Work-related stress sick note UK (A brief guide)

In this guide, we will discuss the topic of Work-related stress sick note UK.

Also, How you could get a work-related stress sick note, if you are allowed to go back to work even before the sick note ends, sick note rules at work and some additional considerations.

A work-related stress sick note in the UK gets issued when an employee requires time off work for treatment and recovery.

Employees that have been sick for less than 7 days do not require a sick note and their employers most likely will ask them to self certify by completing a form to confirm the illness.

However, if an employee is off sick for more than 7 days then a sick note is required.

Originally employers and employees alike referred to a ‘sick note’ when employees had to take some time off ordered by their GP but since 2010, the name changed to Statement of Fitness for Work or ‘fit note’ for short.

This is the medical statement issued by a GP, hospital doctor or a practitioner with the authority of confirming the absence from work due to sickness.

According to Criner-i, “Last year, work-related stress accounted for 40% of all work-related illnesses. If an employee becomes affected by stress and it starts to affect their health, they should visit a doctor who can provide them with a work-related stress sick note.” 

Moreover, if an employee is signed off work due to stress, depending on the result of their assessment, they may be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance or ESA in a work-related activity group.

After getting the sick note and getting it signed by a doctor, then it can be forwarded to the Department for Work and Pensions or DWP.

The evaluation or assessment a doctor performs, determines whether the employee is ready or not to return to work in the following expected outcomes:

Can I go back to work before my sick note ends?

Yes, if you are feeling better it is possible for you to return to work before your sick note ends.

The circumstances that make this possible would be if the employee feels better or if the employer is able to make reasonable adjustments to the employee’s workplace for an early return.

In addition, it is not necessary for an employee to go back and see their GP or hospital doctor unless stated by their doctor.

However, it is important to consider that an employee should not go back to work before the sick note ends if their doctor has advised so.

Sick note rules at the workplace

Most companies have their own sickness policy but some employees are not aware of it.

This is why it is important to know where you can look for this information (

  • The employee handbook should include details on the procedure for reporting absences.
  • The company policy must be clear and consistent and should also include information about any pay staff members are entitled to.
  • The need to make reasonable adjustments when absence is due to a disability.
  • Employees may qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) (payable for 28 weeks) if they have been off work for four or more days.
  • If organizational sick pay is offered, it should not be less than the amount that they would receive on SSP.
  • They must maintain communication with employees on sick leave to update them on any changes within the company.

Stress at the workplace

If you are experiencing stress when you are at your workplace, you are not alone.

Many employees experience high levels of stress due to overwork, harassment, bullying, lack of support from colleagues, a hostile working environment, etc. 

However, consider how stress in the workplace is not exactly considered an illness but it can contribute to developing physical and mental health conditions. “In fact, stress causes up to 40 percent of all work-related health conditions including anxiety, depression, and heart disease (” 

Some people may get to experience long-term or chronic stress which has been indicated to be detrimental to the performance of an employee having significant moral and monetary consequences for employers such as having a high absenteeism rate or staff turnover.

What can I do if I am experiencing stress at work?

If you are feeling too stressed at work due to work overload or being bullied, what you can do is to first, is talking to your line manager so he/she can help and even though it may be an informal discussion, make sure you put it in writing to keep track.

However, if there is no improvement, you can raise a formal grievance to your HR department.  

Moreover, if stress is affecting your health, it is recommended to visit your GP so they can give you a sick note to take some time off work. indicates, “According to the employment law, if you are too ill to attend work, you are entitled for a  Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 7 months. Your employer may also offer an Occupational Scheme to you, whereby you will receive more than the minimum statutory amount.”

Can I be sacked for being on a sick leave?

It is normal asking for time off if you feel your stress levels are sky-high, if you are unable to concentrate or perform your job duties as you used to, we are not robots so needing time off is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty.

If this is indeed happening to you, set up an appointment with your GP so he/she can determine if you need time off and issue a fit note.

However, your employer is not obliged to keep your job available on an open-ended basis.

Ultimately, your employer can actually dismiss you if you are taking a prolonged sickness absence, but only after following a process.

This means your employer will first attempt to investigate the reasons why you have been absent and if they find signs of stress related to your job then they must seek expert medical advice, usually from occupational health.

On the contrary, if they carry out the investigation and find there is no valid reason for your absence, they might consider your leave as gross misconduct and dismiss you.

Will my employer keep in contact with me if I am on sick leave?

Most likely your employer will attempt to keep in contact with you to check up on you and your recovery process.

Also, they would like to know when it is expected for you to go back and will probably make some questions about what they can do to help you or facilitate your return to work. 

If your GP has advised making any adjustments, here you can suggest your employer to implement them. 

However, remember your employer by no means is entitled to contact you to address any performance or disciplinary issues.

Work-related stress is known worldwide and we all have felt it at some point.

However, not all of us are aware of the policies or procedures we can follow when needing time off due to stress.

From a heavy work overload to being bullied, our first point of contact should be our managers or your boss but if there is no improvement, we need to file a complaint to our HR department.

Moreover, if we feel stress is affecting our lives to the point we have lost motivation, we can’t concentrate or we started having physical symptoms, it is important to visit your GP and explain the situation.

After assessing your particular circumstances, they will determine if you need time off and for how long.

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

Can you get signed off with depression?

You can get signed off with depression if your GP issues a fit note indicating for how long you will be off and when you are expected to return.

However, after they have assessed the situation they may or may not issue the fit note, be honest about your symptoms with your doctor. 

Can I ask my doctor to sign me off work?

You can ask your doctor to sign you off work if you have been more than 7 days off work (self-certified).

If you require more time, set up an appointment with your doctor and be honest about how you are feeling and how your depression is affecting you. Your doctor will assess the situation and if needed, he/she will issue a fit note.

Can I take time off work for mental health?

You can take time off work for mental health.

You have up to 7 days that you can self-certify if you feel you need time off due to mental health issues, but if you require more time you need a GP to issue a fit note.

Can you get a sick note for mental health?

Yes, you can get a sick note for mental health if you have been off sick for more than 7 days.

Set up an appointment with your GP and be honest about why you need a fit note.

If your doctor issues the fit note it will indicate how many days you can take to be off work and when to return.

How long can GP sign you off for?

There is not a specific amount of days, your doctor will decide how long you should be off work.

However, you can be off sick on SSP for up to 28 weeks.

References “Sick notes — a guide for employers” “Off work with depression what are my rights” “Employees going to work when they’re experiencing depression is counterproductive to all involved.”

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