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Returning to Work After Absence Due to Anxiety or Depression

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 1 Jul 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Returning To Work Depression Work

Two-thirds of us will suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in our lives and it can be even more devastating when it forces us to take a lengthy absence from work.

Work often plays one of the largest roles in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and if we have been absent for some time due to anxiety or depression the fact that we are not working often adds to our feelings of a lack of self-worth. However, once we are on the right road to recovery, going back to work is often one of the most important factors in speeding up our return to full health. It provides us with a support network and is an opportunity to regain our sense of self-esteem and puts some routine and stability back into our lives.

Caring and Understanding Employers

Mental illness can strike anybody at any time and can have devastating consequences on the sufferer themselves and for those around them, be it work colleagues or family members. A sufferer’s personality can be transformed and it’s sometimes hard to know how to relate to them. However, it’s important to realise that, once recovered, the worker still has a lot to offer to the company, just as they did before illness struck.

An understanding and caring employer can help a lot in this respect. Rallying round with other colleagues to assist in the sufferer’s return not only will create a support network for the sufferer but will boost morale amongst other workers by showing that the employer cares about the consequences of mental illness which, as mentioned, can hit anybody at any time. This removes the barriers and breaks down any stigma attached to mental illness. It’s also important for employer’s to realise that the skills, knowledge and experience of the sufferer have not gone away. They’ve simply been ill.

Helping the Sufferer

The person returning to work may require an ‘easing back in’ to the working environment. As with other long-term sickness absences, it’s often a good idea to allow them to come back to work gradually – maybe part-time or a couple of days a week or even to offer them Flexible Working arrangements. This can help the sufferer find their feet again gradually without too much pressure.

Obviously, the situation will vary between people. Some will require a lot of support and flexibility when they return, whilst others may want to play the whole thing down and just get on with it as they used to, so they may want less fuss to be made and a more subtle approach to be implemented. Therefore, it’s always important to establish how best the employer can ease the return to work so that both they and the rest of the staff know just what is expected of them in terms of trying to make the return to work as painless and as easy as possible. The best way to do this is by talking with the sufferer before they plan to return.

From the sufferer’s perspective, if they have any specific needs, e.g. they may need time off to attend out-patient clinics, or perhaps they’re not able to do their job in exactly the same way as they did it before they became ill, they should express their concerns to their employer before they go back so that any arrangements can be put in place to make for a smooth return.

Communication, flexibility, understanding and a good support network are the most important aspects of managing an employee’s return to work following a lengthy absence due to anxiety, depression or some other kind of mental illness and it’s up to employers to take that on board or risk losing a valuable member of staff.

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I worked in a large civil service department and became mentally unwell due to workplace bullying. While off sick they did everything possible to block me returning. When I did return they tried to manufacture poor performance issues. I eventually had to resign after they violated my privacy. To this day, they have never apologised.
Broken - 1-Jul-20 @ 7:50 PM
Im currently off after losing my mental strength working from home. My environment, role and responsibilities changed overnight, after well over 16 years of unblemished performance. While many of my collegues were furloughed I was not. The intensity and type of work was unbearable. I eventually mentaly broke down in front of my wife and son, the darkest day of my life. I've been off two weeks so far and have one more week. The anxiety is building and I keep telling myself I dont want to feel like this, What if I breakdown again? Spoke to my GP and I have a Councillor. My work are supporting me but i feel I've let everyone down and now i cannot perform or earn money. I feel worthless, im not sure i'll get through this.
Broken - 28-Jun-20 @ 12:17 PM
Hi everyone reading this, I've seen first hand how the stigma of even basic mental health problems can effect people in so many ways,its a very difficult situation where you want to work your willing to do whatever it takes to go back to work but because your long term anxitey makes you feel a failure before you even try is unbelievable, being a long term suffer of mental health I feel given the opportunity to be in full time employment I would really thrive at an opportunity that a CEO has been through a very similar experience as many of us have relating to hashtag metal health....
Timeforechange - 24-Mar-20 @ 7:56 PM
Speaking as a victim of the HMRC bullying culture, my sympathy goes to anyone currently being subjected to their thuggery. In my case, despite years' of excellent service and an identified adjustment, HMRC failed to follow their own occupational health advice. They tried everything to hound me out to avoid poor attendance procedures because they knew my mental health disorder had been caused by their bullying over many years. So they just bullied more and more until I had no choice but to resign (constructive unfair dismissal) - they faked poor performance; colleagues literally ignored me; they moved me to a role with little or no work; they breached medical confidentiality; a manager got so out of control that she sent her boyfriend round to my home to cause further distress (just to show their contempt for me, HMRC allowed her to get away with this gross misconduct). After being forced out, HMRC invested a large amount of time and money attempting to cover up their wrongdoing and created fake documents to cover their tracks. The degree of dishonesty deployed by HMRC showed a flagrant disregard for the law and staff. They cannot sack you for anxiety but watch out for the underhand stunts they will pull. I would make a Subject Access Request to see what data they hold and speak with your union, Citizens Advice or a solicitor to get specific advice. All the best.
HMRC Survivor - 11-Mar-20 @ 1:34 PM
I work at HMRC too. Terrible treatment when I was off work few years ago due to crippling anxiety then I’ve been off since last week now with the same and this manager is just as bad. No concept of the issue. No compassion basically just get into work. Not helping at all. Can they sack me for having anxiety flare ups? There’s no real adjustment they can do that would help I’d rather just he allowed to recover and return as normal when I’m better. The pressure being put on me is making me worse.
Sitting duck - 10-Mar-20 @ 8:54 PM
Interesting BBC Panorama documentary broadcast last night about the issues of Disability Discrimination and bullying at the Department of Work & Penions (DWP). Might I suggest that the BBC also investigate the violent bullying culture in another large government department, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), which is out of control and which invests a lot public money in covering up their wilful, wrongful behaviour. My partner was left destroyed financially and mentally, and suicidal after a sustained attack. Would be happy to help any broadcast documentary in the public interest, and share discriminatory emails written by HMRC management. The crooks at HMRC can run away from what they've done but they cannot hide - we need the bullies to brought to justice to safeguard future victims. No taxpayers money should be wasted employing wrong 'uns who can't behave themselves.
HMRC Survivor - 10-Mar-20 @ 8:27 AM
Do MPs know about the bullying culture at HMRC? Why is it tolerated? What is the cost to victims lives? What is the cost to the taxpayer? Why are individual HMRC staff members who have behaved inappropriately and/or unlawfully not dealt with under Conduct & Discipline proceedings or prosecuted under criminal law? Why do HMRC make deliberately dishonest statements of fiction in cases where they forced staff to instigate legal proceedings against them? Do HMRC have any idea of the despair caused by their lies in legal cases, which blocks justice and closure?Very basic questions which we need thorough answers to now!!! #HMRC bullyingculture
Anti-bullying - 5-Mar-20 @ 1:05 PM
How can the public expect to have their health & safety protected from workplace bullies, narcissists, psychopaths, abusers et al when we have government departments like HMRC are inflicting serious damage onmembers of staff with impunity? Luckily most small businesses value their staff and would stamp out bullying, but if taxpayer-funded organisations like HMRC can't behave themselves, it sets a awful precedent for others. Time for action on the HMRC bullying culture: the Laura Whyte report into HMRC bullying failed to comprehend the extent and severity to which it has caused harm over many years. Shame on Lin Homer and 'Sir' Job Thompson for their lack of action to stop the thuggery.
Anon - 5-Mar-20 @ 11:33 AM
Some of the accounts of bullying on here are remarkably reminiscent of the cowardly but violent bullying experience I endured while working for a government department, namely HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs). The hounding affect of their antics was similar to that which high-profile people like Caroline Flack and Meghan & Harry have been subjected to via the media and online; absolutely despairing. When certain individuals were close to 'having their collar felt' for their behaviour, they would create a bogus evidence trail to cover their tracks; worryingly all aided & abetted by their Human Resources and senior management. Their cover-up is, or close to, a criminal standard of dishonesty & deceit and people at HMRC still have a case to answer. It therefore goes without saying that I would advise people to not work for HMRC - it is not safe and, moreover, should you become victim, their institutional dishonesty means you will not be able to enforce your legal rights; a frightening place for anyone to be stuck. In a more broader sense, I have sympathy and understanding for anyone being bullied at work. I would like to see workplace bullying treated on par with domestic abuse laws. That would hopefully act as a deterrent and reduce the amount of suffering. Good luck to anyone going through workplace bullying.
HMRC bullying surviv - 5-Mar-20 @ 9:46 AM
I have been off work for what will be my 14th week. I broke down at work 14 weeks ago and my anxiety has just spiralled since. I struggle to even leave the house some days...but everyone has told me the longer you stay off the worse it is. So, 3 times I have attempted a phased return to work, each time being blocked by panic attacks and general dread. I can’t help but feel like a useless body, my employer is trying so hard to get me back, adjusting hours, responsibilities and I simply can’t. I’m on medication, CBD drops, I attend the gym when I can leave the house, I’ve been more open about my fears, expectations and boundaries but until I can get some sort of therapy I think it will continue to be like this. I’m so eager to get back to it, making money again, having a routine..it’s what I’ve been thriving off for years which makes it more frustrating that I can’t go back when I say I want to... Has anybody been in a loop like this?
chicken112 - 4-Mar-20 @ 11:55 AM
Hi my employer led to my breakdown due to anxiety and depression due to certain managers triggering the triggers that I had put into my WAP.Nepotism and favouritism led to me being ostrichesed, isolated and ignored totally.Mobbing affect took place where the life became so unbearable and I broke down.They also were undertaking an investigation on the complaints of the mob, and they used this as a reason to move me off my department.My Gp recommended reduced hours , they agreed to do this for 6 weeks.During these six weeks my staff members complained about the mob, they took some notice but mainly swept everything under the carpet.They took notice of the team saying that I am ill .So for the past 16 months they have left me in the basement doing menial work and not allowing me on to my previous area .they only had 1 meeting in 10 months and that was to tell me know they want to demote me but was disguised as a health catch up Ai disagreed and they said I had 1 month to decide that was 6 months ago.Apart from paying my full salary which I do appreciate they have not offered any training or catch ups I think this was done to appease the staff and when they forget about me they can now go back to doing what they wanted.They have given my old management position away taken me off all communication channels and now are wanting another meeting to demote me I believe.Phsycoligically I am shot to bits but I can't afford to lose my job with a £100k of debt they are basically forcing me to accept a demotion.I don't understand why there is no help the charities like MIND won't help they just want to sell leaflets, Internet offers some useless advice on how to handle a bulky etc but in reality we all know grievances are pointless you give away your evidence and they whitewash the grievance, solicitors want me to resign and then help me there is nothing really out there for people in my situation.My confidence is so shot that I don't even know how I would attempt to go back into workplace or do interviews.The workplace is worse then school it destroys not just you but also your family and all happiness fades away
Tony - 3-Mar-20 @ 12:32 AM
Hi my employer led to my breakdown due to anxiety and depression due to certain managers triggering the triggers that I had put into my WAP.Nepotism and favouritism led to me being ostrichesed, isolated and ignored totally.Mobbing affect took place where the life became so unbearable and I broke down.They also were undertaking an investigation on the complaints of the mob, and they used this as a reason to move me off my department.My Gp recommended reduced hours , they agreed to do this for 6 weeks.During these six weeks my staff members complained about the mob, they took some notice but mainly swept everything under the carpet.They took notice of the team saying that I am ill .So for the past 16 months they have left me in the basement doing menial work and not allowing me on to my previous area .they only had 1 meeting in 10 months and that was to tell me know they want to demote me but was disguised as a health catch up Ai disagreed and they said I had 1 month to decide that was 6 months ago.Apart from paying my full salary which I do appreciate they have not offered any training or catch ups I think this was done to appease the staff and when they forget about me they can now go back to doing what they wanted.They have given my old management position away taken me off all communication channels and now are wanting another meeting to demote me I believe.Phsycoligically I am shot to bits but I can't afford to lose my job with a £100k of debt they are basically forcing me to accept a demotion.I don't understand why there is no help the charities like MIND won't help they just want to sell leaflets, Internet offers some useless advice on how to handle a bulky etc but in reality we all know grievances are pointless you give away your evidence and they whitewash the grievance, solicitors want me to resign and then help me there is nothing really out there for people in my situation.My confidence is so shot that I don't even know how I would attempt to go back into workplace or do interviews.The workplace is worse then school it destroys not just you but also your family and all happiness fades away
Tony - 3-Mar-20 @ 12:27 AM
I've work as a house keeper for a nurseryfor a 6 months uve help out in cooking and cleaning washing and helping in rooms with the children not experience to help lunch cover and I've been of sick for 2 weeks due to aniextydue to work and home and I haven't been called in to see bosses yet they have applied for an another housekeeper be hind my mate haven't even bothered with me what can I do
Caroline holland - 28-Feb-20 @ 9:43 AM
To Michelle 11 Feb @ 5:15PM. Hi there, just saw your commented and wantedto share my view. In short, I would say that you do not have to attend the meeting. If someone is too unwell, then they too unwell. Your condition is likely covered by the Equality Act 2010 and your employer is required by law to make reasonable adjustments (which, in your case, could include the meeting being held at home, or not going ahead at the moment). I would speak with your GP about your current feelings, and specifically mention about your employer wanting you to attend the meeting. Hope it all works out for you. All the best.
HMRC bullying victim - 12-Feb-20 @ 12:58 PM
Can anyone help I’m suffering terrible anxiety and depression and have been off sick from my job for the last 6 weeks My employer wants me to attend a welfare meeting ? I don’t know what this is and whether I can decline or not I’m struggling to talk on the phone and am even worse when I feel like I’m being questioned or cornered I’m having regular panic attacks and suicidal thoughts ! Can they sack me ? Just want some genuine support and advice about my rights
Michelle Smith - 11-Feb-20 @ 5:15 PM
Hi, I work for the NHS and was off work for around 3 months. When I returned I was ok. I had the flu about 4 months later and was off for a few days. Had to do the usual back to work. Now a few months later I am off again with sickness. Will anything come of this. Will I be sacked. For my 3 months off I had a meeting and was given a formal warning. What is the next step after that. Really worried
Sez - 2-Feb-20 @ 11:11 PM
Hello, I came across this whilst trying to look for some answers about a situation I’m currently going through. I have been signed off for approximately 12 weeks and have just recently gone back to work in the last 2 weeks. When I returned I was told that my role had changed slightly, I have had half my usually responsibilities taken from me and given to someone else and the other half of my job is now doing a project on a job that they can’t fill. They are saying they are doing this so there is less pressure on me and it’s best for me and they will review in a couple of months time. But I can see I’m going to be stuck doing something I don’t want and ultimately a job that I didn’t apply for. This is just making me feel worse instead of better like they say they want it to but seem pretty adamant that’s what’s happening even though I have told them the thought of them thinking I can’t do my normal job is making the initial reason I was absent from work a lot worse. Does anybody know if they can even do this? Thank you
Anon - 25-Jan-20 @ 8:40 AM
To Lyn, 10 Jan 2020. We have a lot of experience of this as my partner was hounded out of career at HMRC due to management law-breaking. An employer can ask for your consent to contact your GP, but only for the purposes of a written report. They should have advised you of your rights under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1998. One of the main rights is that you, as the patient are in control. You can ask your GP to see a copy of the report before it's released to your employer. Furthermore, you can ask your GP to amend the report if you disagree with anything, and if you're still unhappy at that stage, you can ultimately refuse to allow the report to be sent to your employer. Speak to the ACAS helpline if you need further advice. All the best and take care.
HMRC Are A Bad Emolo - 13-Jan-20 @ 4:57 PM
I was signed off sick by my gp for anxiety and depression. When i come back to work, my deputy manager told me to fill a form of consent so they can access my gp. Is this the right procedure for an employee returning to work?
Lyn - 10-Jan-20 @ 1:30 PM
To Ang, 11/12/19: A phased return should NOT affect annual leave entitlement. The hours per week that you are still absent while on a phased return will probably be recorded as sick leave. All the best.
Anon - 15-Dec-19 @ 8:23 AM
I have worked for the NHS for 11 years and have been off work for 5 weeks due to stress. Occupational health have advised me to go back to work on phased return. Can you please advise if this will be taken off my annual leave entitlement
Ang - 11-Dec-19 @ 8:03 PM
I have been off work for three months and returned to gradually get back to my full hours with depression. On my return have been told by my manager we have a new colleague who I have to work with for all of her shifts to get her to her retirement (roughly two years), said colleague is unable to do the job and is causing me to be extremely distressed, there are other people in the department who could work with her too, is this victimisation to me and could you give me any assistance in what I can do about it please.
Dante - 5-Dec-19 @ 11:59 PM
Excellent website. My partner had depression and anxiety inflicted by workplace bullying while working in the civil service (HMRC). Despite being a government department, they did all they could to force him out including breaching confidentiality, sending a managers boyfriend round to our home and fabricating documents to retrospectively invent performance issues and cover up their numerous failures regarding managing health issues. As a result he was forced out in his prime and we lost our home leaving him suicidal and broken. Always get early advice and good luck to people currently having problems with bad employers like HMRC.
Heid80 - 15-Nov-19 @ 8:32 PM
Good afternoon,I would like to get some information about my situation at work....actually to find out my rights as a employee , working at the same company for the last 8 years and 4 months.I went to see the GP with a really bad headache, dizziness,3 or 4 panic attacks per day, etc.My doctor gave me a sick notefor a week ( sent it to my employer as soon I finished)and hestarted to investigate my illness...first blood test .Next day I went back to have the results which come back as normal and the doctor referred me to hospital for CT Scan .After 3 daysI went to the Emergencywith the same problem... and in the waiting areaI had the panic attack.Thanks to the nurses and I have no idea who realised actually I was almost fainting on the chair and they took me straight to be seen by the doctor...which said I have depression and explained me how I should help myself.Next day I went to GP and I got another sick note for more 2 weeksfor “Anxiety states”( which I sent it also to my manager straight away).After aprox 30 minutes I received a call from him saying that I am not allowed to be in contact with anyone from work for my sickness period and because my last day of sickness was on Thursday he mentioned that they are giving me a more day off Friday and I should start on Monday .Back at work... during my meeting I find out actually the day he told me to stay home I have to cover, they used all my8liue days to cover all month payment ...And also he asked me what are my expectations on my return? I mentioned that I want to take my responsibilities back, working Monday to Friday and if I consider it is necessary in the weekend time to time to cover my department ... and also to have the possibility to attend to my doctor appointments ( CT Scan, Breast check,ANT ).Next month payslip I had a big surprise: 2 weeks of sickness are showing on it as 6 days absence deducted from my salary and SSP£56.55. My question is when you have a sick note from doctor can the employer consider you as being absent at work?Can I have any problems in the future at my work place?Can they use it against me for something after a while because the General Manager is our HR also and from my return she didn’t asked me anything about my illness, what happened, what problems do I have...?My return meeting I had was with the deputy manager.Please advice me.Thank you
Helen - 2-Nov-19 @ 2:09 PM
Hi i worked in a care home been there 2 months regularly working short staffed i was a team leader i was asked to cover up a medication misuse controlleddrug i refused i was constantly being mess on my phone demanding i go in on my day off to do medicationtraining i didnt make the mistakesi walked out i was due to be paid on 28 sep a sum of 700 pounds not had it sent emails and registered letter no reply
Doe - 16-Oct-19 @ 11:40 AM
Can I be paid ssp for 2 days on phased return
Shirlsworld - 15-Sep-19 @ 6:16 PM
i lost my husband of 45 years suddenly and the doctor gave me a sick note but my employer whom i have worked for fro over 16 years cam to my home today without prior noticed and wanted to know when i was going bck to work,,, my sick note doesnt run out for another week, i have been pay ssp from them for 2 weeks (this is stated on my wage slip) but now she is saying that this was paid as a favour because i dont get paid bereavement pay. She also says that she will be paying me holiday pay for the next week or so as i had these weeks booked off work for my annual holiday. i tried to explain that i was on sick leave and therefore the holiday should have been cancelled by them. i feel harrassed and bullied into making a decision when i am really not coping. i am at my doctors tomorrow and my employer said she would ring me tomorrow evening and that i had to answer my phone,,, i cant cope with all this and havent been out of the house except to my doctorswaht can i do... please i need some help
cherry - 15-Jul-19 @ 10:49 PM
I have been working at a job for nearly 6 and and half months and I have been dealing with difficult things at home with family and recent split from my boyfriend of nearly 4 years. I am struggling to cope with my work loaf and need advice as to what to do, I am going to see my GP to get help. Where I work we do shift work it’s long hours with hardly any decent breaks, we are short staffed and our office area is under construction. I asked my manager for advice and all I was told was that it was said to be that the work is stressful which it wasn’t and that they will try and support me and I would need to speak to HR regarding this... What should I do??
Teary eyes - 19-Jun-19 @ 2:34 PM
I was suspended from work for four days over nothing due to my colleagues writing bad feedbacks on me so I became depressed and anxiety ! I’m really scared going back to work but my parents are forcing me to go back to work but I really don’t want to ! What do I do ? Please help me
Miss Emz - 13-Jun-19 @ 10:45 AM
I have been signed off work for 2 weeks due to stress/ depression. This has been an ongoing problem for me over the past couple of years but things have come to an all time low over the last month. If I was to hand my notice in I'm unsure of what would happen next??
Annaapple - 9-Jun-19 @ 10:06 AM
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