Mind & Body

How to tell your boss you need to take a mental health day, according to a psychologist

Taking a day off work for your mental health should be treated the same any sick day. Here, psychologist Tahnee Clark explains how you can correctly ask your work for a mental health day without feeling guilty or ashamed.

Mental health is a part of everyone. Sometimes you may feel like you’re firing on all cylinders and other times you may feel like your dragging your feet. We all have ups and downs and it’s okay not to feel okay sometimes.

There is always something to learn from these times. So, take the time to check in with yourself and identify what it is you need in order to build your resilience. Resilience is the ability to stay strong in the face of adversity. It’s something that we can all develop overtime.

Good ‘health’ includes good mental, physical and emotional health and the many aspects of health are interrelated. Mental health influences physical health and vice versa. Supporting one area of your health will often improve other aspects.

Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter to read more stories like this.

When you’re not at your best, it can be a professional and sometimes even an ethical decision to take a day off to rest and recover. You don’t have to have a diagnosed mental health condition to take a day off. A day off can be a coping strategy that can prevent the problem getting bigger. If a day off is what you need, here are some pointers to consider when asking your boss for a day off.

How to tell your boss you need to take a mental health day

Federal laws help to protect workers with mental health concerns.

If you’re a full-time employee, your right to mental health sick days is recognised by the National Employment Standards that are overseen by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Employees can take off 10 sick days each year. This includes leave for stress. These 10 days can be used for both personal and carers leave.

The Federal Court more recently determined that casual and longer-term contractor workers that work regular hours may also be entitled to paid annual, sick and carer’s leave. You can call Fair Work Australia to leave more about your rights.

You should not feel guilty requesting a day off for your mental health. The Fair Work Act protects employees in several ways. For instance, this Act entitles employees to the 10 days off per year as needed and without the requirement to tell your boss about the specific reason. You may wish to simply say that you need to take the day off for personal health reasons. How you ask and what you say is a personal decision and can be influenced by the workplace culture and your relationship with your boss. Employers cannot discriminate against you if the time off is to help deal with a mental health issue.

When wanting to take a mental health day, it’s important to refer your company’s workplace leave policy to understand their specific requirements. Often, if you take off consecutive days in a row, workplaces require you to provide a doctor’s certificate. You also need to know the process to request and log days off. If you have two or more days off, you will most likely need a doctor’s certificate. Your doctor will discuss your situation with you and together you can determine what’s best for you.

There are some circumstances when you are not legally required to tell your employer about your mental health issues if you are working. All workers are legally required to make safe decisions in order to help keep yourself and others safe at work. Examples of circumstances where you may need to consider this include if you operate heavy machinery, transport people, or operate on people and you’re having trouble concentrating or making decisions.

Depending on the circumstances, you may find that your workplace can consider amendments to your role or offer a different position to support you whilst fulfilling their workplace requirements. The Privacy Act also protects workers confidentiality, limiting employers from disclosing that you have a mental health condition without your consent.

Tahnee Clark is Lysn’s COO and Head of Clinical. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.