Off work with depression what are my rights?

In this guide we will discuss “off work with depression what are my rights”, identify if you are being discriminated, understand the changes/adjustments your employer could make to contribute to your well-being and some additional considerations.

Off work with depression what are my rights?

Are you off work with depression and what to know what are your rights? Well firs off, let’s start by imagining the following scenario.

You have done everything so far, you have followed all the advice to cope with depression and as a result you have been signed off work by your GP.

However, you may have been feeling guilty for taking time off work due to depression.

Let us tell you that this is nothing you should be feeling guilty about, we know the stigma round mental illnesses and how they don’t seem to be “a valid reason” to take time off work, but they are as valid as having any medical condition.

Also remember how everyone needs some time to concentrate on their own issues and work through them.  

Let’s reassure what we have just said by mentioning the Equality Act 2010, where depression is considered a disability and it states that: 

“A person (P) has a disability if—

(a) P has a physical or mental impairment, and

(b) the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

People are often unaware of the phrase Off work Indefinitely and therefore misinterpret it.

One should know about these terms in order to be fully aware of his rights and duties as an employee with mental health.

Discrimination at work

If you have a mental health condition or illness, you may be too afraid or scared of letting your employer know because you may be worried about how they will treat you going forward.

However, as we mentioned, you are protected by the Equality Act and your employer needs to be aware about it.

If you are seriously considering telling your employer, also consider:

  • Asking your doctor for a note explaining your situation.
  • Not giving too much personal details, you are not obliged. Just mention how your mental health problem is impacting your job.
  • Who you share it with, meaning you could tell your HR manager or someone from the HR team but you don’t have to let your colleagues or your manager know about it.

In addition, if your employer did ask you in the past about your mental health or having any disabilities and you did not tell them back then but you want to do it now, make sure you get some specialist legal advice.

How can I show my employer I have a disability?

We are aware how mental health problems can be difficult to show since they are not visible, making it harder to explain to your employer.

However, some employers may be understanding and accept what you are saying without asking for additional information or proof.

Still, it is very useful to keep with you a note from your doctor or a mental health professional explaining (

  • What mental problems you have.
  • How they may affect.
  • Recommendations and adjustments that might be helpful to manage your work.

Fit for work?

According to ‘Blurt it Out’, If you have been off work with depression or any other mental health condition, your employer can refer you to Fit for Work, which is a government funded initiative who can offer you advice on returning to work, refer you to occupational health or can help you create a work plan. 

Can I get sick leave for depression?

Yes, depression is considered a very real and serious mental health issue, where your doctor can issue a fit note.

When you attend your appointment with your GP be clear, honest and open about how you’re feeling.

If it helps, you can actually bring someone along with you for support.

As Health Assured mentions, “Getting medical leave for depression is a good step on the road to recovery. It’s only a step, though—use the time to assess yourself, the things you need out of life and the barriers to your happiness.”

Taking that time off is not something negative or bad, it is actually what you need to feel better and come back to work with a renewed sense of yourself. 

Can I get paid while I am off work?

Depression can be a very debilitating and disabling condition.

It can reach a level where taking some time off to work on ourselves and recover might be the best option.

However, when you are off on a sick leave it is normal to worry about getting paid while you are off work.

According to ‘Blur it Out’, “The amount of time we continue to get paid at our full wage will vary from job to job, depending on our employer’s policy and how long we have been in the job.”

Depending on your employer and their policies, you could continue to get full pay for a certain amount of weeks, and then they can reduce it to half pay.

However, you could be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks when you have no longer been receiving pay from your employer and you have been off work for more than four days.

Adjustments your employer can make

When someone is suffering from a mental health problem and it becomes a disability, your employer is under a duty to make adjustments to your workplace such as (

  • Changes to your working space or area
  • Changes to your workload or schedule (reducing hours)
  • Being allowed to work from home
  • Being allowed to take some time off work to go to assessment, treatment or rehabilitation.
  • Temporarily re-allocating tasks you find stressful and difficult.
  • Getting some mentoring.

Sample letter asking your employer for changes

Here is a sample of a letter asking your employer for changes to your workplace.

This can be found originally in the website so you can download a copy if you found this helpful.


Dear [name of your manager/HR officer]

Subject: Request for reasonable adjustments

I am writing this letter to ask for some changes to my work schedules and arrangements. I

want to be able to do my job well and making these changes will support me to do it well.

(Describe your mental health problem and how this is making it more difficult for you at

work at the moment and attempt to explain:

  • what changes you would like to have made to your working condition
  • how these changes would help you to do your job better
  • if you can, set out how these changes can be done without causing problems for the employer.]

I understand that the Equality Act 2010 says that employers have a duty to take positive

steps to ensure that people can access and progress in their employment by making

reasonable adjustments for disabled employees when a person is at a substantial

disadvantage compared with an employee who is not disabled.

Employers must take reasonable steps to make address the substantial disadvantage and

this can include:

  • changes to the way things are organised – policies, procedures and practices
  • changes to the physical environment
  • providing extra aids and services. 

I do hope you will be able to make the changes I am asking for.

I would be happy to discuss this request in more detail but it would be helpful if I could

have a written response within 14 days.

Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

[Your signature

Your name in print]”

You can find a PDF version here.

Can I keep my job?

If you feel unable to do your job due to long-term illness and there are no reasonable adjustments/changes that can be made to our workplace/job then, your employer can consider a dismissal.

However, this would probably be their last option after they have attempted to make changes and adjustments to guarantee your well-being at your workplace.

Another scenario could be you feel better but you are currently unemployed.

Now you are thinking if you could apply to a new job but you may be afraid you are going to be discriminated if you admit you have had a mental health problems. 

According to the NHS “it’s illegal for employers to ask health or health-related questions before making a job offer.”

In addition, it is illegal to discriminate someone that has a health condition or a disability which is protected by the Equality Act.

You are protected against discrimination in (

  • Recruitment and selection.
  • Pay, terms and conditions.
  • Sickness absence.
  • Training and development.
  • Promotion.
  • Dismissal.
  • Redundancy.

Why is this blog about off work with depression what are my rights important?

As we have discussed, being off work with depression should not be considered something to be ashamed or guilty of.

If you have been signed off with depression by your doctor it means that you really need some time off to work on yourself and recover.

In addition, your employer shouldn’t take any actions against you or discriminate you because you have a serious mental condition.

However, it is important you know your rights and what you are entitled for in an event where you have been dismissed or discriminated against for being off work on a sick leave.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about off work with depression what are my rights

Can you be sacked for being off sick with depression?

You shouldn’t be sacked for being off sick with depression.

If you have been signed off work sick with depression by your GP is because you must need a time off work to rest and recover.

Should you take time off work for depression?

If you are feeling depressed and it is significantly affecting you then you should take some time off work for depression rather than struggling on your own and feeling worse being too ill to go to work.

However, if you feel capable of working make sure to talk to your line manager or   you trust about how you are feeling.

How long can a doctor sign you off work?

You can be signed off work as long as your GP considers you should.

However, if you are feeling sick you can only self-certify the first 7 days and if you are still feeling sick then you should visit your GP to get a sick note to get signed off work for longer.

What are the 5 fair reasons for dismissal?

The 5 fair reasons for dismissal are:

– Capability or qualifications;

– Conduct;

– Redundancy;

– Where continued employment would contravene the law;

– “Some other substantial reason”.

References “Discrimination at work” “Going to work after mental health issues” “Off work with depression what are my rights”