Can You Claim Disability for “Burnout” or Intense Workplace Stress?March 06, 2021
No matter how much we love our jobs, there can come a time when the job is causing so much stress, you may not want to even get out of bed and head into the office. Burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion due to prolonged, excessive stress, can leave you feeling overwhelmed, unable to meet demands, and drain you emotionally. It is a form of depression, something that Canada recognizes as a disability and therefore you can claim disability for “burnout”. However, getting disability for intense workplace stress can be complicated.
Before we examine if or when you can claim stress leave disability benefits in Ontario, let’s clarify what stress leave is: an extended period of time granted to an employee to take time off work, in order to deal with or recover from stress-related illnesses, injuries, and other difficult circumstances. Following changes to the Employment Standards Act in 2019, stress leave in Ontario has had to be availed under sick leave. For prolonged periods of time not covered under EI’s sick leave benefits, we’ll look at your options regarding disability benefits for stress leave or “burnout” in the sections below.
Workplace Stress and Sick Leave
People who are burned out and suffering from depression are often fearful that they will lose their jobs. In Canada, an employer can terminate an employee as long as they are not discriminating against the employee and give proper notice. Few, however, will fire an employee for needing sick leave as human rights laws in the country require employers to help those who have medical conditions that may interfere with their job duties. If you are struggling and looking for short-term disability for burnout employers are required to give sick leave as a reasonable accommodation.
Your employer can require a doctor’s note and may require that you submit new notes every three to six months.
Burnout and Disability
If you become unable to work at all due to stress and burnout and disability, you do have options. We got asked all the time, ‘Is stress leave covered by EI?’ In Canada, you can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits as well as short- and long-term disability insurance. There is also CPP disability and workers’ compensation. It is important to understand how each of these works in order to claim disability for burnout.
Workplace Stress EI Sickness Benefits
Another question we get quite often is ‘Can I go on short-term disability for stress?’ There are many situations in life that can cause us to feel stressed out to the point of not being able to function and handle our day-to-day tasks at our jobs. This leads individuals to be in need of short-term disability due to stress. One way that you can get disability for workplace stress is through EI sickness benefits which are for temporary disability. These benefits cover short-term disability stress leaves in Canada. If you apply for a stress disability claim the federal government pays 55 percent of your salary for 15 weeks if you qualify for EI sickness benefits. You must have paid into the EI Sickness program recently in deductions from your paycheque. If you received a cheque from an employer, the deductions are automatic so you would have paid into the program.
You can apply through Service Canada online in the comfort of your home. Your doctor will need to fill out a form confirming you cannot work for those 15 weeks and your employer must issue a Record of Employment to confirm the leave you take. However, if you qualify for short-term disability, you cannot claim both EI Sickness and short-term disability benefits at the same time.
Burnout Short-Term Disability Benefits
In order to claim disability for burnout for a short period, you may want to apply for short-term disability benefits. Under this type of benefit, you will receive 50 to 67 percent of your salary, and the payments last between 15 and 17 weeks, although you could be approved for longer periods. Payments are usually made bi-weekly. Your employer usually offers these benefits through an insurance policy our outside agency who will manage your payments. Keep in mind that not all employers offer short-term disability and if they don’t, you may qualify for EI benefits instead.
In order to file a claim for short-term disability for burnout, you will need to ask for a form from your employer. This form is in three parts as one is for you, one for your doctor, and one for your employer. It is your responsibility to have all three forms completed and returned. If the company denies your claim, you can request what is known as an “internal appeal” which will allow someone else in the company to review your claim. You are permitted up to four of these appeals. If you are still denied, you may need to file an appeal with the courts.
Burnout Long-Term Disability Benefits
Burnout long-term disability benefits are designed to provide assistance for a longer period than short-term or EI benefits. Your policy will provide information on how long the benefits can last, which may be 2, 5, or 10 years. They may also provide an age when the benefits will end which is usually 65. Burnout long-term disability benefits pay 50 to 67 percent of your salary and are paid monthly rather than bi-weekly. Like short-term disability, a company other than your employer may manage this benefit.
If your employer does not offer this benefit, you can purchase a plan through a private insurance company but you will have to have that policy in place for a certain period before you can claim disability for workplace stress. If your claim is denied, the appeal process is similar to short-term disability.
CPP Benefits for Workplace Stress
If your workplace stress has led to a permanent disability, you may qualify for CPP benefits which will pay until you are 65. Payments range from $600 to $1,300 per month based on how much you paid into the program. The more you paid in, the more your benefits will be. The deductions are automatically taken from your regular paycheque, so if you had a job that paid you regularly, you paid into the program.
In order to qualify, you must have a certain number of credits which are earned by splitting with a former spouse, paying into another country’s pension plan or if you left work to raise a child. You are able to get long-term disability and CPP at the same time, although the long-term disability company is permitted to offset your payments based on the CPP benefit. For instance, if you receive $500 in CPP benefits, your long-term disability can be reduced by $500. You also must prove that your disability for burnout is severe and prolonged. To file a claim, you must fill out the forms and have your doctor fill out a medical report. This is then sent to Service Canada.
Workers’ Compensation for Burnout
It is possible to file a workers’ compensation claim for workplace stress, but it is important to note that it is difficult to prove your depression is a workplace injury. Before 2018, workers’ compensation only recognized mental health claims that were caused by a single workplace incident, not chronic stress. However, in January 2018, Ontario implemented a new policy allowing claims for chronic mental stress to be considered a workplace injury. Not all insurance companies have adopted this, so you will need to speak to your employer about the possibility.
If you are dealing with extreme workplace stress and hoping to file a stress disability claim, contact us today to learn how we can help. You can arrange for a no-obligation consultation by filling out the easy online form or giving us a call today.
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