While technically, there is no legal entitlement to a specific “stress leave” in Ontario, workers are entitled to sick leave, which can be used to deal with stress. There are also other personal leaves protected by law, which you can learn about below.
If you need to take leave for work-related stress, it’s best to know your rights before taking the time off. This allows you to know exactly how much time you’re entitled to take, and it protects you in case your employer tries to deny you your rights. The best way to know your rights, however, is to speak with an employment lawyer and have them review your employment contract.
Below is an overview of the job protections you enjoy if you need to take sick or stress leave. The first step, however, is to know which law applies to you.
Figuring Out Your Stress Leave Entitlement
Every job is based on a contract, and all employment contracts are subject to laws – both legislative and common law (law based on court rulings.) So it’s essential to know which law(s) apply to your employment contract as a starting point. This is also why it’s crucial to have an employment lawyer review your employment contract and advise you as to how the common law impacts you (if at all) so that you know exactly what your rights are in the workplace.
Most workers in Ontario are covered by the legal minimum protections for stress/sick leave in the Employment Standards Act – provided that they have been in their current job for at least two consecutive weeks. There are, however, exceptions based on the type of work being done and the industry in question. EMS workers, manufacturers and government employees, for example, have special employment laws. Visit this page for the full list of exemptions and links to the rules that apply to each.
Keep in mind that federally-regulated employees in Ontario are governed by the Canada Labour Code.
The current ESA stress leave entitlement is a minimum of three unpaid days off per calendar year for sick or stress leave. Many employers, however, provide longer sick leave, or leave specifically for stress. If your employment contract or union CBA provides any greater benefit than either the ESA or the CLC, that benefit becomes your minimum entitlement, and it can’t be reduced.
Other Legally Protected Personal Leaves
Besides sick and stress leave, you also have the right to the following personal leaves:
- 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
What Are My Legal Rights Regarding Sick and Stress Leave?
Sick leave (and other personal leaves) provides job protection, and if you need to take time off, you are afforded the following rights:
- The right to the same or a comparable job at the same rate of pay when you return.
- The right to combine sick leave with another protected leave when the circumstances warrant it.
- The right to continue accruing time towards your years of service.
You are also protected from being penalized by your employer in any way if you take sick leave, plan to take one or ask about your sick and stress leave rights.