Skip to content Skip to footer

What is Mental Health Leave in Australia and How to Ask for It

Evidence shows that 21% of workers have taken mental health leave in Australia in the past year because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy.

Australia, like many other countries, acknowledges the impact of mental health issues on individuals and their ability to perform at work. As a result, sick leave (also known as mental health leave) has become an essential component of employee well-being. 

This means that employees can take leave from work when they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or stressed as part of the entitlements outlined by National Employment Standards (NES). The NES are 11 minimum employment entitlements that all employees must receive.

What Are the Minimum Entitlements in Australia?

According to the NES, the minimum entitlements are:

  • Maximum weekly working hours
  • Option to arrange flexible working arrangements
  • Option to convert from casual to permanent employment
  • Parental leave and related entitlements
  • Annual leave
  • Personal leave, compassionate leave, unpaid family and domestic violence leave
  • Community service leave
  • Long-term service leave
  • Public holidays
  • Notice of termination and redundancy pay
  • Fair Work and Casual Employment Information Statement

Stress leave falls under the personal leave category and entitles permanent employees to one hour of personal leave for every 26 hours worked.

Understanding Mental Health Leave in Australia

Although stress leave isn’t an official category of leave, stress is a condition that qualifies for paid sick leave. Mental health leave is a type of leave granted to employees who need time off work due to mental health reasons including stress, anxiety and depression.

All employees in Australia are entitled to paid personal leave, which can be used to take time off due to stress. The minimum entitlement for a full-time worker is 10 days of paid sick leave annually.

Mental Health leave in Australia

How to Ask for Mental Health Leave in Australia

Employees can apply for stress or mental health leave by following the procedure outlined by their employer. Although employees are entitled to a certain amount of stress leave, the terms are ambiguous and can be negotiated by your employer.

There are some instances when an employer may not approve mental health leave. For instance, if the leave will drastically affect your team’s performance or the company’s success. An employer may also refuse the request if the request is proven to be unreasonable. Take, for example, an employee who wishes to take personal leave to extend annual leave. 

Although this list is referring to Mental Health leave in Australia specifically, these steps will be relevant to any country.

Here’s how to ask your employer for sick leave in Australia to increase your chances of approval:

Be Aware of Your Rights

Firstly, remember that mental health conditions are legitimate reasons for taking leave and start to familiarise yourself with your organisation’s policies and the provisions of the Fair Work Act.

Prepare in Advance

Though it’s not always possible, try to plan ahead as much as possible. Sometimes, feelings of anxiety and stress creep up on us over time, making it a little easier to predict when we need some time to rest.

If you do anticipate needing mental health leave, discuss your situation with a healthcare professional or therapist who can provide appropriate documentation and support your request for leave. If you feel comfortable doing so, it’s also worth discussing your situation with your line manager to keep them in the loop and allow them to offer their support and create an action plan.

Choose the Right Time and Method

If stress and anxiety hit you unawares, don’t panic. These things happen. 

In this case, find an appropriate time to discuss your need for mental health leave with your supervisor or human resources department. Request a meeting or communicate in writing, ensuring privacy and confidentiality. Choose a method that allows for open and honest communication where you can acknowledge and share how your workplace is affecting your mental health.

Be Clear and Concise

Clearly express your need for mental health leave while maintaining professionalism. Briefly explain the nature of your condition and how it affects your ability to perform your job. Provide any supporting documentation, such as medical certificates or recommendations from healthcare professionals, and be authoritative about your needs. After all, you know you best.

Be Flexible

If you don’t need a complete break but find yourself able to adapt to a new work situation, be flexible. Your cooperation in minimising disruption will go a long way with your employer, so don’t be afraid to discuss your current capabilities honestly.

By the same token, don’t feel pressured to adapt and cooperate if it will cause you further stress. If you can, offer suggestions about how your team can manage your workload during your absence to demonstrate your commitment to fulfilling your responsibilities and easing the transition for your colleagues.

Communicate Clearly

Communication is key, so be sure to keep your employer updated about any change to your circumstances both before and during your leave. Provide an estimated timeframe that you’ll be out of work and keep your employer informed of any changes or updates regarding your return. This will help them plan and make necessary arrangements.

Seek Support from a Trusted Colleague

If you feel uncomfortable discussing your mental health directly with your employer, consider confiding in a trusted colleague who can provide support and potentially accompany you during the conversation. It helps to know you’re not alone, and that many will support you throughout the difficult time.

Your Mental Health Matters

Taking care of your mental health is essential, and seeking mental health leave when needed is a step towards self-care and well-being. In Australia, employees have rights and protections in place to support their mental health needs. 

By understanding these rights and following the steps outlined above, you can approach your employer with confidence and prioritise your mental well-being. Remember, seeking help and taking the sick leave you need is a sign of strength, and taking care of yourself should always be a priority.

If you enjoy my content...

Keep me caffeinated while I write as a small thank you!

Sign up to my Newsletter to stay up to date!