of a personal or family circumstance for which you are eligible for another legal personal leave, you can combine the leave(s). Additional personal leaves include: Bereavement Leave, Child Death Leave, and Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave.
Your Responsibilities When Taking a Stress or Sick Leave
Before taking a stress or personal leave, or as soon as your absence begins, you must inform your employer. Verbal notification is permissible and is not required to be in writing.
Please note that even if you are unable to notify your employer that you need time off for sick/stress leave, you do not lose the right to take the leave.
You may also be asked to provide proof that you are entitled to take a leave by providing your employer with a doctor’s note, for example.
For an employer to request proof, however, it must be reasonable in the circumstances for them to do so. Having a history of absenteeism, for example, may give an employer the right to ask you to show proof that you were entitled to take stress, sick or personal leave.