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  • Writer's pictureSpring Berriman

Mental Health Leave in Ontario: What You Need to Know

Mental health leave in Ontario

Taking mental health leave is a crucial step for many individuals facing mental health challenges, providing them with the necessary time to focus on recovery and treatment without the added stress of work. In Ontario, laws and systems are in place to protect employees and provide them with support. This comprehensive overview will cover what you need to know about taking mental health leave in Ontario, including eligibility, how to apply, and the support you can expect to receive.

Understanding Your Rights

In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code protect employees who need to take leave due to mental health issues. These provincial laws ensure that you cannot be dismissed, penalized, or harassed for taking a leave of absence for health reasons, including mental health.

Types of Leave Related to Mental Health

There are various types of leave you can take in relation to mental health. Here is a summary.

1. Sick Leave: The ESA provides for up to three days of unpaid, job-protected sick leave each calendar year, which can be used for personal illness, injury, or medical emergency, including mental health reasons.

2. Personal Emergency Leave: Depending on the size of the employer, employees may be entitled to unpaid leave to deal with an emergency, including a medical emergency resulting from a mental health condition.

3. Family Medical Leave: Employees are entitled to take up to 28 weeks in a 52-week period to provide care or support to a family member facing a serious medical issue that could result in death. This can apply if a family member is experiencing severe mental health issues.

4. Disability Leave: If your mental health condition qualifies as a disability under the Ontario Human Rights Code, you are entitled to disability leave, which is unpaid but job-protected. Additionally, you may be eligible for benefits through your employer’s disability insurance or the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefits.

5. Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Benefits: If your mental health issue is work-related, you may be eligible for WSIB benefits. This includes situations where work stress or harassment has led to a mental health condition.

Preparing for Leave

Here is what you need to consider when applying for mental health leave from your Ontario employer.

1. Consult Your Healthcare Provider: Your first step should be to consult with a healthcare provider who can assess your condition and provide documentation supporting your need for leave. That can include your family doctor, a licensed psychotherapist or other qualified mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

2. Understand Your Workplace Policies: Review your employee handbook or speak with your HR department to understand the specific procedures for requesting leave in your workplace.

3. Notification: While you don’t need to disclose the specifics of your mental health condition, you should inform your employer about your need for leave as soon as possible, providing any required documentation.

Applying for Leave

Here is what you need to consider when applying for mental health leave from your Ontario employer.

1. Formal Request: Submit a formal leave request to your employer, following any specific guidelines provided by your workplace. Include documentation from your healthcare provider if required.

2. Employment Insurance (EI) Sick Benefits: If you are taking an unpaid leave, you may be eligible for EI sick benefits, which provide up to 15 weeks of financial assistance. You'll need a medical certificate to qualify.

3. Disability Insurance: If you have disability insurance through your employer or a private plan, contact the insurance provider to start the claims process. Each plan has its own criteria for eligibility and benefits.

4. Communication with Employer: Maintain open communication with your employer about your leave and anticipated return to work, while also setting boundaries to protect your privacy and recovery process.

Returning to Work

When you decide you are ready to return to work and your healthcare providers agree, here is what you’ll need to consider.

1. Return-to-Work Plan: Collaborate with your healthcare provider and employer to create a return-to-work plan. This might include a gradual return to work or accommodations to ease the transition.

2. Accommodations: You have the right to request reasonable accommodations under the Ontario Human Rights Code. This could include flexible hours, changes to your work environment, or adjustments to your duties.

3. Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about your rights and any changes to relevant legislation or workplace policies that could affect your leave or return to work.

Support Systems

As you go on your leave you may need additional resources. Here are some that can be of service to you.

1. Therapist: Here at we are a collective of psychotherapists and we are available to help you navigate your mental health journey and support you in finding your way back to wellness. You can book a free call with us here. 

2. Community Resources: There are various community resources and support systems for individuals dealing with mental health challenges in Ontario. These can provide additional support during your leave. Learn more here.

2. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): Many employers offer EAPs that provide confidential counseling and support services for employees and their families. Check with your Human Resources department at work to see what is available.

Legal Protections in Ontario

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, employees are protected from discrimination based on disability, which includes mental health conditions. Employers are required to accommodate employees to the point of undue hardship, which means making every reasonable effort to accommodate your needs related to your mental health condition.

Taking mental health leave in Ontario is a right protected by law, designed to support employees in prioritizing their health and well-being. It's important to understand your rights, the available types of leave, and the steps to take when applying for leave. By leveraging the support systems available and maintaining open communication with your employer, you can navigate the process of taking mental health leave more smoothly, focusing on your recovery and eventual return to work.

Eligibility for Mental Health Leave

Here are some eligibility considerations as you consider taking mental health leave.

1. Impact on Work Performance: If a mental health condition significantly impairs your ability to perform your work, you may be eligible for leave. This includes conditions that affect your concentration, ability to do your job effectively, energy levels, ability to interact with coworkers, or manage stress.

2. Documentation from Health Professionals: To qualify for leave, you typically need documentation from a health professional, such as a your family doctor or GP psychologist, or psychiatrist, indicating that your mental health condition necessitates a leave from work for treatment or recovery.

3. Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Other Protections: The ESA provides provisions for job-protected leave, such as sick leave, personal emergency leave, and family caregiver leave, which can be used for mental health reasons. Additionally, the Ontario Human Rights Code protects employees from discrimination based on mental health disabilities, ensuring fair treatment and necessary accommodations.

4. Types of Mental Health Conditions: A wide range of mental health conditions can qualify for leave, provided they have a substantial impact on your work. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Depression

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Schizophrenia

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Eating disorders

  • Substance abuse disorders (when recognized as a mental health condition)

Book a free initial 30-minute call with a psychotherapist

We offer a free 30-minute call to start your journey in helping you evaluate the need for mental health leave and support you as you leave your work and take on restoring your mental health. If you’d like to book a call, click here. For questions, you can message us at: 

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