What is stress leave & are you entitled to it?

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Work-related stress can have a significant impact on an employee’s mental health. And while many are afraid or unwilling to address the issue of mental health in the workplace, it is an important and necessary conversation to have. But what do you do if your workplace stress has become overwhelming and incapacitating? Do employees have the right to take a leave of absence related to workplace stress? The simple answer is yes.

While workplace stress is not an official category for leave from ones’ employment, the need is covered by the Fair Work Ombudsmen Act which allows for an employee to take up to 10 sick days per year for illness or personal injury. Despite the Act not specifying work-related stress as an allowable category of illness, it is widely accepted that workplace stress time off is allowed via this entitlement. Hence all employees do have access to paid time off for mental health days.

But prevention is always better than the need to seek a cure. So how does one prevent succumbing to workplace stress? First, it is important to recognize how workplace stress can come about. Some of the circumstances that can cause work-related stress include;

  • Lack of proper staffing
  • Reduced support from supervisors
  • Overload of projects with similar due dates
  • Inability to rely upon those to whom tasks are delegated to
  • Ongoing technical difficulties that prevent a job from running smoothly
  • Constant criticism from co-workers and/or superiors
  • An inability to organize the workload

If an employee or employer can recognize these changes early in the cycle of the workplace environment, it is possible that additional support can be given to reduce the effects of these negative situations. By doing so, employee stress can be alleviated at a much early stage and possibly prevent people from needing to take an extended break from their jobs to recover.

In the event that the environment is not cured, it is highly likely that an employee will eventually suffer harm due to work-related stress. If this happens it is important to secure assistance from a health care professional and seek an opinion as to the types of available treatment, including an estimate on a reasonable amount of time to take away from work. Once an employee has done this, it is imperative that they inform their employer of their condition and request the necessary time off. At this point, an employer can grant the employee personal time to allow for treatment and rest.

It is also possible for an employee to make a Workers’ Compensation claim for stress. However, this can be a more difficult way to go. An employee who claims that their stress is work-related must be able to prove that the workplace is the only genesis of the condition. If the employer finds that there are other personal circumstances that are causing or contributing to an employee’s mental health issues, these contributing factors can be used to mitigate a claim that the stress is solely work-related.

When an employee makes a successful claim via the Workers’ Compensation Law, the rate at which their compensation will be paid is dependent upon the level of their disability and its permanence or lack thereof.  In addition, if a claim is successful the worker will also be entitled to medical costs, including treatment and medication. It is more difficult to bring and succeed in claiming a work-related stress injury through the means of Workers’ Compensation. Therefore, if you believe your claim for a stress injury is solely related to workplace circumstances, it is recommended you enlist the services of a knowledgeable workers’ compensation solicitor.

While accessing help for mental health issues is always recommended, it can also be said that a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure. As such, if you feel your mental health is being compromised via work or personal issues, it is highly recommended you seek assistance from a mental health professional immediately.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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