SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Employees with the Utah executive branch can now take paid leave for mental health care. Under an executive order from Governor Spencer Cox, the mental health leave benefit will take effect at the start of 2022.
The governor points to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that found nearly 41% of respondents reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition like anxiety, depression, loneliness, or increased substance abuse. A Society for Human Resource Management survey has also found work-related concerns left more than 40% of employees feeling hopeless, burned out, or exhausted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research has found 37% of employees have not done anything to cope with depression-related symptoms.
“As leaders, it is our responsibility to transform the ways we think about, talk about and address all forms of mental health challenges,” Gov. Cox says in a video message to state employees. “We all need to do better at taking care of ourselves and those around us. We need to shift the way we talk about mental health and make the appropriate care more accessible. Together we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.”
Under the executive order from Governor Cox and Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, all state executive branch employees are granted four hours of administrative leave to address mental health issues. Eligible employees must work with “a department, division, office, bureau, or other organization within the state executive branch, including the State Tax Commission, the National Guard, and the Board of Pardons and Parole.”
This does not include the State Board of Education, the Board of Higher Education, the Attorney General’s Office, the State Auditor’s Office, the State Treasurer’s Office, or the Legislative Branch.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of mental health to the fore,” Lt. Gov. Henderson says. “We hope this order will give employees permission to take time to take care of their mental health without question.”
According to the executive order, which you can read at the link above, permitted care for mental health leave includes coordinated visits with a licensed mental health professional, group educational sessions, and financial wellness programs.
The mental health leave benefit will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022. In addition, state employees can use existing sick leave for preventive health care, which includes mental health care.