The term 'stress leave’ is often talked about, but it isn’t a formal type of leave. Most employees can take up to 10 sick days per year for illness or personal injury. The illness may be physical or mental health related.
Under the Australian Government Fair Work’s National Employment Standards (NES), there are 11 minimum employment paid and unpaid entitlements that have to be provided to all employees. Paid sick and carer’s leave is the entitlement for taking sick leave due to stress.
Employees feel stressed and take leave from work for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:
Many employees will take a day off when they feel as though their work or their personal life is causing them so much stress that they need a break for the sake of their mental health. However, taking multiple days of leave for stress can do more harm than good.
The more time you take off sick away from work, the more anxious you can feel about going back. You might worry about what your colleagues or manager said about you taking time off work. If no one has taken on your workload while you were away, you could be going back to work with double the workload and stress compared to when you left.
Many stressful work situations can be solved by another person intervening, but often it’s only the stressed employee who knows there’s a problem. You need to communicate with colleagues so the problem can be fixed. However, it’s more difficult to have a meeting with your manager or HR advisor if you don’t go into work. If you keep going to work and try to fix the problem/s, you’re being proactive and positive about the future. If you say nothing and stay home, the problem hasn’t gone away and it can potentially become much worse.
Even if you’re feeling stressed or struggling to face another day at work, consider that you may need to use your sick leave later on. You might be physically ill, immobile due to an injury or needing to care for a sick child or parent and wish you hadn’t already taken time off when you need it more now.
Some workers feel that taking time off is the only way to deal with their high stress levels, but there are things you can do to reduce the stress and stop it from getting too high. In addition to the suggestions below, office managers can look into running workplace mental health audits to help identify areas of the office where stress may be most likely to occur and help prevent it.
When you feel your stress levels rising at work, try to take a short break. If you can, leave your desk to go for a short walk outside to clear your head and have some time away from the screen.
You may not even need to leave the office to bring down your stress levels. Make yourself a drink or snack and enjoy it away from your desk. Hopefully this will help you return with a fresh perspective.
Chat with a colleague and perhaps ask if they have any tips on how to handle the stressful situation that you’re in. Ask their opinion and what they think you should do to fix the problem. Sometimes a problem shared is a problem halved.
Many organisations provide their staff with access to a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If the service provider is PeopleSense or Altius Group, you’ll have an appointment with a qualified psychologist who will answer your queries and provide tips and techniques for handling stressful work situations.
If you haven’t taken much time off work in months, you may need annual leave, not stress leave. Going away on a holiday will probably do you far more good than sitting at home feeling stressed. Taking a holiday allows you to completely switch off from work and relax properly.
Our employee assistance program offers free counselling to staff members and their immediate family. With access to registered clinical psychologists, you or your employees can get the support needed to reduce stress and manage a healthy work life balance. If you’re a manager or HR professional within an organisation, enquire today about our EAP services.
If you would like more information, call 1800 258 487 or get in contact online.