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How To Get Time Off Work For Stress And Anxiety

What Is Considered Sick Leave Due To Stress

Can I Take Time Off From Work? | Kati Morton

Stress leave is often recognized as a legal term but the most commonly used term is sick leave. It is often used to describe the situation where an employee is no longer mentally fit to work.

This can be caused by many factors such as stress, burnout, anxiety or depression.

Many people consider this as an option to get off work but for others, it is related to a serious mental health issue that affects millions worldwide so you are not alone and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

We live in a world where stress and anxiety keep rising at a dramatic rate even considering this a matter of public health.

How To Get A Doctors Note For Stress Leave

First things first, you may not require a doctors note for stress leave if you are availing of your sick days. In that case, even a brief consultation with a doctor should suffice. Just explain your symptoms and how workplace stress is affecting your well-being. If your symptoms are severe and you are seeking longer time off from work, a doctor will ask you to undergo tests before he or she will certify you as suffering from a stress disorder.

Workplace stress is a growing problem, unfortunately, and there is not enough awareness of the subject yet. At Soni Law, we advise employers and employees on all matters of employment. We explain stress leave Ontario laws simply and offer practical advice for their stress leave.

About The Author: Rahul Soni

Rahul founded Soni Law Firm, a boutique employment, labour, and human rights law firm, with the goal of taking his Downtown Toronto litigation experience and making it accessible to Ontarios Main Street employees and employers.

A Patients Guide To Taking Medical Time Off Work

Paul Pendler, Psy.D., ABPPAssistant Professor, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine,Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

When mental health issues arise, all areas of a persons life tend to sufferwork included. Under certain circumstances, people with mental health conditions may need to seek time off from employment in order to focus on recovery and restore functioning.

If you suspect you might need time off for mental health reasons, listed below are some helpful guidelines for how to engage your practitioner and your workplace on this issue.

1. Understand that having a diagnosis does not immediately constitute being unable to work.

There is an important distinction between a list of symptoms and how they might prevent someone from fulfilling the duties of their job. Often patients will tell their practitioner that theyre depressed or stressed and anxious, but these terms dont address exactly how the patient is unable to function at work.

4. It is important to maintain as much of a normal schedule of sleep-wake as possible, even while off work. Try to continue with a schedule that approximates your work schedule. This means getting up at the same time as you normally would, getting dressed, acting as if you are working, and continuing to operate in your life. People return to work sooner when they maintain this rhythm versus taking an unstructured approach to their lives.

Your Turn

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What Are Sick Notes

Sick notes are also known as fit notes, are certificates issued by a doctor. They are meant to inform or notify your employer or person in charge, that your absence was due to health problems. They can say fit for some work or not fit for work.

However, sick notes are discretionary and your doctor can actually refuse to give your one if they believe you are fit to work. They are intended to help document when your symptoms started, what symptoms you have had and how severe they have been, providing an accurate picture of your actual health condition.

Sick notes are generally used to show your employer that you are unwell and need time off work. They can also be used to advise your employer that you need a change in your work hours or duties. Other organizations such as colleges and Universities may also ask for a sick note, particularly if you perform poorly or miss an exam due to being unwell.

Subsequently, fit notes are intended and designed to prevent people from taking time off when they are not actually sick. This is why it is advised to refrain yourself from asking for a sick note from your doctor if you are not actually sick, since lying about it may have severe consequences that include disciplinary actions.

Before Discussing Stress Leave In The Workplace It’s Important To Note That Legally Speaking There’s No Such Thing

Christian Codrington, B.C. Human Resources Management Association senior manager, and Kelly Slade-Kerr, lawyer with Hamilton Howell Bain & Gould Employment Lawyers, both maintain that sick leave is the properand onlyterm that should be used to describe the type of leave that employees seek when they are not mentally fit to work. By calling things stress leave, I think we devalue it or make it really convenient for people to say, Well, things are tough, I need some time away, says Codrington. Under the law, they say, a person who is stressed out is not entitled to any legal protection.

Claiming sick leave requires a note from a physician with a diagnosis for a mental illness, which can include depression symptoms resulting from the grieving process or a traumatic life event. A divorce is a perfect example, says Slade-Kerr. It would be very rare for someone who is suffering the effects of a divorceto the extent that they cant workfor them not to be diagnosed with some kind of condition. Although dealing with heightened stress in and out of the workplace is not cause to claim leave, a diagnosable mental illness arising from those stressors is.

The BCHRMAs Codrington adds that employers should not be concerned with policing for the tiny percentage of employees who take advantage of the system, but rather they should demonstrate trust and encourage open dialogue. Be careful not to manage by exceptions, he advises.

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Why Is Stress Leave Necessary

Employees need stress leave to cope with any number of work-related stressors, which may include any of the following:

  • Dysfunctional work-life balance. If youre entirely unable to genuinely unplug from your work, then you may feel like you dont have sufficient energy to devote to other areas of your life. You dont have a minute to fix yourself a proper meal, let alone practice self-care.

  • Workplace conflict. Working alongside condescending coworkers, office bullies, or folks who get away with harassment is a recipe for unmanageable levels of stress in the workplace. Ultimately, you have to spend a lot of your waking life with these people, and when youre surrounded by toxicity, stress is sure to creep in.

  • Overworked.Burnout is a real phenomenon, and sometimes theres no way to get out from under a mountain of work other than taking stress leave.

    Unrealistic deadlines, duties that fall outside the normal purview of your job title, a lack of energy, and cynicism about your work are all factors in burnout that could require a period of stress leave to cope with.

After An Employee Gets Signed Off Work With Anxiety Or Stress

When dealing with a doctors note for stress and anxiety, you need to understand and assess the situation well.

If your staff member is going through personal difficulties, follow the advice weve given above. Show them you care about their wellbeing and want to support them.

If work-related aspects affect their mental health, dont wait for the situation to escalate. We recommend following this three-step approach:

  • Treat the issue like a sickness absence. By downgrading the problem, you risk upsetting the individual and making the situation worse.
  • If the employee experiences damaging levels of stress at work, assess what is causing this. Identify which factors and aspects need improving, agree on a plan and act on it.
  • If the employee becomes so stressed they feel they can no longer be part of the company, they can pursue constructive dismissal. In such a case, its in your interest to pinpoint contributing factors and resolve them.
  • Ideally, you should aim to prevent getting to the third stage of this process. The main goal of understanding work-related stress is to support and retain staff.

    Start by inviting them to a meeting either before they take time off work, or after. Ask them how you can help accommodate them moving forward.

    Dont hold such a meeting only to tick a box. Turn this into a real opportunity to improve the work environment, your systems, and ways of working. It will potentially benefit everybody on the long run.

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    Can I Go Out Of I Have Depression

    If you have been signed off work with depression you may be worried about getting caught if you are out and about, and people thinking you are actually lying about your condition. However, some mental health experts may actually recommend going outside and doing activities that can actually help you with your recovery and will, in turn, make you feel better.

    No one is expecting you to just be locked up in your house, in a dark room thinking about how you actually have more free time to feel worse. This is actually detrimental to your recovery.

    Why Is This Section About How To Get A Sick Note For Depression Important

    HOW TO SPEND TIME OFF WORK? How to get away from stress? Summer Getaway Part 2!#rolandventure

    If you are feeling depressed it is just normal and expected to want some time off work to get better. If you go to work depressed, it will be detrimental for you and your performance. Going to see your GP and ask for a few days off is nothing to be ashamed of. However, your doctor may refuse to give you a fit note, so make sure, to be honest about your symptoms and how you are feeling.

    Moreover, if your doctor has issued a sick note and signed you off for a few days, it is important to consider any recommendations or adjustments that can be made to your workplace so you can feel better when you return.

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    How To Tell Your Employer About Being Signed Off Work With Stress

    Just the thought of telling your employer about being signed off work with stress can be scary but it is best you talk to your manager or someone at the HR team and explain:

    • How your stress levels are affecting your job duties and your performance.
    • How you have received a sick note from your GP to take a few days off.
    • Some but not all the details of your leave .

    Can I Leave Work Due To Stress

    The simple answer is you can leave any job. You just need to hand in your notice. If you are too stressed to work your notice, you should be able to obtain a fit notice from your GP.

    The opposite question is: Can you be sacked for being off work on long-term sickness. Again, the same rules apply for any kind of sickness leave.

    An employer can dismiss you if you have been long-term sick, but they must:

    • Consider if you can return to work. This can be working flexible or part-time hours, or doing different or less stressful work
    • Consult with you about when you could return to work and if your health will improve

    As in all cases, if you feel you have been dismissed unfairly, you can take the case to an employment tribunal.

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    What Qualifies As Anxiety

    Feeling stressed or anxious from time to time is perfectly normal, we have all been there. However, it is important to differentiate between normal anxiety and having an anxiety disorder because you may not need a sick note if you are experiencing the normal anxiety levels but if the levels are too high and your life is being affected significantly then it may be necessary to get sick leave.

    Signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:

    • Anxiety levels impeding your ability to work or your performance.
    • Work-related anxiety levels are interfering with your personal life.
    • Being worried excessively.
    • Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.
    • Having panic attacks.

    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 . 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.

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    When Do I Need To Consult My Gp Again

    This really depends on how you are feeling after being signed off work. You probably find yourself going back just after a couple of days after resuming your duties at work but you are still feeling unwell.

    Then, it is probably a good idea to determine if your actual job is the one making you sick. You can try working with your boss to see if there can be arrangements made for you to feel better at your workplace, especially because it is your employers obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the Health, Safety, and Welfare of their employees.

    If after talking with your boss or the HR department, and there are no major changes implemented then you can think about considering going back to your GP. However, in many cases, your GP could advise you to change your job. Additionally, if stress is a persistent problem, you may consider going to therapy to learn how to cope with it.

    How To Get A Sick Note For Stress

    The first thing you need to do is contact your GP as soon as you know you need a fit note and get the closest appointment you can.

    Be very honest and straightforward with your doctor when answering their questions.

    This is to ensure the doctor has a full picture of your mental health and how much time ideally you will need off work to feel better.

    If your doctor determines your stress levels and anxiety affects your fitness to work then they can issue the fit note.

    This note can either tell your employer you are not fit to work or you are fit to work taking into account advice, suggesting some changes or adjustments making your return to work easier.

    According to Health Assured, these changes may include a gradual return, changes to the duties you perform or different working hours. If youre off work with stress or depression, these changes can really helpdiscuss them with your employer. If your employer is unable to make the changes, however, the note will be treated as if it simply says not fit for work.

    When asking permission to be signed off work, doctors are interested to know the following:

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