Income Protection

Stress Leave: How to Take Time off Work for Stress

Written by:

Angelica Silva


October 28, 2020

Last updated

August 12, 2022

Reading time

5 minutes

Angelica Silva

Angelica Silva is a contributing writer for Oiyo. Over the years, Angelica has worked as a journalist for a range of publications with her work appearing in SBS, Business Insider, and Brown Girl Magazine. She has a Bachelor of Journalism and Arts from the University of Queensland.

If you’re finding yourself in a battle between work and play, whilst trying to land your dream job, score that promotion or just manage work as it is – welcome to generation burnout, population: you, and just about everybody you know.  

When it comes to stress and anxiety, Gen Z and Millennials are at particular risk. In a 2015 Stress and Wellbeing survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society, younger generations in the 18-25 age range were found to experience the lowest levels of wellbeing and the highest levels of stress. Researchers pinpoint financial pressure, lifestyle comparison and family issues as the driving forces.  

Everyone knows when you’re lying in bed with the flu, bin filled to the brim with tissues, that you wouldn’t think twice about staying home from work to recover. But what happens when it comes to stress? Would you feel comfortable taking the day off work, and can you really take “stress leave”?  

Even if you don’t view your situation as requiring “stress” leave, it still helps to know that this is a type of leave you are entitled to. On the chance you’re experiencing burn out, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions, taking time off work could help with your recovery. You may be wondering what that would involve; Oiyo is here to help.

What is stress leave?

Stress leave is an extended period of time that an employee takes off work to handle or recover from stress-related illnesses, injuries, and other circumstances. Generally, stress leave is required when an individual’s situation becomes so serious that it cannot be solved by a few days break or short vacation. 

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A few signs that may require stress leave include:

  • Inability to perform your tasks
  • Stress levels affecting your ability to work effectively
  • Work-related stress affecting your home or personal life
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety - confirmed by your doctor

Is stress leave the same as sick leave?

According to the National Employment Standards, most full-time employees are entitled to take 10 days of paid personal leave – often called sick leave – each year. Under the Fair Work Ombudsman, employees can take this paid sick leave if they are unable to work due to a personal illness of injury. Fair Work says this can include stress. However, the Employment Law Practical handbook finds ‘stress leave’ is not an official category of leave. 


Ultimately, whether you will be able to take personal leave for other mental health issues will depend on your individual contract of employment. Each company has a different policy, so you will need to check your personal rights when determining how many days you can take as paid leave, as well as unpaid leave.

Do I have to inform my employer?

Talking about mental health can be difficult. It’s a sensitive topic and understandably, many people don’t feel comfortable talking to their employers about what’s going on in their heads. While the conversation around mental health has certainly broadened in recent years, stigma surrounding the issue continues to persist. 

If you’re worried about your boss giving you the close-minded, “anxiety isn’t a real illness” response, the Fair Work 2009 (Cth) states your employer cannot discriminate or take adverse action against you because you’re going through mental health issues. So you can’t be dismissed, demoted or offered any modified terms and conditions of employment. As with any physical injury, every employer should regard mental illness to the same level of concern.

Weighing up the pros and cons of reasons to tell your employer about your mental health, headspace says you are not legally required to tell your employer about these issues unless it has the potential to endanger yours or your co-workers’ safety. 


Does income protection cover mental health-related claims? 

Income protection insurance – a type of insurance designed to pay you a benefit if you are unable to work due to illness or injury. This insurance can cover up to 85% of your pre-tax income in the event that you are injured, sick, or permanently or totally disabled and no longer able to work or earn an income.

According to insurance company, Zurich, mental health conditions are the second-most common cause of income protection claims in the Australian insurance industry. When applying for income protection insurance, it’s usually required that you inform your insurer of any mental health condition you have, or if you have had one in the past. If you disclose an existing mental health condition, there’s a possibility the insurer could perceive you as more likely to make future claims relating to a mental illness. Consequently, the insurer may:   

            • decline to offer cover entirely
            • cover with an extension for claims relating to mental health conditions
            • cover with a premium loading to reflect your existing condition. 

When it comes to covering people with an existing mental health condition, insurance policies can vary significantly. Generally speaking, it may be difficult to get a policy that would cover you for mental health related claims if you have an existing condition. Australia’s leading mental health organisation, Beyond Blue has frequently raised awareness around and advocated for the insurance industry to change their practices towards people with mental health conditions who are denied coverage, charged higher premiums, or have their claim rejected for income protection insurance. 

If you’re looking into income protection insurance, it’s vital to research providers and their varying policies, along with carefully checking their documents for any specific conditions that apply before you commit to them.

What if I’m not eligible for stress leave?

If your company is quite small, you haven’t been working there for long enough, or your doctor doesn’t consider your condition severe enough to leave work, you won’t be able to receive any protected leave. This doesn’t mean your company cannot approve stress leave, it just means they cannot guarantee you either pay or a position when you return to work. 

Don’t sweat it. Instead, have a chat to your employer about taking time off as unpaid personal leave to get the rest and treatment you need. 


In an era where young people are taking on multiple jobs, creating startups, and adding to their never-ending list of side hustles, it’s easy for any of us to lose our way on a universal journey to being our most productive, successful selves. When stress is beginning to impact this productivity, and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and unable to complete the simplest of tasks, taking leave away from work is something that can help you feel yourself again and relieve your stress symptoms.

A healthy – physically and mentally – you means a you that is able to work to the best of your ability. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, check out some of these helpful resources:


Looking for more info on income protection?

Check out our articles here.

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Oiyo is a consolidated online resource, we are not financial advisors. We work with a range of industry professionals and compliance check our articles to ensure factual accuracy. However, we do not provide professional financial advice. Consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation, or other advice to check how the information and ideas presented in this article relate to your unique circumstances.


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