In Ontario, the right to stress leave is covered by an employee’s right to sick leave in the Employment Standards Act as long as they’ve been employed with their current employer for at least two consecutive weeks.
Sick leave in Ontario is a minimum of three unpaid days off per calendar year due to personal illness, injury or medical emergency. It’s essential to know your rights before requesting stress leave at work to better protect your job and your health.
If you need to take a stress leave, these are some of your most important protections.
The Right to be Free from Reprisals
First and foremost, one of your fundamental rights regarding sick and stress leave is that your employer cannot penalize you in any for taking the leave, planning to take sick leave or asking about your sick leave rights.
You must feel comfortable enough to seek the time and help you need for your physical and mental well-being, and your employer does not have the right to intimidate you for exercising your rights and protecting your health.
The Right to be Reinstated to Your Position Upon Return
You are entitled to the same job you had before you took sick leave or a similar role if your old one no longer exists when you return from leave.
You must also be paid at the same level as you were before you took stress leave. In fact, if the wages for your job would have increased while you were on sick leave, your employer must pay you the higher rate when you return from leave.
The Right to Continue Receiving Employee Benefits
Some employees who take a leave of absence from work prefer to opt out of a benefit plan they were paying for out of their paycheques to reduce their deductions and increase their income while they aren’t working.
If, however, you decide to continue your coverage while on stress leave, your employer must continue to pay their share of the premiums for plans you were participating in before your stress/sick leave.
This means that you have the right to continue taking part in benefit plans while on leave, such as:
- Pension plans.
- Life insurance plans.
- Accidental death plans.
- Extended health plans.
- Dental plans.
You must inform your employer in writing that you are opting out of your benefits if you choose to do so.
Combining Stress Leave with Other Leaves
You are allowed to combine sick leave with other legally-provided leaves if your circumstances fit the requirements for those leaves. Other leaves workers are legally entitled to in Ontario include:
- 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
The Right to Continue Earning Time Towards Your Length of Service
While you are on any legally-entitled leave, you continue to add time to the length of your employment and keep your seniority.
The length of your service is used to determine other key entitlements such as severance pay, vacation pay and vacation time off, for example.
If you take stress leave while you are still on probation, however, that time does not count towards completing the probationary period.