Personal leave: What your boss really thinks
WHEN we take a sick day, most of us know the rules - call the boss, get a doctor's certificate, fill in the paperwork, and nobody bats an eye.
But when it comes to taking "personal leave" when you're not physically sick, suddenly things get a bit less clear-cut.
Are you allowed to take the day off if you're feeling a bit stressed and run-down, without being physically ill or battling a diagnosed mental illness?
And if so - does that mean you can feel free to spend the day at the beach?
Our sister paper News.com.au spoke to Shine Lawyers employment law expert Will Barsby and Beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman to get the lowdown on the dos and don'ts of taking time off.
WHAT IS PERSONAL LEAVE?
"Personal leave depends of course on your individual contract of employment but generally employees have the ability to take leave when they are sick or for personal-related matters like mental health or physical issues. Taking leave is about looking after your personal wellbeing," Mr Barsby said.
WHAT ARE YOU ENTITLED TO?
"Most full-time employees are entitled to eight to 10 days of personal leave a year. Sometimes you can negotiate and some companies offer more than that. The critical thing is that you can't be dismissed, demoted or have your conditions of employment changed for taking temporary personal leave under the Fair Work Act. Employees can take it without fear of persecution from their boss," he said.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO PROVIDE TO YOUR BOSS?
Beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said employees were not required to disclose a mental health issue to their boss, unless it was causing harm to the employee or others.
Mr Barsby said while generally, most employees would not need a medical certificate for the odd personal leave day, everyone should check their individual contracts.
HOW CAN YOU USE YOUR PERSONAL LEAVE?
"It depends on individual circumstances and perceptions. You are not mandated to spend your sick day in bed under the blankets with a thermometer in your mouth, but at the same time it wouldn't be a good indication to your employer if you take a personal leave day and then post pictures of yourself at the beach on Facebook. What people do to de-stress is different. You need to use common sense; it's a right we have that we have fought hard for, so it's not something to be taken advantage of," Mr Barsby said.
WHAT DOES YOUR BOSS REALLY THINK?
Mr Barsby said that most reasonable bosses would be happy for employees to take time off to recharge their batteries - but that some were still breaking the law.
"Gone are the days when you had a stringent boss or manager and a servant-employee. Recent literature shows if you are looking after your staff, you are looking after your business.
There are huge benefits for business when it comes to making sure your staff is well and healthy," Mr Barsby said.
"Unfortunately we still see big and small businesses engaging in conduct against an employee for taking mental health days. We are still seeing discrimination in the workplace but the comforting thing is if you are persecuted generally there are protections in Australia under the Fair Work Act if you are penalised or adversely treated after taking leave."
Ms Harman said many bosses now realised healthy employees lead to healthy businesses.
"Taking time off work is actually a very sensible and smart thing to do. For every dollar invested in building mentally healthy workplaces, $2.30 is returned," she said.
ADVICE FOR WORKERS?
"Prevention is better than cure. You are entitled to take time off for all kinds of issues including physical health conditions but also if you need a mental health day or if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. If you take time off it can be very preventive. Poor mental health costs Australian workplaces $10.9 billion a year so we need to wake up to the idea that taking time off if you're feeling mentally unwell is actually a good thing for businesses and for individuals," Ms Harman said.
"It is your right to take personal leave and there are laws to protect you from any adverse action if you do take it," Mr Barsby said.