According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in five Australians suffer from mental health disorders. That’s 20 per cent of us.

With that in mind, there has been a push for employers to recognise mental health days for what they are – necessary breaks to look after an employee’s wellbeing.

“We’ve just lived through the most stressful year in modern memory,” says clinical psychologist Emma Brindel. “And while ‘sick days’ dropped across the board with most of us working from home, we were undoubtedly working with the biggest stress we’ve known. So why were mental health days almost non-existent?”

According to Emma, mental health days need to be treated as the necessary wellbeing tool that they are. “Especially now, when we’re insisting that anyone with anything even remotely resembling a sniffle stay home, it is beyond me that we’re not recognising that employees need to take care of their mental health as well as their physical health.”

While employees may feel justified in their request for a day off if they have a raging fever, few, it seems, have the same conviction when it comes to taking care of their mental health.

“If you’re a full-time employee in Australia, your right to mental health sick days is recognised by the National Employment Standards that’s overseen by the Fair Work Ombudsman,” says Emma. “They are legitimate days and if you need one, you are entitled to take it.” In fact, employees are entitled to take 10 sick days each year (sometimes called personal/carer’s leave). This includes leave for stress. 

“The onus needs to fall to the employer to make mental health days a normal part of being employed at their salon,” Emma says. “If you make it ok and speak openly about it, then your staff will more likely follow your lead. And it can only be a good thing for you – if your staff are encouraged to look after their mental health, their productivity will likely increase.”

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