Maximum time off for stress (A brief guide)

In this guide, we will discuss the maximum time off for stress. In addition, we will talk about 

Some of the causes of stress not only at work but in your personal life, recognizing some of the symptoms an employee may be manifesting due to stress, how can your employer help you with work-related stress, how you can go about telling your employer about your time off and some additional considerations about the topic.

Maximum time off for stress

There is no maximum time off for stress established, in fact in the UK varies quite significantly depending on the case and circumstances and what the company policies are.

If an employee is experiencing significant stress levels, it is recommended to visit a GP to get a sick note if they require time off.

Employees in the UK can only self-certify without having a sick note for less than seven days.

After this period, if the employee gets a fit note, the GP will decide how long the employee needs to recover. 

But what is stress leave? Well, to start, this is the commonly used phrase to refer to sick leave.

In fact, stress leave would be incorrect since it doesn’t actually exist.

When an employee gets a fit note to take time off work, this means that the employee is no longer mentally fit to keep working.

Stress is not really considered an illness but employers need to pay attention to stress levels in their employers since it can carry other consequences such as burnout, anxiety, or depression.

Potential causes of stress

Stress is very common and from time to time it is even beneficial.

However, many people experience difficulties in their work-life as well as their personal life, for instance they could be experiencing a high workload, not being able to take time off even when being at home, difficult family situations, financial issues, issues with other coworkers, etc.

As indicates “Employees may struggle with acute, episodic, or chronic stress. The latter is the most harmful form and can lead to them requesting sick leave from work.”

More and more employers are paying attention to work-related stress since they can actually contribute to physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues and migraines, or even mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Employers should be aware of the potential causes to minimize the impact, which means employers won’t have to take as many days off or have a longer recovery period if there are strategies implemented to reduce the impact such as providing a longer lunch break or a special room where employees can take time to relax.

Signs and symptoms of stress

Employees may be manifesting through persistent lateness, reduced performance, complaints of insomnia, or an increase in sick leave their levels of stress.

Employers should consider their employee’s well being and supporting them might be the way of reducing the impact of stress.  

As indicates “As a business, you can also consider health & safety advice to overcome any issues there..”

How can your employer help?

Employers can help minimize the risk of stress their employees are feeling by considering:

  • Bullying from colleagues.
  • High workloads.
  • Workplaces that could potentially be harmful or dangerous to employees.
  • Lack of career growth or low salaries.

Moreover, your employer could be suffering through bereavement, which can add even more to the stressful situation at work.

If employers take the time to implement strategies for their employees to feel supported and comfortable when they are at the workplace.

Is stress leave paid?

If you have been signed off work due to stress and your GP has issued a fit note then you may be entitled to get Statutory Sick Pay.

In addition, your employer may also have a special sick leave policy that will indicate if you are entitled to paid or unpaid leave of absence.

However, this really depends on a few factors as indicated by

  • Your country’s legal system for employers
  • Your current position and working hours
  • How long you’ve been working for your employer
  • The size of the company and how many employees they have (legislation is often different for smaller vs larger businesses)
  • Your employer and their company guidelines

In the UK you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if you meet the following criteria (

  • You are classified as an employee
  • Your illness has lasted for a minimum of 4 days in a row (including those they don’t usually work on)
  • You earn in excess of £113 per week
  • You notify their employer of their sickness within 7 days

Do I need to let my employer know about being signed off work?

Your employer needs to be notified about your sick leave.

Ideally, before you start taking the time off but you are not obliged to let your employer know all the details or the “whys”.

However, it can be useful for your employer to know the reasons so they can implement adjustments or measures for the employee’s wellbeing.

It is recommended to get in touch with your immediate manager or your HR department, either through a phone call or an email.

If you are taking time off due to stress, it is important to avoid working during this time, meaning answering phone calls or emails related to work since it will be detrimental for your recovery.

Try to switch off work completely during this time.

How can I recover from work-related stress?

First, it is important to maintain a positive attitude.

It can be easier to say than to do it but reflecting on the negative will only perpetuate stress and anxiety.

Also, if you have identified the triggers or the cause of stress try to work on them while you are off. 

Doing mindfulness exercises can help you deal with stress and anxiety. Remember our bodies and our mind is linked, so we tend to manifest certain symptoms as a product of what we are thinking or over worrying.

In addition, it is no secret that physical activity is able to help boost our mood by releasing endorphins, increasing serotonin, helping to reduce the level of cortisol (stress hormone), among other benefits.

Your physical health can be improved by changing your diet, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, staying away from caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Moreover, improving your sleep pattern by creating a routine can also help you feel less fatigued and tired.

Reducing stress at work

So it is time to go back to work after being off but you are a bit worried because you know your stress will come back due to your demanding job.

Here are some techniques you can use when you are at your workplace to reduce your stress levels:

  • Speak to your boss and explain your situation, including some ideas on how to improve the time you spend at work.
  • If the workload is a big problem try to talk to your boss to get it reduced. There could be a possibility that your boss can reallocate some of the tasks.
  • If your job is too demanding, ask if it is possible to switch for a job which is less demanding.
  • Try to get your schedule changed or reduce your work hours.

Can I be sacked for stress-related absence?

This can be a real concern for most employees, getting dismissed for taking time off work when they are on sick leave.

Most employers are aware of the effects and impact stress has on employees and it is in their best interest to keep employees happy so they can be productive and stay with the company, but sadly it is not always like this.

The sad truth is that some employees only concentrate on their numbers and productivity, leaving the human factor aside.

With this said, employers are not obliged to keep your job open and they can in fact, dismiss an employee while being on sick leave.

However, some employers opt for dismissal after following a process making sure they give their employees off to consider getting better.

This prevents getting sued by the employee on the grounds of unfair dismissal. 

Why is this blog about maximum time off for stress important?

This blog about maximum time off for stress is important since it is a common question among employees.

However, as we have mentioned there is no maximum amount of time you can be off for stress if you have been to your GP and they have issued a fit note.

Being afraid of taking time off if you are too stressed just because you may be sacked can be detrimental to your mental health.

This is why you would have to prioritize and choose from keeping your work or improving your mental health.

If your employer is understanding and actually appreciates your work then you don’t have anything to worry about.

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

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about maximum time off for stress

How long can you be signed off work with stress?

There is no maximum time off for stress, your doctor will determine how long you need to stay off work to get better and recover.

Moreover, there are internal policies employers have for sick leave where they can consider extending your time off.

Check your sick absence policies from your employee handbook or talk to your HR department.

Is it OK to take time off work for stress?

It is OK to take time off work for stress, especially if your stress levels are too overwhelming.

Stress can be very detrimental if it interferes with your normal way of living and it can impact your motivation and performance. 

How do I get time off work for stress?

If you need to get time off work for the stress you can take up to 7 days off work.

When you come back to work, you can self-certify that time.

However, if you feel you require more time, you will need to get a sick note from your GP.

How long can a doctor sign you off for?

There is no maximum amount your doctor can sign you off for.

In fact, if you have been signed off for a few days and you still feel you need more time your GP may extend this period.

References “Time off work for stress” “Stress Leave: How To Take Time Off Work For Stress”

Street, T. (2018, May.) CAN I BE SACKED FOR STRESS RELATED ABSENCE?. Retrieved from

Metcalf, M. (n.d.) Everything you need to know about stress leave. Retrieved from

Was this post helpful?

[Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]