Stress Leave: How I Used The Time Away From My Job
Recently, I approached my doctor about taking some stress leave from my job. I was terribly nervous about doing this, and most of that stress had little to do with the fact that I’d never seen this doctor before and I don’t do well with strangers. No, mostly I was worried because of the cycle of stress over why people tend to take stress leave in the first place.
It’s no surprise that stress leave is becoming more and more common in jobs people take weeks at a time off work because they’re under so much stress that they feel they can no longer live their liveslet alone perform their jobsas best they can. And stress leave is also much more common in the younger generation than the older one.
So, with those two facts in mind, I had a remarkably self-defeating thought process going on. I was under stress. But some people go through much worse than I do, and for longer, working the same crappy job for years and years and never taking more than a week of vacation a year. And there I was, not even 25 years old, looking for time off work because I felt like I could no longer handle my life.
I felt like a slacker looking for an excuse to just skive off work and avoid taking responsibility for a while. I mean, how could I, someone who’s supposed to be in the prime of their life, end up with so much stress that I needed to take a step back from life for a little while to sort myself out? I should be able to handle everything on my plate and more, right?
Insurance Companies Require A Medical Doctor To Complete The Paperwork
You will require a physician to be part of your treatment team if you need to go on medical leave. To help out, I frequently fax a letter that I have written about my clients situation to the family doctor, to make supporting the person and writing the initial note easier for the physician.
Once your HR Department has received the physicians note, they will contact the medical insurance provider directly. Either your HR Department or your insurance company will provide you with a copy of the application form for medical leave and will ask you to complete it. They will also instruct you where to send it.
Your HR Department or your insurance company will also give you a form for your physician to complete, or will send the form to your physician directly. Either way, it will be your responsibility to ensure that your physician completes and returns the form.
What To Do So You Dont Have To Take Time Off
With a healthy lifestyle, the right mindset and a focus on avoid so-called hidden stressors, you can beat stress in the workplaceand everywhere else. Sound like a tall order? For wellness educator Nicole Porter, the key to living a stress-free life is to remember that everything is manageable.
Vancouver-based Porter points to studies out of universities like Stanford and Harvard that show that 90 to 95 per cent of disease is stress-related.
Our society is diseased right and left, but so much of it is controllable, she says, noting that people often overreact to problems that everyone has or those that can be managed with the right outlook. Im tired of people getting sick its sad, and really, theyve got more control than they think.
Instead of concentrating on things that cause immense stress in the workplace and at home, Porter argues, people need to think about the hidden stressors that are wreaking havoc beneath the surface. Here are three of the most harmfuland her tips for handling them.
Get off that screen
People need to take breaks from their screens, Porter says. And I mean, like, a full-on breakI dont mean getting away from your desktop and going for a 10-minute walk while you check your email on your phone. Go for a walk and get away from your screens, period.
Were overstimulated anyway, with all the sounds and everything, Porter says. Theres a ding or a sound for almost everything. And it causes stress, whether we think about it or not.
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Learn What Companies Cover Your Short
Sometimes an employer does not work with an insurance company for short-term medical leave, preferring to cover short-term leaves themselves. In these situations, I have seen companies hire third-party firms to interact with employees so that the employer remains at arms length from the employee. This is done to ensure the employees confidentiality is respected, and to ensure the employer remains impartial when decisions are made concerning whether to grant medical leave or not.
It is not unusual for different companies to cover your short-term medical leave and long-term medical leave, so know what your benefits package says about both so that you dont receive any surprises.
Hold A Return To Work Meeting With The Employee
Recognise that if the employee has been off for a while, returning is likely to be stressful in itself. Welcome them warmly and update them on any changes in the company while theyve been away. Review the adjustments youve put in place to support them and encourage them to let you know if theyre continuing to struggle.
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Remind Your Employees About Your Eap
An employee assistance program is a fairly inexpensive add-on to your benefits program. If you don’t have one, talk to your insurance broker and get one in place for 2021. If you do have one, it can help you and your employees with the stress they experience–work and home-related. An EAP can refer to lawyers and therapists . Marital problems can spill into the workplace, and getting some couples counseling may reduce your employees’ overall stress.
Employers That Dont Help Relieve Stress Arent Doing Their Job
The truth is employment shouldnt be a one-sided relationship.
You pour your heart into your job, you take pride in your work, and you truly care about the outcome. An employer who doesnt encourage you to take breaks and doesnt provide opportunities for stress-relief is an employer who doesnt deserve to have you around.
You offer something many fantastic employers would bend over backwards to have: a work ethic and a high level of commitment. Good employers know its their responsibility not to run people into the ground. They know they must pay attention to how much you work as well as how stressed you are.
At the core, youre dealing with a culture of stress. A study of organizational culture showed that a hierarchical, bureaucratic culture, in which the organization showed little care for employee well-being, created a state of low morale.
An organizations negative, stress-based culture leads to poor performance, high turnover, and a low level of engagement.
The bottom line is that when youre dealing with a culture of stress, youre completely justified in being uncommitted.
A companys culture is its identity. Dont commit to a culture therefore an identity that is tearing itself down instead of building itself up.
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Enquire Sensitively About The Reasons Behind Their Stress At Work
Take care not to pressure the employee to reveal more than is necessary or more than they feel comfortable with. Its important to appreciate that mental health issues can be difficult to discuss, and the employee may be anxious that the revelation of a mental health issue may affect their job security.
What To Do While You’re On Stress Leave
I made the decision there and then that I’d use this time productively. A friend of mine from a previous job confirmed that this was the right way to handle things. She had spent some time on stress leave in the past, and she said that without projects and tasks to keep her busy, she’d found herself under the stress of boredom, and that didn’t help matters in the slightest.
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Who Is Eligible For The Leave And How To Qualify
All employees are eligible if they meet the qualifying period of employment for the leave.
Each leave has various lengths of time an employee must be employed before they can qualify to take a leave. For all leaves, employees must be employed by an employer for a certain length of time before they can take a leave.
All leaves have specific requirements that must be met for an employee to be able to take the leave. For more information on a specific leave, see the fact sheets on our website or contact Employment Standards.
Act To Prevent Further Issues
As a first prevention step, Ferguson suggests normalising taking time off immediately to recoup from sporadic periods of overtime . If someone stayed late on a work call, for example, make sure you acknowledge that the very next day by suggesting they come in later or head off early for the day. If they dont take the time off there and then, they most likely never will.
When the employee returns from stress leave, Ferguson suggests meeting up with them and offering them the opportunity to bring a support person to make them more comfortable. In this meeting, as a group you could set the employee up with something like a personal situation plan to help them manage their mental health moving forward. This could include information such as:
- Their stress triggers. For example, school holidays might be a hard time for them to focus on work. Or short turnaround periods might cause them to spiral. Knowing this information upfront can help you to plan ahead.
- The signs that indicate that they might be overwhelmed/on the verge of breaking down
- People to contact in case of emergency or when theyre on stress leave
- The appropriate steps to take if they need to request stress leave in the future
- How theyd like the information to be communicated to their teams
The personal situation plan might also identify personal stressors, if they feel comfortable disclosing them, says Ferguson.
Learn more about helping your employees manage stress with AHIRs Mental Health at Work short course.
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What Is A Period Of Employment
The period of employment is the length of time from when an employee starts working for an employer until the day the employment ends.
The period of employment also includes periods of temporary interruption in employment , seasonal employment, and when an employee returns to work for the same employer after a break of less than two months.
Employees who work in a seasonal industry and return to work with the same employer each season have continuous service. Each consecutive season they return adds one more year of service to their total period of employment.
Layoffs and Periods of Employment
It is important to know how to determine an employee’s period of employment because wages in lieu of notice is based on their length of employment.
When layoffs are longer than 8 weeks in a 16-week period, they become terminations and wages in lieu of notice is required. The employment is deemed to have been terminated without notice on the first day of the layoff.
The actual date on which a layoff began does not change because a state of emergency is declared or a state of emergency ends. For example:
- If an employee was laid off on February 18, 2020 and the layoff eventually became a termination, the period of employment will be deemed to have ended on February 18, 2020.
- However, if an employee was laid off on July 8, 2020 and the layoff eventually became a termination, the period of employment will be deemed to have ended on July 8, 2020.
Who Are Considered Family Members
Family is defined very broadly for Employment Standards purposes. Children, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses, common law spouses, brothers, sisters, step-brothers, step-sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews are all considered family members. The definition also includes those who are not related, but whom the employee considers to be like a close relative.
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Other Considerations For Stress Leave
Weve covered the basics so far, but you probably have a few more questions. Consider the following options when youre thinking about taking stress leave:
Getting paid leave. Under the FMLA, your employer is not obligated to pay you during your stress leave. Not getting paid might only compound your stress, but there are options to get paid during your stress leave. Some jurisdictions offer paid leave, but they are few and far between.
If youre not one of the lucky few who live in one of these jurisdictions, you still have the option of short term disability benefits. Many employees have STD benefits covered through their employer or private insurance. Ask your HR department if your company provides STD benefits.
In particular, pay attention to the following:
How much notice you must provide
The waiting period
The pay cap
Duration of benefits
Exclusions based on pre-existing conditions
Your employers policy regarding using PTO and/or sick days before receiving STD benefits
No Win No Fee Services
At Bradford Legal we do not specifically advertise a no win no fee service. This is because we believe that the majority of claims involving workers compensation personal injury claims will result in a settlement outcome that benefits the injured person.
In our view this should not be considered a win as although these outcomes are not necessarily guaranteed in most instances an injured person will be able to obtain a lump sum settlement outcome.
At Bradford Legal we are highly experienced and successful in maximising lump sum settlement outcomes and benefits for our clients.
We are always prepared to offer a reasonable fee arrangement to assist people to achieve the best outcome possible from their compensation claim.
In many instances this will include an agreement not to seek payment of fees in the event that we are unable to achieve a settlement outcome for injuries received. Our experienced lawyers will work with you to determine this arrangement on case by case basis.
Workers Compensation Stress Claim Experts
As experts in personal injury law and workers compensation stress claims, Bradford Legal have handled many workers compensation claims and can help with your claim for compensation. Contact or call the personal injury lawyers today at Bradford Legal based in Perth, Western Australia to find out more information or to start your claim for workers compensation stress leave. Your initial consultation with our expert workers compensation lawyers is obligation free.
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The Symptoms Of Stress
Mental health is a non-negotiable. If you feel symptoms of stress, do something about it because the problem wont fix itself.
- Sadness and depression
You might get up and dread work, you might find it hard to motivate yourself, lack of energy and drive. They are all symptoms, indications that something isn’t right.
The first thing you should do is talk to someone anyone. Family, friends, a stranger. A problem shared is a problem halved.
If you can, talk to your employer. Get it out in the open. Tell them how youre feeling. Try to explain why. It’s going to be a hard conversation, but it helps.
And book an appointment with your doctor. Be open, honest and direct. Keep a mood diary, and share it with them.
Consider Alternative Ways To Hold The Meeting
Offer to hold the meeting away from the workplace, at the employees home, perhaps even via telephone/video conference, in writing, or with an employee-nominated third party attending on their behalf. This way you can demonstrate that you have tried to be as reasonable and accommodating of the employees situation as possible.
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Effects Of Stress On Your Body Mood And Behavior
How many of these stress-related effects are you experiencing? Sources: WebMD, Gallup, NIMH
Risk for death under age 45
Risk for Type 2 diabetes
While there is technically no such thing as “stress leave,” if you qualify, you can take a medical leave of absence for psychological reasons. Examples include depression or an anxiety disorder. There’s no shame in taking care of your health.
Mubariz Mehdizadeh via Unsplash, Free Domain
Common Causes Of Workplace Stress
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, some common causes of workplace stress are:
- Threatened or actual harassment or discrimination
- Exposure to hazards
Did you know 61 percent of Ontario workers say they are overworked?
Ontario has introduced several changes in how workers can avail stress leave in 2019. The previous regime of Personal Emergency Leave gave employees 10 days of leave, two of which were paid. This has been divided into sick leave, family responsibility leave and leave for bereavement all of which are unpaid. Check your employment contract to see if your employer offers paid separate stress leave.
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Employers Duty To Accommodate
In terms of the BC Human Rights Code, your employer has a duty to accommodate any condition that renders you unable to work. In other words, your employer is required to ensure that considerations are made to accommodate your needs before simply dismissing you.
For example, your employer may let you take a leave of absence to get the treatment you need or adjust your schedule while you determine how to manage your stress or mental health concerns.
The duty to accommodate employees isnt without limits, however. Your employer need not accommodate your circumstances if it starts causing them, or your fellow employees, undue hardship.
Note: if you asked to be accommodated, your employer is likely going to want to learn more about why you need assistance.