Stress leave under new Ontario sick leave rules

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Changes in the law may have cost Ontario workers their 10 days of emergency leave, two of which were with pay each year. Under the new legislation, the paid days under emergency leave have been replaced by three sick days, two bereavement days and three family leave days. Employment contracts could grant workers more leave days, including paid leave, than the legislation permits. While stress leave is technically not a form of leave recognized under the law, an employee in need of time off from work may have options even under the new rules.

When stress at work becomes unbearable

A study found that stress was the reason given by 25 percent of Canadian workers for quitting their jobs. The statistic is even more alarming because another 17 percent of employees considered quitting because of stress.

Main causes of stress at work appear to be the burden of a heavy workload and office politics with younger employees and those at the lower range of the income scale appeared to be the ones most likely to feel the effects of stress at work. In Ontario, 61 percent of individuals interviewed by researchers acknowledged their workload caused them to suffer from work-related stress.

Signs you might be experiencing stress at work

If you experience any of the following signs of a stress over a prolonged period of time, you should take steps to identify and eliminate or limit your exposure to the cause:

  • Impaired concentration
  • Drop in productivity
  • Fatigue
  • Reluctant to participate in social events and activities
  • Depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Digestive issues
  • Over eating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drinking or smoking more than usual

The Ontario law protects you from dismissal, suspension, discipline or lay off if your physical or mental condition requires that you take a stress-related sick leave from work.

WSIB benefits during stress leave

The Ontario government recognizes the detrimental effect mental stress has on workers. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board provides benefits to individuals diagnosed with chronic mental stress related to conditions at their jobs.

Eligibility for WSIB benefits for chronic mental stress depends upon the disorder being diagnosed by a medical professional. It must be predominantly related to factors or conditions to which you are exposed at your place of work, and they must be substantial in the sense that minor annoyances with company policies would not be sufficient to qualify for benefits.

Examples of the types of work-related situations that could cause chronic mental stress as defined by the WSIB include:

  • Workplace sexual harassment
  • A pattern of demeaning remarks or comments by managers or supervisors
  • Bullying or threatening behaviours by other workers or managers
  • Disciplinary action was taken against you by an employer for violations of company policies and rules generally would not be a basis for claiming WSIB benefits even if the action causes you to suffer from chronic mental stress.

Benefits for work-related chronic stress include the psychological evaluation and treatment, prescribed medications and income replacement for time lost from work due to the condition. Determining whether you are entitled to stress leave and the benefits available to you may require the services of a lawyer experienced in stress-related disorders and stress leave claims.