How To Apply For Stress Leave in Australia

Speak to a Specialist HR Consultant

Fill out the form below and we will call you back to organise a meeting with one of our HR Specialists.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Home > Blog > How To Apply For Stress Leave in Australia

Stress leave (also known as ‘mental health leave’) provides workers with the option to take leave from work on the grounds that their impaired mental health is rendering them unable to work, or because their work is responsible for causing a decline in their mental health.

Factors that can lead to a person needing stress leave include:

  • major life changes;
  • bullying, discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace;
  • a lack of domestic support and/or an increase in responsibilities;
  • feeling overwhelmed or underutilised at work;
  • the dissolution of a relationship; and/or
  • personal health issues or the onset of illness of a spouse or family member.

Accessing leave entitlements for the purposes of recovering from stress can be beneficial to both the employer and the employee. By taking the time to sort out life’s stressors or putting some space between their work and personal lives, a worker can focus on their health and the employer can feel assured the issue is not being exacerbated, sustained or disrupting the flow of work for other employees.

Are employers legally obligated to offer stress leave in Australia?

Stress leave is not a standalone requirement under the National Employment Standards (NES), which means employers do not have to offer employees stress leave. In lieu of stress leave, employers may allow their workers to use their accrued personal leave. Additionally, employers may include stress leave (either paid or unpaid) as one of the organisation’s leave entitlements, but it is not required by law and would be seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must-have’.

If an employee is experiencing significant amounts of stress they may apply for stress or mental health leave in line with the procedure their employer has stipulated in the relevant workplace policy.

The approval of stress leave may depend on a number of factors, and there is no guarantee that an employer will allow an employee to take the time off if they do not have an adequate leave balance or if the timing of the leave is going to have a material impact the business.

Duration of stress leave and payment during the period

As stress leave is not required under the NES, there is no set amount of time that determines how long an employee can go on stress leave or if that leave should be paid or unpaid. These details will be unique to each employer and each request for leave.

If an employer agrees, personal leave may be used for periods of stress leave, particularly at workplaces where there is no provision for stress leave and/or the employee has not accrued an appropriate amount of annual leave.

Mental health injuries and workers compensation

Employees with work-related psychological injuries may be eligible for workers compensation, including paid time off to help them recuperate from their injury until they are deemed fit to return to work. Employees seeking to make a claim for compensation for a psychological injury must follow the same procedure as an employee with a physical injury, including receiving a formal diagnosis from a medical professional and providing evidence that the psychological injury occurred at work either through bullying, harassment, an unreasonable workload or another means.

In addition to weekly income supplements, the worker may also receive reimbursement for medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses.

How to apply for stress leave

If you feel that some time away from the workplace will give you what you need to improve your mental health, you should seek approval for leave from your employer.

In the first instance, you should check to see if your employer offers stress or mental health leave. If they do not, you should speak to your supervisor or human resources manager to establish if stress leave can be taken by using personal leave or if there is an option to take unpaid leave.

If it is not possible to take leave immediately, try to reach a solution such as flexible working or a change in hours.

Finally, if your employer is refusing to allow you to take leave, you may need to seek assistance from a medical and/or legal professional. If you are experiencing significant amounts of stress and need to take time off work but need help ascertaining your options, our experienced employment lawyers can assist.