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Returning to Work After Absence Due to Anxiety or Depression

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 15 Nov 2019 | 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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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
I was diagnosed depression and was given medication for two and half years. The doctor advised me to avoid taking serious decisions during my medication.In fact, I was doing my work but I used to lose temper like anything, it has to the point where I crossed my limits to my boss in particular as he was not reasonably competent to the work he handle.My situation went so complicated and I struggled to explain to my doctor that I may expose my reputation and offended my boss and some difficult people at work.I finally could get the report from my doctor when I collapsed in front of him into a bad cry.He the reilaized I was more in suffer than he expected.Thanks to the HR manager who helped me to get early retirement with compensation of being ill at work.Luckily it was a year remaining to get the official early retirement at age of 50. The first year was wonderful but later I start to feel worth-less and it is a bad feeling in addition my wife starts to feel different about me when I go outside for short trips. New form of pressure comes to me that makes life again not so peaceful and comfortable. I am thinking to go back to work as to have different value despite I do not go back as financial reason but to start again as valuable person.
Qudi - 2-May-19 @ 3:17 PM
Is this really the advice you give? If you don't want to go back then hand in your notice!!! Wow!!!
S - 12-Apr-19 @ 6:26 PM
Hi I have been of work now for 3 months with stress and depression and anxiety I missed 1 HR meeting and have been giving a second meeting and in the letter they are talking about dismissing me can they do this for only 3 months
Jayjay - 27-Feb-19 @ 2:48 PM
I was booked off work for 4 weeks due to Anxiety, Stress and Depression.I went back to work for a week, and then I could not cope, and was booked off for a further 3 weeks.I am now back at work with a phased return to work for 6 weeks as per my doctors instructions.I go to work every day, just some of my duties are to be restricted, but my manager has told me after 2 weeks into the phased return that if I do not return to my full duties, they will deduct some of my salary until I can do my duties completely.Is my manager allowed to do that?
Sha - 17-Jan-19 @ 5:25 PM
Hi I recently come out of work with stress depression and anxiety I’m under mental health I tried to commit Suicide I’ve been off for like 6 weeks now, I’m I’m scared there thought of going back to work? I don’t feel like I’m ready yet is it normal to feel this way I just feel guilty all the time.
Ria - 20-Oct-18 @ 5:48 AM
i have duffer 3 yr depression bms butning in mouth take off work 2 times i supposed go in dont have certificate for leave anyone have burningmouth psychologistdont help because pills haven'tgone counselling.
natty - 20-Sep-18 @ 5:57 AM
Hi. I have had a terrible ordeal about 2 years 6 months back dealing with my girlfriends suicide and was depressed and mentally unclear. I had resigned from work about a year ago and now that I am a bit better realised I made a bad decision as I wasn't thinking clearly and was still depressed. Is it possible to get my old job back. Can anyone .....Please advise me... Thank you
Yuven - 14-Aug-18 @ 7:08 PM
Hi I have not worked k for nearly 10 years and I feel that with my condition (Anxiety, depression with panic attacks) I will probably not go beck to work before retirement age ie 55. I have requested an ill health form from my pension provider to get access to the small amount I have in it but I have to ask my Doctor to sign and stamp it. I am nervous of this as can they refuse to sign it even though I have been getting treatment for these conditions for over 20 years. I'm 44. Many thanks, Mark.
Mark - 13-Jul-18 @ 8:17 AM
Hi, I've been off work with severe anxiety and depression for several years. I feel I am.at the level now where I can return to work. I have no idea what to do or how to go about it.What's the best thing I can do?
J-rock - 13-Jun-18 @ 11:07 AM
I was signed off of work for 3 weeks due to depression. On my return I found out that my boss had put someone else within my position and I was moved into a different department. He told me that "he honestly didn't think I was going to return to work" when the week prior my dad had told him the exact date and there was no effort to try and contact me about my return. I am now unable to get my position back. Have I been treated unfairly and is there anything I can do? It's making me want to quit work.
DaisyDukes98 - 31-May-18 @ 11:06 AM
i was diagnosed with hypertrophy cardiomyoparthy, uncontrolled high blood pressure and severe anxiety and depression. i was awarded pip because it has affected my day to day life and mobility. my work has been brilliant by moving me somewhere that has a lift sowont use the stairs. because of complicaions with my heart and lack of bp control and almost having a heart attack in feb i have been off for two months now. Occupational health is aware and have requested for a medical report to make recommendations to management and it might take another 4-6 weeks to go back to my work as recommended by my doctors. i am really nervous i may be fired even though i am absolutely brilliant at my job and hit my target. Now i am under pressure to go back but afraid to disobey my doctors.The problem i have is not with my ability to do the job. should i be scared to go back and what should i do.
jojo - 11-May-18 @ 8:05 PM
Gem - Your Question:
Hi I am wondering if you can help. I have been off of work due to severe anxiety and depression, I have been off work for nearly 9 months now. For the first 28 weeks I received SSP but now I am on Universal Credit/ESA through an SSP1 form but my doctor advised the best idea for me would be to change workplace. Am I obligated to return to this workplace after the fit note has run done? Thank you in advance.

Our Response:
If you don't want to go back, you should hand in your notice to your employer.
SafeWorkers - 28-Mar-18 @ 1:01 PM
Hi I am wondering if you can help. I have been off of work due to severe anxiety and depression, I have been off work for nearly 9 months now. For the first 28 weeks I received SSP but now I am on Universal Credit/ESA through an SSP1 form but my doctor advised the best idea for me would be to change workplace. Am I obligated to return to this workplace after the fit note has run done? Thank you in advance.
Gem - 26-Mar-18 @ 7:48 PM
Hi I was off work for 6 weeks with work related stress in return to work I was jus expected to carry on like normal I never had a back to work interview and as I was only one on shift to give drugs I had to give out the drugs i did a drug error can I be disciplined when I’ve not had a official return to work interview and my concerns of been left with all drugs on second day back to do as they hadn’t staffed Home properly
Mo - 19-Mar-18 @ 6:53 AM
I was diagonois.with rhoiothriates.Arthritus and ended in hospital I am on lots of Ned for the rest of my like I returned back to work doing 6 half days for 3 months but it was to much for me with my mobility with walking I have see a ocopathanice therapy which she advised me to work 2 days 3off I work 3 days I work 12hr shift but I decides to work my 2 days I work one week 2days in 3off 2days in 1off 2days in 4off I have been doing this for 2months now now and I am struggling I would like to change my hours and day can my employee do that for me .
Debs - 1-Mar-18 @ 3:35 PM
Sbk - Your Question:
I was taken out of work for 2 weeks due to anxiety stress and depression now my employer wants a physical return to work form filled out the psychiatrist that pulled me out of work says they cannot fill this out and the letter they gave me is good enough how do I get myself back to work

Our Response:
Can you ask your GP to do the form for you on the basis of what the psychiatrist says?
SafeWorkers - 28-Feb-18 @ 3:32 PM
I was taken out of work for 2 weeks due to anxiety stress and depression now my employer wants a physical return to work form filled out the psychiatrist that pulled me out of work says they cannot fill this out and the letter they gave me is good enough how do I get myself back to work
Sbk - 27-Feb-18 @ 9:25 PM
My friend a picker in a warehouse. Full time permanant staff for 2& half years. Had 2 weeks off due to depression,anxiety& panic attacks. She has a fit note to say light duties only and reduce her days to 4. They are being difficult. Saying the company will only allow light duties for couple weeks. Her FLM will 'bother'her 2 maybe 3 times a day. A lady has told her she is better of looking for a new job.she was the 'top picker'but has said at work she feels dizzy now & again. She is happyish at the area she is at now. She 'enjoys'it. She has been told to sign a form stating she will NOT have any more time off in the next 12 months.( this surely cant be guarenteed). But feels she had no choice.they have now made an appointment with the works doctor.It seems to me like they want to push her into working fulltime at picking even thou she only been back to work 10 day... please..can we have some advice. Thank you
Worried - 16-Feb-18 @ 6:33 PM
My partner was signed off sick due to her anxiety issues, she was absent for just over a week. On her return to work interview her employer has stated that she won’t be returning in her current position for the time being, they have instead put her in a lower position in the company, they have claimed this will be reviewed in 2 weeks as well as she needs to see occupational health. Off the record they told her and myself that they won’t be looking for her to return to her actual roll, as they think she can’t do it. Just before she was signed off sick she was due for a pay rise and offered opportunities for traveling within the company, and training. This has all been stopped now, as she has been removed from the role. Is this legal? Could you please advise what we can do leagally about this? Thanks
Em - 7-Feb-18 @ 1:15 PM
I was off work for long term sick leave technically due to depression but really because I was caring for my husband who had cancer. When I came back the temp that was covering me stayed on to help get back on track. 4 months later she is still there and still in my desk whilst I have to hotdesk. It feels unfair to me as I'm the permanent staff member and it makes me feel very undervalued. Is this fair and lawful?
Adminion - 25-Jan-18 @ 12:00 AM
My problems all started when I survived Encephalitis following a mosquito bite. I was off work for 5 weeks but as my GP would not give me the care I required on leaving hospital, so I moved to my wife’s surgery. Due to memory problems I did not notice that my Thyroxine script had been mistakenly transferred at 250ug instead of 150ug. I had some memory issues due to the Encephalitis but over the following weeks this improved gradually, and I was able to do most of my work using adaptions to remind me regarding things I was forgetting. After a couple of months however I started taking periods of sweating. This seemed to occur a few hours a part, would hit every four weeks and would last a week. I would become a little disorientated but generally it was not too bad, and I often even managed to drive through it without any problem. Eventually one of the attacks hit me harder and I became semi-conscious, this was to happen about 6 times over the period of two years with the less problematic attacks continuing every four weeks. On the occasions I became semi-conscious I was rushed to hospital, but they could not find a reason for it and concentrated on looking for brain damage or the return of the Encephalitis, neither showed any sign. Just before Christmas 2016 I was on leave when I felt ill again, my wife took me to hospital and the doctor told me to stop taking the Thyroxine as my levels were double what they should be. I did so and over the next few weeks I got back on to the correct dose and the sweating issues etc. stopped. The next problem that hit me was anxiety as I became more aware and sensitive to my environment. I had just completed my 6-month probationary return to work and my boss told me HR wanted to see me, this was put off a week and then put off indefinitely as HR were apparently still waiting for the OH Report. This never arrived, and I was not signed off my return to work. At the same time my company were making lots of redundancies and I suspected I was being let go, this built up my anxiety even more. After almost 4 months of this stress I eventually snapped and tried to take my own life. My GP signed me off for 4 weeks at a time until I felt ready to return, I eventually underwent the usual Occupational Health examinations and was given a clean bill of health for my return on a phased basis to suit me, this was the second report during my time off and both were very damming of my employer’s behaviour. I arranged to return late November, but my boss insisted I came back full time, this came as a bit of a shock and my wife sent him a copy of the report which I can only assume he had not read. He agreed to the phased return and I arranged to start on Friday Nov 17 and go in for a couple of hours. When I went in I met with my boss for a coffee before going to the office to discuss the RTW. To my amazement I was not allowed any input, the RTW was put in front of me and I was told that was it. My RTW would last four week
Kinglouiethe6th - 26-Dec-17 @ 7:37 PM
Hi, I am under the secondary mental health. I work part time for most of the time I'm ok, but there are times I am off sick because of it. I have recently been signed off due to a virus which is contagious. This brings me over my sickness allowance. Where do I stand legally. As it doesn't seem fair I should be penalized for my disability sickness. Thankyou
Amber60 - 30-Oct-17 @ 1:04 PM
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