How to take a leave of absence from work due to stress

In this guide, we will discuss “how to take a leave of absence from work due to stress”, what stress is, reasons why you could be stressed, how to ask your GP for a fit note, how to tell your employer, and some additional considerations.

How to take a leave of absence from work due to stress?

If you are wondering how to take leave of absence from work due to stress, here are the steps you may take in order to successfully get a leave of absence due to stress:

  • Set up an appointment to see your GP.
  • Be honest with your doctor about how you are feeling and tell them how stress is affecting you.
  • Get your doctor to give you a sick note for stress leave.
  • Tell your employer you will be absent and how long will it take for you to return to work.
  • Focus on your recovery and getting better.
  • Return to work.
  • Follow any recommendations or advice from your doctor in managing stress at work.

But what is stress leave?

Well, it is generally considered as the period of time an employee takes off work to deal with or recover from stress-related illnesses when they feel mentally unfit to work.

Stress may not be considered as an illness on its own but it can certainly carry other complications and puts you at a higher risk of developing burnout, anxiety and/or depression. 

Some of the signs that you may need to get some time off work include:

  • Inability or difficulty performing your job duties.
  • If you are struggling to concentrate and you are often worried and have a feeling of uneasiness.
  • Stress levels are affecting your performance or your ability to work effectively.
  • Your work-related stress is affecting your personal life.
  • You may have symptoms of depression or anxiety (confirmed by your doctor).

According to WebMD, “Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.”

So it is definitely something you shouldn’t undermine or ignore.

Reasons why an employee may be too stressed

Here we talk about a few of the reasons why an employee could be feeling too stressed:

  1. Heavy workload

Having to deal with things going on in our lives and having too many things to think about.

In addition, having to maintain a good performance at work by being unable to say ‘no’ to colleagues or a boss is sometimes too much to handle and can add up to the stress you already handle normally.

  1. Struggling to balance your work-life

Kids, your relationship/marriage, emails, phone calls, social events, your family, financial stability (bills to pay), etc., can be hard to balance at times.

This is especially true if we don’t know how to take our mind off work when we are no longer in it.

If we are still checking emails at night and first thing in the morning or reducing the amount of time we spend with our family because we are too busy thinking about work, we will definitely upset the balance and will start struggling to cope.

  1. Issues at the office

Bullying, harassment, lack of support, discrimination, office politics, are just some of the many conflicts that can exist in the workplace.

Most of the time, our mood, self-perception, self-worth, etc., are influenced by the people we tend to deal with and work for every day.

This is true if you are usually surrounded by toxic individuals, putting you at a higher risk of our levels of stress increasing at their maximum. 

How can I get a sick note to take a leave of absence due to stress?

It will actually depend on the doctor who is assessing your level of stress to give you a sick note due to stress.

Also, consider that getting a sick note or a fit note from your doctor to get time off from work is not intended to be a holiday or for you to start going out every night. 

 You should focus on your health and following any advice given by your doctor so you can start feeling better.

However, sometimes it is difficult (even for a professional) to identify if you just need a few days off, or if your situation requires long-term stress leave.

Especially if you have started to show signs of ‘burnout’.

Here are some tips on how to talk to your doctor about getting stress leave (

  • Understand that being open about your symptoms is essential
  • Be upfront about how you’re feeling – doctors can’t read your mind
  • Clearly communicate the symptoms you’re experiencing
  • Be open to the doctor’s advice
  • Book in follow-up appointments if you need to
  • Explain your situation and what you feel are the root causes

Should I tell my employer?

If you have received a sick note from your doctor and you have been signed off work for a few days, you need to inform your employer you will be absent for the amount of time your sick note states.

It can be very intimidating and shameful to talk about your mental health with your employer but you may actually feel better by talking about it, they may actually understand how you are feeling.

You may feel very uncomfortable telling your employer the real reason why you need some time off so you should know you are not obligated to reveal all the details if you don’t want to.

However, it is important to understand how this is not probably the first time your employer has faced this type of situation with one (or some) of their employees. It is actually considered very common.

If you decide to tell your employer, you could try talking directly with your line manager or your HR team and explain how (

  • Your stress levels are impeding your ability to perform your job duties
  • You’ve received a sick note from a physician for leave
  • Whilst you’ll want to provide your employer with the details of your condition, you don’t have to explain everything
  • Don’t feel pressured into explaining the personal side of your situation
  • Sometimes it’s confidential and not necessary for your employer to know

Moreover, consider speaking to a close friend or a family member about how you have been feeling.

This will help you vent and it is actually a good alternative without having to deal with your symptoms on your own.

Do I get paid for sick leave?

As an employee, you can take time off if you are feeling unwell but you may need to show your employer a sick note from your GP if you have been ill for more than 7 days (including non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays). 

Fit notes are free of charge if you have been ill for more than 7 days and you ask for it, but your doctor might charge you a fee if you ask for a fit note earlier.

If your sick note says ‘may be fit for work’ your employer should discuss with you any changes or adjustments to make you feel more comfortable at your workplace. 

In addition, and according to ‘’, “You can get £95.85 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work.

It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.” You can’t get less than the established SSP but you can get more if your employer has a sick pay scheme or an occupational scheme, so make sure you check with your employer or your employment contract.

While taking a leave due to stress, one worries if he can go on a holiday whilst off sick with stress? To know the answer to this question, you can read our blog on it.

Why is this blog about how to take a leave of absence from work due to stress important?

When answering the question of How to take a leave of absence from work due to stress(and even claim benefits if you take work off stress) , as discussed, you can be off sick for up to 7 days(self-certify) but if you still feel unwell it is important to pay a visit to your GP, be honest about how you are feeling and don’t undermine any of the present symptoms.

He/she will assess your condition and will decide whether you should get a sick note to take some time off. 

After you have received the sick note it can be quite intimidating and scary to let your employer know you will be off sick and the reason why but you are not obliged to let them know about all the details.

Also, consider talking to a friend or a relative about how you are feeling so you don’t have to face this on your own.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to take a leave of absence from work due to stress

Can you take stress leave from work?

You can take stress leave from work either by being honest to your employer and asking for some time off or set up an appointment with your GP, so he/she can sign you off work by issuing a sick note.

However, stress is not considered an illness so it is up to your GP to grant you the sick note so you can take some time off to get better.

Can I take a leave of absence from work for anxiety?

You can take a leave of absence from work for anxiety if you feel too overwhelmed, struggling to cope and it is now significantly impacting your life.

You will need to talk yo your GP, so they can give you a sick note for sick leave. 

How long can you take a leave of absence from work?

You can take a leave of absence from work depending on the amount of time you have agreed directly with your employer (if you have requested them directly and depending on the circumstances/reasons) or the amount of time specified in your sick note issued by your hospital doctor or your GP.

How do I ask my doctor for stress leave?

You can ask your doctor for stress leave by:

– Setting up an appointment.

– Being honest about how you feel, especially if your stress happens to be stress-related.

– Your doctor will assess the situation and issue a fit note (if they consider you should take some time off) which you may need to show to your employer.

– Talk to your employer about your sick leave and take the time off specified in your note.

How long will doctor sign you off work for with stress?

Your doctor will determine how many days you can be signed off work with stress by issuing a fit note but you can self certify up to the first 7 days.

If you need more time you are required to go and talk to your GP and get a sick note to get more time off work to get well.

References “What Is Stress Leave & How Can You Request It?” “Stress Leave: How To Take Time Off Work For Stress” “Taking Sick Leave”