Mental Health Leave FAQ for HRs and Employees

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No one is proof of mental health issues. According to e-days, mental illness affects nearly a fifth of all workers.

Luckily, businesses understand their legal and ethical responsibility for their employees’ mental well-being and its impact on productivity and retention.

In this blog post, we will define the mental health leave of absence, look at the laws that govern it, and consider the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees.

What Is a Mental Health Leave of Absence?

Employees can take mental health leave when they need time off work to address their mental health problems without fear of losing their job or facing negative consequences.

Mental health leave can be taken for various reasons, such as depression, anxiety, burnout, or other concerns. It can be a short-term leave, such as a few days or weeks, or a longer-term leave, such as several months.

Mental Health Laws

In many countries, mental health leave is protected by law, and employers must provide their employees with this type of leave.

However, the specifics of mental health leave may vary depending on the employer, the employee’s position, and the country’s laws and regulations.


In the United States, mental health leave is regulated by several laws at the federal and state levels. Some of the key laws include:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including mental health conditions, in the workplace. Employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including mental health conditions unless doing so would cause undue hardship.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) broadens the definition of disability under the ADA, making it easier for individuals with mental health conditions to qualify for protection under the law.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specific family and medical reasons, including mental health conditions. Employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months to be eligible for FMLA leave.
  • State laws. In addition to federal laws, many states have their own laws and regulations regarding mental health leave. These laws may provide additional protections and benefits to employees, such as paid leave or broader definitions of disability.


In the United Kingdom, mental health leave is regulated by several laws and policies at the national level. Some of the key laws and policies include:

  • Employment Rights Act 1996 provides employees the right to take time off work for dependents, including time off to care for someone who is ill, injured, or has a mental health problem.
  • Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace. Employers must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with mental health conditions, such as flexible working arrangements or time off for medical appointments.
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure their employees’ health, safety, and welfare, including their mental health. Employers must assess their employees’ mental health risks and take steps to prevent harm.
  • Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 prohibits discrimination against individuals with mental health conditions in certain areas, including employment.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) policy provides eligible employees up to 28 weeks of SSP if they cannot work due to a mental health condition.
  • Fit for Work policy provides free occupational health assessments and advice to employees absent from work due to a mental or physical health condition for four weeks or more.


Mental health leave in Europe is regulated by national laws and policies in each individual country. However, some overarching laws and policies in the European Union provide guidance and support for mental health leave. These include:

  • The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is a legally binding document that outlines the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in the European Union. It includes the right to work under safe and healthy conditions and the right to health.
  • The European Social Charter is a treaty adopted by the Council of Europe that outlines social and economic rights, including the right to health protection.
  • The Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work provides a general framework for ensuring the safety and health of workers in the European Union, including measures to prevent work-related stress and psychosocial risks.
  • The European Pillar of Social Rights is a set of principles and policies to improve social rights and protections in the European Union. It includes the right to fair working conditions, the right to a work-life balance, and the right to information and consultation.

How to Take a Mental Health Leave of Absence (Tips for Employees)

Taking a mental health leave is a personal decision and can be a difficult one to make. However, prioritizing your mental health and well-being can ultimately benefit both you and your employer in the long run.

The specific steps for taking a mental health leave vary depending on the employer and the country, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Consult a medical health professional. This may include a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed therapist, or primary care physician. They can diagnose accurately, recommend appropriate treatments, and document your mental health leave. Employers usually require medical documentation or a note from a licensed medical professional to confirm the need for the leave and the expected duration. These documents outline the nature and severity of your mental health condition and any recommended treatments or accommodations. Such information can help your employer understand your needs and determine the appropriate accommodations for your return to work.
  • Check your legal rights. Look up the laws and regulations in your country or state to see any requirements or restrictions on taking a mental health leave.
  • Inform your employer. Speak with your employer or human resources representative to discuss your need for a mental health leave or submit a formal email/notice. Explain your situation and the reasons for taking the leave, and provide any medical documentation or notes from your mental health professional if required. Ask about the process for taking a leave and any paperwork or documentation you need to provide.
  • Plan your time off. Consider how much time you need to recover, attend therapy sessions, or focus on self-care. Make a plan for managing your workload and responsibilities while you’re away, and provide any necessary information to colleagues or supervisors covering for you.
  • Stay in touch. Stay in communication with your employer and colleagues during your time off. Tell them how you’re doing and when you will return to work. If possible, update your recovery progress and any changes in your situation.

How to Process Mental Health Leave Requests (Tips for Managers and HRs)

Processing mental health leave requests can be a sensitive and complex process for HR and managers. These requests should be handled with care and sensitivity.

By being supportive and clearly stating related policies and procedures, HR and managers can help employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns and ensure they receive the help they need.

Here are some general guidelines for how to handle mental health leave requests:

  • Treat leave requests with sensitivity. Mental health concerns can be highly personal. Provide your employees with all possible means of requesting leave without disclosing the reasons to the public.

For example, you can encourage them to submit their requests via leave management software like actiPLANS to maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

You can use the standard sick leave type for mental health leave requests to make your employees feel more comfortable. Or create a custom leave type and give it any name you like to track how many employees suffer from specific health issues and adjust your HR strategy to provide them maximum support.

Custom leave types

  • Request medical documentation and determine eligibility. Determine if the employee is eligible for mental health leave under the company’s policies and applicable laws or regulations. Consider any other relevant factors, such as the employee’s job duties and the impact of their absence on the organization.
  • Provide accommodations. If the employee is approved for mental health leave, provide any necessary accommodations or support, such as a return-to-work plan or flexible work arrangements upon their return.
  • Stay in touch. Communicate with the employee throughout their leave, providing updates on their status and any changes to their workload or responsibilities. Offer additional support and resources if available.

Maintaining Mental Well-being in the Workplace

Maintaining mental well-being in the workplace is crucial for overall health, productivity, and job satisfaction.

Here are some ways to help your employees cope with stress and burnout:

1. Promote open communication. Ensure employees feel comfortable discussing mental health concerns with their managers or HR representatives. Provide resources and support such as employee assistance programs or mental health workshops.

2. Prioritize self-care. Encourage to take breaks, practice mindfulness, and engage in physical activity. Provide resources for stress management, such as meditation apps or yoga classes.

3. Eliminate workplace stressors. Identify and address issues, such as unrealistic deadlines or heavy workloads. Offer support and resources for managing stress, such as time management tools or stress-reduction techniques.

And stay well!

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