Workplace Stress Leave Is Important for Mental Health

By Berry Mathew

In small doses, stress can help us perform at a higher level than normal. However, being under stress for an extended amount of time is unhealthy.

When it comes to your mental health, the importance of taking workplace stress leave can’t be emphasized enough. If stress builds up over time, it can result in a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. Keep reading for more information on workplace stress leave entitlements and financial supports in Ontario.

What is Stress Leave in Ontario?

Stress leave in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act is considered part of your sick leave entitlement. It provides you with a minimum of three unpaid days off work in a calendar year. Sick leave is meant to be used for your own injuries, illnesses or medical emergencies. You are entitled to leave if you need to provide care for a  sick family member, and for other family emergencies, including:

  • Bereavement Leave
  • Child Death Leave
  • Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave
  • Critical Illness Leave
  • Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave
  • Family Caregiver Leave
  • Family Medical Leave
  • Family Responsibility Leave

You are also entitled to combine leaves in applicable situations. For example, it is completely understandable that a death in the family or an assault will result in a mental health condition that requires further time off and treatment. You can learn more about these leaves, including how much time is allowed for each, on this Government of Ontario page.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that your employer is entitled to notice before you take a leave, or as soon as possible after you start a leave, if you unexpectedly had to take time off before you were able to provide your employer with notice.

Potential Financial Support if You Need to Take an Extended Leave for Stress

You hear people say it all the time: “I can’t afford to be sick.” This is a common sentiment for employees who are only allowed unpaid time off if they get sick or have to deal with a family emergency. 

A lack of a financial “safety net” forces many to keep working despite the risk of aggravating a physical or mental health condition, like stress, because they have to provide for their families. 

Although this is far from ideal, if the stress you experience is manageable with the odd day off, you can also find regular or occasional mental health support through a local service. 

If, however, you begin feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or you develop physical illnesses, you may not have a choice as. Stress and other health concerns have the potential to disrupt your life and even prevent you from  

If you, your employer, union or association has purchased a group benefits plan, or you pay for your own personal insurance,  you may be covered under a short- or long-term disability plan that can provide you with partial income replacement if your condition meets the requirements.

Alternatively, if you don’t have insurance coverage and you’re unable to work because of a mental or physical illness or injury, there are similar financial support programs provided by both the federal and provincial governments. 

The most common include Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, which essentially provide short-term disability support; Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefits for long-term disabilities; WSIB benefits for workplace-related illnesses and injuries and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which provides financial and employment support for Ontarians with disabilities.

The priority is your mental and physical health, and they are too important to risk by continuing to work when you are legitimately unable to and need to treat your condition.