What to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress?

What to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress?

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

In this guide, we will discuss what to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress and some recommendations. 

What to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress?

Probably you have been thinking what to say to your doctor to get signed off work with stress. Everyone knows that if you have the flu or you just had a baby then you need some time off work to stay at home and get some rest. However, what happens when you need some time off work due to stress, is it still as valid as having the flu?

Let us tell you that yes, it is still a valid reason and sometimes taking sick leave due to stress is the best thing to do. You may or may not see the situation as something you need to do but experiencing burnout, anxiety or depression long term can carry other consequences to your health.

Web MD agrees that “Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.” Stress is not something you should just ignore and leave untreated.

At this point, you may be feeling very stressed, frustrated and tired and you obviously are not feeling well. It is important to take care of yourself and if that means signing off work to help yourself feel a bit better, then that is completely fine. 

What to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress?

So now to figure out what to say to a doctor to be allowed to get signed off from work with stress, it is important to be transparent about how you are feeling and to give your doctor as much information as you feel as comfortable telling, they are professionals after all. 

However, stress leave is a serious issue. But how can you ask to take time off work due to stress? Well, it is your GPs job to determine if you actually need a sick leave due to stress. 

What if I am too stressed to work?

As we have discussed, this is a very common situation and can deeply affect your performance at work. If you feel unwell or unable to work due to stress, then a little time off can help you recover. 

It is also recommended to do this in moderation and it is clear that the time of your work routine can help ease mental health issues. Just assess the reasons why you are feeling stressed. Is it because of workplace harassment or a toxic environment? Is it because you have a heavy workload or work too many hours a day?

It is important to consider the reasons, also because you will have to give as much detailed information to your GP so it may be a good idea to write it down so you are clear about what to say to your doctor. According to Health Assured, “If you’re absent for more than seven days, including weekends and bank holidays, your employer will likely request a ‘fit note’”.  

This is also known as a sick note and is issued after an assessment of your stress and anxiety. 

What to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress?

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 straight forward 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 you’re off work with stress or depression, these changes can really help—discuss 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:

  • The symptoms you are feeling are essential, this way the doctor can accurately reach the proper diagnosis of stress.
  • Be very detailed, upfront about how you are feeling. There is no need for lying if you are actually feeling frustrated, stressed, tired and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Be honest with your doctor and explain everything you have been feeling. 
  • Clearly communicate the symptoms you’re experiencing. Try to describe everything you are feeling as detailed as possible, your doctor needs this information to assess your situation and provide the best options available for you. 
  • Explain your situation and what you feel are the root causes. Try explaining to your doctor under which situations or circumstances you feel the most stressed at work. This way you can probably identify the root causes and the source of your stress and anxiety. 
What to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress?

What is considered sick leave due to stress?

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 do you tell your boss you’ve been signed off work?

After your GP has decided you need to get some time off work you may be wondering how you should let your boss know. You can either chose to tell your HR department or your boss directly, it is entirely up to you. But some people chose to talk to their HR department mainly because they rather not talk about the details and avoid uncomfortable questioning. 

It is always scary and you may feel somehow ashamed but this is a very normal situation so don’t be afraid of being upfront and telling them what is going on without having to go much further into the “whys”. 

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 employer’s 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. 

What are the main reasons for related stress due to work?

Some of the related reasons are excessively high workloads, bullying or harassment, dangerous working environment or lack of support employees that are going through a difficult time. 

Let’s take a look at the first reason. It is not a secret that a heavy workload can cause a lot of pressure, especially when trying to meet specific deadlines or trying to impress your boss or manager. But if you have too many things or tasks to think about all at once, then it is easy to feel overwhelmed. 

The second possible reason includes bullying or harassment. It is completely understandable that you wouldn’t want to be at work if there is a colleague or even your boss creating an uncomfortable work environment through bullying or harassment. It is advised to exhaust all the available options to end this situation, however, if you feel you are not able to direct this with the source of your problem then you may want to consider taking your case to HR.  

A dangerous work environment can be very stressful and it is your employer’s duty to guarantee your safety and wellbeing.  Also, feeling as if you are not having enough support after going through a tough situation such as the death of a loved one or personal issues try talking first with your employer to find appropriate solutions, again, exhaust all the options. 

What to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress?

Why is this blog about what to say to doctor to get signed off work with stress important?

It is clear you are not well and you don’t feel comfortable at work. Your boss has started to notice how your performance has decreased for quite a while now and you feel you can’t take it anymore, you are sad, frustrated and anxious all the time.

Well, in this case, it is necessary to get an appointment with your GP and discuss all the details about what is going on so you can get some days off work and recover. Make sure you are clear and detailed about the information you provide your GP for an appropriate assessment of your situation. 

Please feel free to comment in the comments section below. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about What to say to doctor to get signed off work due to stress

Can you get a sick note without seeing a doctor?

According to the NHS “A fit note must be signed by a doctor but you don’t always need to see your GP in person to get one. It depends on: why you’re off work sick. whether your GP needs to assess you face-to-face”. 

Can I claim for work-related stress?

There are certain conditions that must have been met before you can submit a work-related stress or bullying claim for personal injuries. As an employee, you must have been diagnosed with a recognized psychiatric illness in order to bring such a claim.

How long can you get a sick note for?

The amount of time you can get on a sick note depends on your GP after they have assesses your situation so it can go for a few days to a couple of weeks or even a month. 

Can you take sick leave for stress?

In most cases, stress is not considered a mental illness however, there are some underlying conditions that can develop due to stress and they may need medical assistance.

Can I take time off work for stress?

You can always take some time off work due to stress but it is important either to consult it with your boss, your HR department or your GP so they can issue a “fit note”. 


Recommended reading


Graziadaily.co.uk: Here’s What Happens When You’re Signed Off Work With Depression In Your 20s

Healthassured.org: How to get a sick note for depression



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