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Mental Health Leave Information Page

What is mental health leave?

Mental health leave allows employees to take time off work for mental health reasons. This leave allows individuals to focus on their mental well-being and seek treatment if needed without worrying about job security or financial consequences.

An employee can use this leave for therapy, counselling sessions, relaxation techniques, and self-care practices and return to work feeling refreshed. Unlike a standard leave, mental health leave reinforces the idea that mental health is just as important as physical health.  

While there is no specific legislation for mental health leave in Australia. The National Employment Standards (NES) sets the minimum employment standards for all Australian workers under the Fair Work system. Governed by the Fair Work Act 2009, this system requires employers to be reasonable and flexible when it comes to granting personal leave.

In the case of mental health leave, the Fair Work Ombudsman refers to personal leave as a form of sick leave. Under this category, employees are allowed a maximum of 10 days of paid personal leave per year. For more information on mental health leaves, you can read our blog titled ‘Understanding Mental Health Leave in Australia’, which covers the topic in detail.

How do I apply for mental health leave?

If you want to apply for mental health leave, you need to understand the process of obtaining an absence from work certificate. The Fair Work Ombudsman states that employers can ask employees to provide proof that their leave was due to an illness or injury preventing them from working. Many workplaces accept online absence certificates from healthcare providers as valid documentation.

Policies on mental health leave differ widely among industries and employers. Each organisation may have its policies and procedures for requesting and granting mental health leave. Despite these differences, a common framework exists for employees. The Fair Work Ombudsman Australia states that employers can ask for proof, like a medical certificate, when an employee takes leave for mental health-related illnesses. This rule can apply even for brief absences of a day or less.

Obtaining a mental health leave in the form of an absence from work certificate ensures employees meet standard requirements and avoid leave rejection. This service offers a convenient and reliable way to secure necessary documentation, helping employees comply with their employer’s policies and maintain their entitlement to paid mental health leave.

Rules regarding mental health leave as per Fair Work 2009

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman website, employees are entitled to take leave for various reasons, such as:

  • Holiday (Annual Leave)
  • personal illness
  • caring for sick family members
  • addressing family and domestic violence issues
  • becoming a parent
  • Long service leave
  • Community service leave

One can take mental health leave as a part of personal illness. The NES outlines the minimum standards for leave accrual, notice, and responsibility for both employer and employee during leave.

Mental health leave accumulation

Employees can use their sick leave for mental health purposes, as it can accumulate and be carried over to the next leave year. Understanding your annual sick day allowance can help you plan for your mental health needs. According to NES, full-time employees are entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave annually, while part-time employees receive a pro-rata amount.

Does unused sick leave expire?

If you choose not to use your sick leave, it will accumulate over time. This accumulation begins from your first day of employment and is calculated based on your regular working hours. Any unused leave at the end of the year will carry over to the following year.

Sick leave continues to accrue during:

  • Paid leave (e.g., annual leave, sick leave, carer’s leave)
  • Community service leave (including jury duty)
  • Long service leave

However, it does not accrue during:

  • Unpaid annual leave
  • Unpaid sick leave
  • Unpaid parental leave

You can read more about sick leave entitlements and how often it accumulates on the  Fair Work Ombudsman Australia website.

Payment for mental health leave

When employees take mental health leave, they receive their standard hourly wage for each hour of leave. This compensation covers their usual working hours but excludes any overtime. The standard hourly rate does not encompass the following:

  • Incentive-based payments
  • Bonuses
  • Loadings
  • Allowances
  • Overtime
  • Penalty rates

For more information, refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Why you should consider taking mental health leave

Mental health is just as important as physical health. If your mental health is affecting your ability to perform at work, it may be time to consider taking a mental health leave. Some signs that indicate you may need to take a mental health leave include situations such as:

  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with daily tasks
  • Experiencing severe anxiety or panic attacks
  • Dealing with depression that is impacting job performance
  • Coping with grief or trauma

It’s important to prioritise self-care and take the necessary time off to focus on your well-being. Mental health leave can provide you with the time and space needed to address any underlying issues and return to work feeling refreshed and ready to perform at your best.

Worker who applied for Mental Health Leave seeing a psychologist in Australia

Carer’s Leave FAQs

Under the Fair Work Act, employers have the right to request proof “that would convince a reasonable person” of an employee’s entitlement to a Carer’s Leave. While there are no rigid guidelines on the specific evidence needed, it should be persuasive to a reasonable individual. Acceptable forms of evidence include digital Carer’s Leave certificates.

Telehealth doctors have the authority to issue legally acceptable medical certificates, provided they include all the essential information. This includes the doctor’s name and address, the patient’s name, examination date, certificate issuance date, and when the patient was or will be unable to attend. By ensuring comprehensive details, these certificates maintain their validity and legitimacy.

The appropriate term for certificates that serve as evidence for Carer’s Leave is a carer’s Certificate. Some recognised certificates include:

  1. Medical Certificate – issued and signed by doctors.
  2. Certificate of Capacity – issued and signed by doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, or osteopaths.
  3. Certificate for Absence from Work – issued and signed by pharmacists.
  4. Certificates by Nurse Practitioners – In some states, Nurse Practitioners have the authority to issue certificates for sick leave, although this may not be universally applicable.

Although the Act does not explicitly define the term “reasonable person,” it typically refers to an individual who demonstrates sound judgment and maintains a fair and sensible perspective that others in similar circumstances might also hold. When presenting evidence for Carer’s Leave, it is important to provide compelling information that would satisfy someone with these qualities.

The AMA guidelines establish the benchmark for issuing medical certificates, outlining the essential elements of a valid certificate while underscoring healthcare providers’ ethical and professional obligations to issue precise and honest certificates.

Employers should only accept an online Carer’s Leave certificate if it contains all the necessary details as outlined in the AMA guidelines or policies. These certificates maintain legal validity as official documents when they adhere to the established criteria

If an employer fails to recognise a legally valid certificate, the employee has the option to seek assistance or file a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman in Australia. The Ombudsman will then investigate the matter and work towards a potential resolution.

Carer’s Leave is typically taken to care for immediate family or household members. However, if the person requiring care is not an immediate family or household member, it may be more suitable to request compassionate leave or an annual leave, pending approval from the employer.

Carer’s Leave can be taken when there is a family emergency, which includes unexpected situations that demand the employee’s immediate attention and presence.

Employees are obligated to promptly inform their employer, even after the leave has begun. Additionally, they should communicate the anticipated duration of the leave to their employer.

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