How to get signed off work permanently (How to)

How to get signed off work permanently

In this guide, we will discuss “how to get signed off work permanently” and some especial considerations.

How to get signed off work permanently

If you are thinking on how to get signed off work permanently, it means you may have been struggling lately to cope with work and it may be also affecting your personal life significantly, you may be sick or disabled or on a low income or having no income at all.

This means that your GP has a very important role that may include providing appropriate certification when required, for instance issuing a fit note, acting as an advocate, supporting and caring for any underlying health problem and supporting/providing any specific interventions to help you go back to work.

However, let’s specify on the terms Short and Long-term sickness absence.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance referred to on citizen’s advice, defines:

  • Short-term sickness absence as lasting up to four weeks.
  • Recurring short-term sickness absence as a number of episodes of absence from work, each lasting less than four weeks.
  • Long-term sickness absence (including recurring long-term sickness absence) as absences from work lasting four or more weeks.
How to get signed off work permanently (How to)

Consider that before you get signed off work permanently there is a process and some steps needed to be followed.

Here we mention some of the assessments and interventions to help long-term sickness and incapacity, so let’s say it is the last resort after all other resources have been used.

Benefits to claim if you are sick or disabled
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As we mentioned, there are some benefits you may be entitled to claim if:

  • you have difficulty with everyday tasks or getting around – Disability Living Allowance (DLA) if you are under 16.
  • you can’t work because you’re sick or disabled – Personal Independence Payment (PIP) if you’re 16 or over and haven’t reached State Pension age
  • you’re on a low income or you have no income – Attendance Allowance if you’ve reached State Pension age

In addition, if someone is taking care of you, check if the person who is looking after you can get Carer’s Allowance.

Are you sick or disabled?

In the scenario where you are employed but can’t work, You will usually get SSP or Statutory Sick Pay from your employer for 28 weeks.

In addition, you should check if you can get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if:

  • You may not be earning enough, you are employed but you are not entitled to get SSP.
  • Your SSP has ended.
  • You are unemployed.

Are you in a low income or you have no income?

In this scenario, if you are not able to work, you could get a “fit note” from your GP and send it with your claim form.

In addition, you could check if you are allowed/qualify for Universal Credit.

You might be able to get other benefits, for example:

  • Pension Credit if you’ve reached State Pension age
  • Council Tax Reduction if you pay Council Tax
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) if you’re looking for work 
How to get signed off work permanently (How to)

What will my employer do when having a long-term sickness leave or recurring short term sickness absence?

Let’s say you have been signed off work for 12 weeks because you are sick, meaning someone suitably trained such as an occupational health physician, a nurse, human resource specialist or your line manager (ideally after 2-6 weeks and before the 12 weeks) should contact you about your recurrent short or long term sickness absence.

They may make initial inquiries regarding:

  • The reason why you have been absent. 
  • Whether you have or haven’t received appropriate treatment.
  • How likely it is for you to return to work.
  • Perceived or actual difficulties to return to work, for instance including the need for adjustments to be made to your workplace.

In addition, your employer will consider your age, sex/gender, and type of work you do since these may be able to affect your recovery and ability to return to work.

Also, they may consider any incentives or financial issues that may encourage or discourage a return to work. 

If they consider action is required then they may ask for a detailed assessment to determine what interventions/services are required so you can develop a return-to-work plan, and a caseworker may need to be appointed to co-ordinate a detailed assessment, deliver any proposed interventions or produce a return-to-work plan. 

How to get signed off work permanently (How to)

Detailed assessment

If after the initial assessment, your employer determines there needs to be a detailed assessment.

Your employer needs to arrange for the relevant specialist to undertake it with you.

A detailed assessment could include one or more of the following items according to patient.info:

  • Getting further specialized advice on diagnosis and treatment or the need for further tests or sick leave.
  • This could be achieved through a referral to an occupational health adviser, a GP with occupational health experience or another health specialist such as a physiotherapist (or by encouraging the employee to self-refer).
  • Use of a screening tool to assess how likely it is the employee will return to work.
  • A combined interview and work assessment.
  • Deciding whether any interventions or services are needed.
  • Developing a return-to-work plan.

Combined interview and work assessment

This involves one or more specialists (might be a physician, nurse or another professional who specializes in occupational health, health, and safety, rehabilitation or ergonomics) and your line manager.

They may evaluate the following, according to patient.info:

  • Your health and social and employment situation. This includes “anything that is putting them off returning to work – for example, organisational structure and culture (such as work relationships) and how confident they feel about overcoming these problems.”
  • Your current or previous experience of rehabilitation.
  • The task you carry out at work and their physical ability to perform them (dealing with issues such as mobility, strength, and fitness).
  • Any workplace or work equipment modifications needed in line with the Disability Discrimination Act (including ergonomic modifications).

Return-to-work plan

This plan identifies the type of level of interventions and services that are needed and how frequently they should be offered.

In addition, it could also specify whether or not any of the following are required:

  • Gradually returning to your original job by increading the hours and days worked over a period of time. 
  • Returning to some duties of your original job.
  • Being moved to another job within your company/organization, for instance on a temporary or permanent basis.

Interventions to help a return to work: what do they consist of?

  1. An intensive programme of interventions

These type of interventions are intensive and could be provided by a number of different specialists over a period of several weeks.

In addition, it could also be combined with the care and treatment you are already receiving.

Some examples of intensive support may include one or more of the following (patient.info):

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or education and training on physical and mental coping strategies for work and everyday activities (this may be combined with exercise programmes).
  • Counselling about the issues involved in returning to work.
  • Workplace modifications.
  • Referral to specialised services (eg, physiotherapy or psychological services) or vocational rehabilitation or training.
  1. Less intense interventions

This usually includes short sessions of one or more of the following:

  • Being encouraged to be and stay physically active.
  • Referrals to a physiotherapist or psychological services.
  • Having an individual and tailored plan on how to manage certain daily activities at home and at work.

Can my doctor sign me off work permanently?

You may be wondering “Can my doctor sign me off work permanently?” because you have been sick either short or long term but you consider that the only way to get better is being signed off permanently from work.

However, consider that being signed off permanently can give your employer reasons for a dismissal on the ground of capability (not applicable if you have a disability). 

Your GP plays an important role by providing you an appropriate certification for your long-term illness, or he/she keeps signing you off.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines short-term sickness as the absence lasting up to four weeks and long-term sickness absence as absences from work lasting four or more weeks.

Enquiries from your employer when you are off sick

Ideally, between 2 to 6 weeks and before 12 weeks after your sickness absence began, employers my ask a trained health physician, nurse, human resource specialist or the person’s line manager, etc., to contact you to make initial enquiries regarding your reason for being absent, whether you are receiving the appropriate treatment and how likely it is that you will return to work.

In addition, your employer may consider your age, sex/gender and the type of work you do since these factors may affect the speed of recovery.

Also, as patient.info indicates “Consider any incentives or financial issues which may encourage or discourage a return to work (for example, any impact on pay).”

If action is required then a detailed assessment is needed to propose an intervention or return to work plan.

How to get signed off work permanently (How to)

Detailed assessment

If after the initial assessment, a detailed assessment is needed. Your employer will arrange for a relevant specialist to do it.

The assessment may include one or more of the following:

  • Getting further specialised advice on diagnosis and treatment or the need for further tests or sick leave.
  • This could be achieved through a referral to an occupational health adviser, a GP with occupational health experience or to another health specialist such as a physiotherapist (or by encouraging the employee to self-refer).
  • Use of a screening tool to assess how likely it is the employee will return to work.
  • A combined interview and work assessment.
  • Deciding whether any interventions or services are needed.
  • Developing a return-to-work plan.
How to get signed off work permanently (How to)

Why is this blog about how to get signed off work permanently important?

Being signed off work permanently requires a series of steps and procedures, considered to be the last resort when all the other options have been used.

Your GP has an important role since they determine whether you get a “fit note” to get signed off work and even determine whether you should or should not get signed off work permanently due to long-term sickness and incapacity.

In addition, there are other options you may consider as having recurring short-term sickness absence as a number of episodes of absence from work, recurring short-term sickness absence as a number of episodes of absence from work or being disabled.

Consider talking to your doctor about all the options you have available and those you could qualify for.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to get signed off work permanently

How long can your doctor sign you off work?

Your doctor may issue a fit note to sign you off work if you are sick for more than 7 days, subsequently, your employer will usually ask for a statement of fitness for work (or fit note) from a GP or a hospital doctor.

Fit notes are also referred to as medical statements or a doctor’s note.

How long can you be signed off work with stress?

You can get signed off work with stress by visiting your GP, who can get you a leave of absence to work.

However, they may or may not issue the note, depending on their assessment and what they determine according to your current mental state.

Remember, according to the employment law, if you are feeling too sick or ill to be able to attend work, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay or SSP for up to 7 months. 

Can a doctor sign you off work for stress?

Your doctor may sign you off work for stress if you have been struggling to cope with stress levels.

Your GP may consider signing you off work with stress after assessing your current mental health and considering your personal situation.

However, your employer may not consider stress as a valid reason for absence or sign you off work so it is important to check your companies policies or talk to your boss or HR department before being absent.

Do you get paid for being signed off work?

Being paid for being signed off work will actually depend on your contract and company policies.

If you are not paid by your employer, you will be eligible for SSP or Statutory Sick Pay through them but in some cases, the first 3 days are exempt.

You are required to self-certify the first 7 days, then the doctor’s line will be required

Will my doctor give me a sick note for stress?

Your doctor may give you a sick note for stress if they consider, after assessing your current mental state and personal circumstances.

If your stress levels are too high and it is making you feel ill, make sure to schedule an appointment with your GP.

If they issue a fit note, you must provide your employer with it or you may be at risk of breaching your contract.

Since stress is not considered an illness, make sure to ask your GP to be as specific about what is wrong. 

Recommended reading

  • Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle
  • The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships and Purpose
  • Calm Now: How to stop anxiety, stop stress and stop depression. Stop anxiety and stress now with this book
  • Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle
  • Stress Management : How to Stop Overthinking and How to Start Thinking Positively and Overcome Burnout Syndrome”

References 

Citizensadvice.or.uk: “Check what benefits to claim if you’re sick or disabled”.

Henderson, R. (2016, Dec.) Long-term Sickness and Incapacity. Retrieved from Patient.info.

How to get signed off work permanently (How to)

Daniela Paez

Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.