How to get a doctor’s note for stress leave?

In this guide, we will discuss the topic How to get a doctor’s note for stress leave, what are the most common symptoms of stress, reasons why an employee may ask for stress leave, the steps you can follow to ask your doctor for a sick note due to stress, how you could tell your employer you will be off (due to stress) and some additional recommendations.

How to get a doctor’s note for stress leave?

If you want to get a doctor’s note for stress leave, it is imperative, to be honest.

Everyone has experienced stress in their work or their lives, but some people struggle to deal with it.

When it becomes too overwhelming and it starts to impact their lives significantly then, taking some time off work could be good for your mental health.

The workplace environment can be a major source of stress from having an important presentation for a client or, a disagreement with a co-worker or manager, stress can easily come into your life.

If you feel too overwhelmed about stress, you can go to your GP and ask if they can give you a few days off work (or sick leave) to get better. 

A Sick or “Stress leave is an extended period of time that an employee takes off work to deal with or recover from stress-related illnesses, injuries, and other predicaments.”

People worry, thinking about can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note? This might happen in some cases though, but you need to give them a valid reason for not doing it.

Stress symptoms

It is important to be aware of the symptoms that could be related to stress before it gets too overwhelming for you to function in your daily life activities.

Some of the signs may include:

  • Difficulties concentrating or feeling unable to perform your duties.
  • Your manager or co-workers have noticed your performance has decreased.
  • Work-related stress is impacting your personal life.
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pains
  • Chest pains 
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue 
  • Difficulty going to sleep (insomnia)
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increased anger or irritability
  • Substance abuse (i.e. alcohol, drugs)

Stress can not only affect your mental health putting you at risk of developing depression, but it can also increase the risk of medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or gastrointestinal problems. 

Reasons why employees apply for stress leave  

There are some common reasons why employees decide to get a sick note from their doctor. Some of them are:

  • A Heavy workload: we know sometimes employers feel like putting a lot of pressure or things to do over one employee. The responsibility can be too much and even more so if you have committed to a deadline.
  • Lack of work-life balance: for some employees balancing or drawing the line between your work and personal life can be very difficult. When there is an imbalance we strat struggling living and it can become very stressful.
  • Conflicts with co-workers: many employees can identify with having at least a discussion, argument, or conflict with a co-worker or their boss. If left unresolved, it can escalate and make us feel unhappy working in a hostile environment, which leads to a lot of stress.
  • Bullying: this type of situation can, not only be very stressful but it can also be very detrimental to your mental health by potentially making you feel depressed.

Other reasons may involve harassment, discrimination, lack of control over tasks, unclear or false expectations, etc.

Steps in how to get a stress leave

Stress leave can be a good option to take some time off work, removing yourself from the situation that is causing stress, and just taking time for yourself and your recovery.

However, consider how there is no guarantee your GP will issue a fit note for stress since it is not considered a mental health illness.

The first step is setting up an appointment with your GP and telling your doctor how you feel and how stress is affecting your life.

In addition, identify some possible triggers and let your doctor know about them, no detail is insignificant.

Your doctor may issue a fit not to get signed off work for a few days but they could also decide not to if they don’t consider you need time off.

Here are some key points to consider during your appointment (

  • Be open about your symptoms
  • Be upfront about your feelings. Don’t leave out any details.
  • Listen to your doctor’s advice
  • If needed, book follow-up appointments
  • Explain your situation clearly and what you feel triggers your predicament

How to tell my employer?

You have been to your GP and they gave you a fit note or basically a doctor’s note for stress leave.

Now you wonder how to inform your employer you will be off for a few days.

It is normal if you don’t feel comfortable with explaining your employer about why you need time off work.

However, remember that stress is very common and chances are your employer is already familiar with this type of leave.

If you feel more comfortable, talk directly to your boss or talk to someone at the HR department and explain that your stress levels prevent you from working effectively.

Also let them know your doctor has issued a fit note and any recommendations he/she may have given you. 

Although you are not obligated to discuss every single detail, you can give them some information related to your condition.

In addition, the Uk Government on their website indicates “If it says the employee ‘may be fit for work’, employers should discuss any changes that might help the employee return to work (for example, different hours or tasks). The employee must be treated as ‘not fit for work’ if there’s no agreement on these changes.”

Can my doctor refuse to sign me off for stress?

There is always a chance that your doctor may refuse to sign you off for stress.

Stress is not classed as mental illness even though it can contribute to developing anxiety or depression.

Your doctor will assess your situation and your own personal circumstances and will decide what is best for you.

If he/she considers you need some time off to recover, they will issue a fit note and may even add some recommendations.

In addition, you may be asked to schedule a follow-up appointment before going back to work to determine your overall health. 

Do I need to go back to see my GP again?

It depends on how you are feeling after being signed off work.

You can probably feel better after a few days and be ready to go back or you could need more time to be fully able to resume your duties.

Here it is necessary to determine if your job is the one making you sick or if there is something else making you feel unwell.

Work with your boss to see if there are adjustments or arrangements made for you to feel more comfortable and supported at your workplace, especially because it is your employer’s obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the Health, Safety, and Welfare of their employees.

Why is this blog about How to get a doctor’s note for stress leave important?

Getting a doctor’s note for stress doesn’t need a magic formula.

As we have discussed, if you are too stressed and you are feeling overwhelmed by it, make sure to let your doctor know about how stress is taking over your life and negatively impacting it.

After getting your fit note or sick leave, you can take some time to focus on you and recovering.

However, it is important to let your employer know you will be off work for as long as the fit note states you need to.

You can talk directly to your boss to let him/her know you will be off or you can talk to your HR team or manager.

It is not necessary for you to reveal all the details about why you are taking the time off if you don’t feel comfortable but remember stress is extremely common and employers deal with stress leave all the time so no need to feel ashamed.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to get a doctors note for stress leave

Will the doctor sign me off work with stress?

Your doctor may sign you off work with stress.

However, if your GP determines you need some time off work to deal with stress then he/she will issue a fit note.

How do I get my doctor to give me stress leave?

If you need your doctor to give you a stress leave, set up an appointment with your GP, be honest about how you are feeling, and why you need the sick leave.

Your GP will need as much information and details as possible to get a picture of your overall health and determine whether or not you do need the sick leave.

How long can you be signed off from work with stress?

You can self-certify the first 7 days of being off work with stress but if you still feel unwell, you should visit your GP who can give you a leave of absence. 

What do I tell my doctor to get stress leave?

Here are some key points to consider when telling your doctor you need to get stress leave:

Be honest and open about your symptoms.
Don’t leave out any details, it is important for the doctor to get a clear picture.
If your doctor gives you advice, listen, and try to follow.
If you need a follow-up appointment, make sure to.
If you have identified any triggers, let your doctor know about them.

Can you be off work with stress?

You can be off work with stress, if stress is being too overwhelming, it is affecting your performance or you don’t know how to cope with it anymore.

Talk to your doctor so they can determine if you need a fit note to stay off work.

References “What Is Stress Leave & How Can You Request It?” “Taking sick leave”

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