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Returning to Work After Absence Due to Anxiety or Depression

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 Oct 2018 | 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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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
DaisyDukes98 - Your Question:
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.

Our Response:
Are you doing a job of the same description and conditions as before? It's quite common for employers to move people around departments etc, so you should check your contract details first. Depression/mental health illness can fall under the Equality Act in terms of discrimination so it might be worth asking if that's why your job has changed.
SafeWorkers - 1-Jun-18 @ 2:01 PM
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
Mo - Your Question:
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

Our Response:
Return to work interviews, while good practice, are not compulsory. Check your contract, if a return to work interview is included, then your employer should have undertaken one before your return. If not, there isn't much you can do, but talk to your union rep or ACAS for advice on how to proceed if you are subject to disciplinary procedures.
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-18 @ 2:11 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
Hayley - Your Question:
I've been off work now for a month and a half due to depression and stress. I was originally only off for one month and was starting my phase return to work. On the first day I had a panic attack within 30 minutes of stepping into the building and had to be collected and taken back to the doctors for another months sick line.I have to return to work at the end of the month and I'm scared that I can no longer feel comfortable at work. I'm scared that I am now the odd one out while all the other staff are working up to a better standard and have everything down to a fine art. Two months is a long time to be away and I'm worried I'll return and the way I used to work is no longer good enough. I don't want to be the only one in the place that isn't working as well as everyone else.I don't know what I can do to stop myself stressing about returning to work. I can't afford any more time off and worrying about money is making me fret even more about work. Any advice on how to cope with a second go at phase return would be very much appreciated.

Our Response:
Is there someone you can talk to at work - an HR department for example? It would help greatly if you could share your worries etc. It might also be worth looking at counselling or therapies such as CBT. Your GP should be able to refer you.
SafeWorkers - 20-Sep-17 @ 11:12 AM
I've been off work now for a month and a half due to depression and stress. I was originally only off for one month and was starting my phase return to work. On the first day I had a panic attack within 30 minutes of stepping into the building and had to be collected and taken back to the doctors for another months sick line. I have to return to work at the end of the month and I'm scared that I can no longer feel comfortable at work. I'm scared that I am now the odd one out while all the other staff are working up to a better standard and have everything down to a fine art. Two months is a long time to be away and I'm worried I'll return and the way I used to work is no longer good enough. I don't want to be the only one in the place that isn't working as well as everyone else. I don't know what I can do to stop myself stressing about returning to work. I can't afford any more time off and worrying about money is making me fret even more about work. Any advice on how to cope with a second go at phase return would be very much appreciated.
Hayley - 19-Sep-17 @ 2:56 AM
Foozie - Your Question:
Can I give my fit note in when I go back to work or does it have to be before

Our Response:
If your fit note says you have to be off work, you should send it (keep a copy) to your employer before you go back. If you can't easily do this, your employer will probably accept an email with the scanned fit note attached.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jun-17 @ 1:52 PM
Can i give my fit note in when i go back to work or does it have to be before
Foozie - 11-Jun-17 @ 12:34 AM
I forgot i needed a fit note today off the doctor and work have got me down to worktomorrow and I don't think I'm ready to go back to work yet ive been off for 6 weeks what do I do can you help me
Kaza - 7-Jun-17 @ 9:34 PM
Tay - Your Question:
Hi I have recently been off work with anxiety and stress through work.i went back to work on a phase return to work and verbalt agreed to set reduced hours. However tgey wanted to change my hours stressing me out more and through bullying in work also due to my reduced hours that other staff dont approve of iam still stressed and anxioues I have been resigned off work sick by my doctor. Iam worried that my boss is now going to sack me because of this.can you give me some advice.

Our Response:
Please talk to them about these issues. If you can, ask to have a third party involved to help assess what you can can't cope with at this stage. Bear in mind that your employer does need to run its business effectively and this will influence some of its decisions. Try ACAS or Citizens' Advice for someone who can talk to you about specific issues.
SafeWorkers - 6-Jun-17 @ 1:53 PM
Hi i have recently been off work with anxiety and stress through work.i went back to work on a phase return to work and verbalt agreed to set reduced hours. However tgey wanted to change my hours stressing me out more and through bullying in work also due to my reduced hours that other staff dont approve of iam still stressed and anxioues i have been resigned off work sick by my doctor. Iam worried that my boss is now going to sack me because of this .can you give me some advice.
Tay - 4-Jun-17 @ 12:44 AM
hi i was of work with stress and anxiety that my doctor thinks is related to my job. i was not trained very well on the tills and was left one day using the till and doing another job at the same time and i had a panic attack. i was given a week off by my dr. employer did not contact me to see how i was and when the fit note ended i went back to work as if nothing had happened. on my second day back they wanted me to work the till and i almost had a panic attack again, after i calmed down i explained that i would prefer to use the tills when it was less busy and to have some more training before i was back on them properly again. i had 3 managers one after the other tell me that i could not swan back into work and pick and choose what i would and wouldn't do and in the end i was told to either get cured and be able to do my job or quit, I'm now on 2 weeks sick leave but i cant see my dr before i have to go back as he is to busy and i don't feel i can set foot in the place. there are so many things i cant write them all but i have had accidents there and not been shown the accident book (i don't even know if they have one) i was questioned the day i had the panic attack on the shop floor with other employees listening and my manager wanted to know everything that was wrong with me before he would let me leave. i was told i could leave if i got a sick note to prove i was ill. ive been told off for being late or not turning up when i had not done anything wrong they just had not seen amendments to the rota yet. there is no union they wont accept one and the hr dept is a phone number that tells you to speak to your boss. i wont name them but i work for a huge company that must have millions of workers worldwide. what on earth can i do?
jo - 13-May-17 @ 8:15 PM
Elliess - Your Question:
My hubby hasn't worked for nearly 5 years due to anxiety and depression. He has a long history of failed jobs due to this diagnosis. He wants to try to get back in to work and has been volunteering on and off for 2 years to regain confidence but he's worried that he can't get two references to get him back into work and I think he's worried it'll happen again. Is there any support he can get? He hasn't signed on and doesn't claim any benefits

Our Response:
He should try and get references from the organisations he volunteers with. This will help as a start point. Places like job centre plus can sometimes help with practical things like access to course etc
SafeWorkers - 10-May-17 @ 2:16 PM
My hubby hasn't worked for nearly 5 years due to anxiety and depression.He has a long history of failed jobs due to this diagnosis.He wants to try to get back in to work and has been volunteering on and off for 2 years to regain confidence but he's worried that he can't get two references to get him back into work and I think he's worried it'll happen again.Is there any support he can get?He hasn't signed on and doesn't claim any benefits
Elliess - 9-May-17 @ 8:23 PM
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