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Returning to Work After Absence Due to Anxiety or Depression

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 11 Jun 2017 | 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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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
Disillusioned 74 - Your Question:
Hi, I am unable to find anything to help me, I have been on sick for 10mth, I've had one management meeting, and 2 meetings with HR ( only within the last two weeks) I have been off due to bullying by my line manager, I followed procedure while at work, by first confronting my line manager, then going to see senior manager twice, on all 3 occasions my concerns were not addressed, to cut a long story short, after being humiliated in a meeting and threatened with my job and various other disciplinary procedures I walked out.The day I left, I phoned HR, the gp and the union, I organised my own occy health apt, and counselling. I have done everything asked of me, however, I do not want to return to the office to work 4 feet away from my perpetrator, the relationship with the other colleagues has also suffered, as they were all told they were not allowed to talk to me, so they havent. I have been told there is no other position so I have to go back to my desk. I have asked to be moved to a different floor, room, or office. I do not have a problem with my job, I've done it for 5 years. What I have a problem with is the lack of support from my employer, the length of time taken to address the issue, and above all else, a manager that thinks it's ok To bully, and post facebook messages about me, and thinks it's ok To think they have a hold over me outside of work. What I would like to know is, can I be forced to go back into the office with my manager, should I be offered another position? Just to add it's the NHS

Our Response:
If there are no other positions available then your employer cannot do much other than offer you your original job back. If the situation has been investigated according to your employer's policy, then you may need to accept that you should try again to work with this manager and re-address the issue if it recurs. You could consider consulting an employment specialist although in fairness, your union should be knowledgeable about all the relevant aspects.
SafeWorkers - 21-Apr-17 @ 12:12 PM
Blackie - Your Question:
Hi I've been of work for 16wks, with severe anxiety, ive set mysef a challenge, I've been in touch with my boss, an I feel like going in to work Thursday for 1 hour just to see how I will be, I'm very nervous but I'm going to give it a dam good try

Our Response:
Good for you and good luck!
SafeWorkers - 19-Apr-17 @ 12:21 PM
Hi, I am unable to find anything to help me, I have been on sick for 10mth, I've had one management meeting, and 2 meetings with HR ( only within the last two weeks)I have been off due to bullying by my line manager, I followed procedure while at work, by first confronting my line manager, then going to see senior manager twice, on all 3 occasions my concerns were not addressed, to cut a long story short, after being humiliated in a meeting and threatened with my job and various other disciplinary procedures I walked out. The day I left, I phoned HR, the gp and the union, I organised my own occy health apt, and counselling. I have done everything asked of me, however, I do not want to return to the office to work 4 feet away from my perpetrator, the relationship with the other colleagues has also suffered, as they were all told they were not allowed to talk to me, so they havent. I have been told there is no other position so I have to go back to my desk. I have asked to be moved to a different floor, room, or office. I do not have a problem with my job, I've done it for 5 years. What I have a problem with is the lack of support from my employer, the length of time taken to address the issue, and above all else, a manager that thinks it's ok To bully, and post facebook messages about me, and thinks it's ok To think they have a hold over me outside of work.What I would like to know is, can I be forced to go back into the office with my manager, should I be offered another position? Just to add it's the NHS
Disillusioned 74 - 18-Apr-17 @ 5:37 PM
Hi I've been of work for 16wks, with severe anxiety, ive set mysef a challenge, I've been in touch with my boss, an i feel like going in to work Thursday for 1 hour just to see how I will be, I'm very nervous but I'm going to give it a dam good try
Blackie - 17-Apr-17 @ 9:11 AM
Hey there, yesterday i got suspended from my job due to my attitude. I wouldnt mind as such but for months i have been letting work know that my depression had returned as was getting worse, i had a sick note for 2 weeks that i put in and when spoke to work asked to go onto nights, i work in a supermarket on a department that im always alone on and work with knives so due to the fact im a selfharmer and consider suicide i felt it wasnt safe not only for myself but everyone else. They put me on nights for 2 weeks which was fantastic!!! People who work nights can develop depression and anxiety which i already have so i understand they were worried about puttin me on them but i managed to go from 2 hours a sleep at night to 10/12 hours a day, i felt no stress and no urge to harm or worse which i had infroned work about everyday. Once my two weeks were up my manager said id be back on days as he had been reassigned to another work so he couldnt say about nights for good which i understood, he put me back on days but i said i still not comfy being left alone or goin back onto the department with knives....i also expressed this to another manger who has known me for 9years. They didnt listen though and not only put me back ontho those departments but also on my own for up to 6 hours a day, on the advice of my store manager before he left he asked me to get intouch with my doc to see how she feels to let the new manger and my manager if 9 years know. Upon telling her everythin she gave me a not to amend duties and said that due to me depression and the fact that workin nights helped as i was getting the sleep i need which can go along way in helpes people with depression she asviced i go back onto nights, i also spoke to my union rep who said they should follow the docs advice straight away.....which they didnt!! So i had to carry on with my days and being left alone, the comfort i had was on the department next to me on the same shift was a friend, that waa until they made them go help out elsewere leaving me to watch 2 departmenta by myself there for leaving ne alone apart from when customers came to the counters and they had knives on them. I rung my manager of 9 years to say i wasnt going to be out ontime as i was behind from running the 2 departments to which he got funny and asked thr exact amount of customers i had served on the deli (other counter) my reply was simply i dont knowni didnt count them but it was more than i had on butchers (department they had put me on) his response was that he didnt ask that he asked for a number. Feeling myself getting agitated i admit i hung up, he came storming over and asked to speak to me in the warehouse away from customers, i told him i cant as have too much work to do as he said i cant stay to do it, he then saidnifni didnt he would suspend me on the spot so i told him to do that as i need to my jobs not waste time talking to him in the warehouse when he is only interested in what going on be
JR1803 - 3-Mar-17 @ 5:40 AM
Hi. I've been off work for two weeks now with stress after a situation at work occurred. My boss doesn't listen and I know when I go back in if I tell him about why I've been off etc he will just get horrible and cause me more stress. Also I'm pregnant so I wondered can I just go back in and not give him any information? Just say I want no fuss or drama just want to come back to work?
Lou - 2-Mar-17 @ 9:43 AM
chris83 - Your Question:
Hi, I have been of work for 5 weeks due to anxiety caused by lack of training and support from the company I work for. I came back to work on the 13th of February to be told that all my accounts have been taken off me and I would have to start from the began. Until I build my new customer accounts up I am losing £500 a month in commission, while my colleagues are getting this commission for the work I have done. can they do this?

Our Response:
Yes, if you are in a role where a prolonged absence affects business, then your employer can redistibute work to other employees accordingly.
SafeWorkers - 23-Feb-17 @ 11:12 AM
Hi, I have been of work for 5 weeks due to anxiety caused by lack of training and support from the company I work for. I came back to work on the 13th of February to be told that all my accounts have been taken off me and I would have to start from the began. Until I build my new customer accounts up I am losing £500 a month in commission, while my colleagues are getting this commission for the work I have done. can they do this?
chris83 - 22-Feb-17 @ 8:47 AM
Hi I've been off work for 6months now due to stress depression and anxiety I recived a letter from my manager asking me to go in for a meeting they havnt been very supportive through it aat all do a bit worried ehat will be said. I've got a bad feeling there going to dismiss me can they do that ? Thankyou
Tez - 18-Feb-17 @ 7:26 PM
Hi, I've been on sick for 3 months, for anxiety s repression. I went back to work 2 wks ago and today my manager and other boss got me into the office. I take telephone calls and my employer told me to listen to a recorded message of me on phone, saying I wasn't saying right phone manner.. but I answer 60 calls a day and do my job good. I feel like I'm bullied at work and feel down again What to do
Burrows - 9-Feb-17 @ 10:01 PM
Hi, this will be my third week of phased return after a 7 week absence for anxiety and low mood. My senior manager has been kind and let me choose my shifts, my line manager has changed them without my knowledge. Part of my anxiety was due to childcare issues, he has now put my on days I have no childcare. I have been to occupation health and they are supporting me to get the set days I can work. I don't feel strong enough at the moment to challenge home. In the past he has done this to me eg not given me my annual leave I have requested and changed my days. Help please.
TC - 23-Jan-17 @ 9:02 AM
Hi I have been of work with depression and anxity for a year due to bullying at work I returned last year under a new manager and team and everything was gone I started fresh keeper my head down and cracked on with my work . But after about 7 months in to my role I asked for a meeting between my manager and me . Me and my manager get a little hot headed some times so I always ask to recorde or get a witness but this time it was me and him and he pushed me. I put a grievance in and it was dropped to lack of evidence.I then went sick with a cold/flu and on return had a sars meeting / return to work . There was a note taker and within the conversation he admitted to putting his hands on me . I have put a grevience in again but not to sore what to doe with my anxity and depression in the past as it all to much
Robot 68 - 5-Dec-16 @ 8:38 PM
Mi37 - Your Question:
Hi, I'm sorry to bother you but I think I need help.I was signed off work a about a month ago for depression and have been on anti-depressants. I was worried about losing my job so went back to work on Thursday last week but found myself getting upset with stupid things like seeing my work jacket had been taken off my chair and screwed up down beside my desk and that a small toy had been taken from my desk. Stupid but it made me feel really sad. I cried quite a bit over the weekend but forced myself into work on monday this week. I received an email from my line manager saying that my apdr(appraisal) was due and to let him know when I was available to talk. I replied saying I was free all afternoon but could he call me on my mobile because there is no privacy in the room where I work. He phone the desk phone saying there was no need for a private conversation and the proceeded to tell me that he was scoring me below average because I had let everyone down by being off so much, that although I had done overtime to catch up on work it had been a drain on finances and I had cost the scheme money and that he needes to point out that my current skill set is now pretty much obsolete in the company. He probably said some positive stuff too but I have no recollection. He then said oh how are you by the way? I suppose I should have started with that!I left work on Monday feeling that everything I had been feeling about myself was right, I was a let down, useless and everyone would be better off with out me. I've spent the whole time fighting with the desire to just end it. I should be in work but I can't face talking to anyone there.I feel sick to my stomach with just the thoughtof having to communicate with anyone there. What am I supposed to do now because I dont see how I can return to work.

Our Response:
You really need to talk to someone individually about this. If you don't have a family member or friend who you think can help, try SupportLine.org.uk, they have a confidential telephone helpline 01708 765200,or AnxietyUK.org.ukwhich also has a helpline: 08444 775 774
SafeWorkers - 10-Nov-16 @ 10:25 AM
Hi, I'm sorry to bother you but i think i need help. I was signed off work a about a month ago for depression and have been on anti-depressants. I was worried about losing my job so went back to work on Thursday last week but found myself getting upset with stupid things like seeing my work jacket had been taken off my chair and screwed up down beside my desk and that a small toy had been taken from my desk. Stupid but it made me feel really sad. I cried quite a bit over the weekend but forced myself into work on monday this week. I received an email from my line manager saying that my apdr(appraisal) was due and to let him know when i was available to talk. I replied saying i was free all afternoon but could he call me on my mobile because there is no privacy in the room where i work. He phone the desk phone saying there was no need for a private conversation and the proceeded to tell me that he was scoring me below average because i had let everyone down by being off so much, that although i had done overtime to catch up on work it had been a drain on finances and i had cost the scheme money and that he needes to point out that my current skill set is now pretty much obsolete in the company. He probably said some positive stuff too but i have no recollection. He then said oh how are you by the way? I suppose i should have started with that! I left work on Monday feeling that everything i had been feeling about myself was right, i was a let down, useless and everyone would be better off with out me. I've spent the whole time fighting with the desire to just end it. I should be in work but i can't face talking to anyone there. I feel sick to my stomach with just the thoughtof having to communicate with anyonethere. What am i supposed to do now because i dont see how i can return to work.
Mi37 - 9-Nov-16 @ 12:32 PM
I was admitted at the psychiatrist hospital February this year for 21 years due to depression and was given treatment that I should take for 6 months.I even tried committing suicide because of stress caused by my employer.So I asked my GP to help me with a letter stating that I should be moved from the job I was doing and do another job cos am not getting better and the employer is still mistreating me but the employer refuses to transfer me .the union reported my case to conciliation but we did not resolve the issue with my employer now My Psychiatrist has written the second letter telling them to move me due to treatment not working am still on treatment since February and am stating to hate my manager and even scared to drive work cars as am a field worker.pls help me .case was taken to arbitration but their lawyer said that is not the platform to deal with the case .Plz help me
mathesh - 31-Oct-16 @ 1:57 PM
Itsjade - Your Question:
I have been off work on sick leave for about 8 weeks now. My fit note is coming to an end and I feel sick every time I leave the house letter alone going back to work. I am on medication but I do not feel this is doing anything and have changed this twice. My family and partner keep telling me I need to go back to work but I'm just not ready. I really don't know what to do

Our Response:
Sometimes you do need to go back just to get the initial day over. If there's something about work that's bothering you or has caused your depression/sickness, take the bull by the horns and ask for a meeting to discuss how you can get back into work easily.
SafeWorkers - 6-Oct-16 @ 12:10 PM
I have been off work on sick leave for about 8 weeks now. My fit note is coming to an end and I feel sick every time I leave the house letter alone going back to work. I am on medication but I do not feel this is doing anything and have changed this twice. My family and partner keep telling me I need to go back to work but I'm just not ready. I really don't know what to do
Itsjade - 4-Oct-16 @ 10:42 PM
evy - Your Question:
I've been on sick due to depression since 5 weeks. My manager sent me email about wanting meet me and discuss helping my return to work. This is official explanation because in meantime when we spoke by phone he was sarcastic and said doesn;t know what is depression and this reason from fit note doesn't say anything. I don't want to speak with him about my personal problems. Is it legal require from me visiting work place when I'm on SSP?

Our Response:
Yes your employer can request to meet you to discuss your illness if it is long term. If you want to take someone with you that is perfectly acceptable. It might also be advisable to ask your GP to call your employer explain more about depression and what is entails before the meeting. Remember that depression can be regarded as a protected characteristic in discrimination law.
SafeWorkers - 4-Oct-16 @ 12:16 PM
I've been on sick due to depression since 5 weeks. My manager sent me email about wanting meet me and discuss helping my return to work. This is official explanation because in meantime when we spoke by phone he was sarcastic and said doesn;t know what is depression and this reason from fit note doesn't say anything... I don't want to speak with him about my personal problems. Is it legal require from me visiting work place when I'm on SSP?
evy - 3-Oct-16 @ 5:22 PM
I have been off work with anxiety and stress for 5 months and need to go back. The stress has come from many, many different sources at work and outside work. Mine is quite a senior role in a very competitive environment where stress is seen as a weakness. When I meet with HR, what could I ask for in terms of support (in addition to a phased return), to help deal with the anxiety and particularly with relation to colleagues. I have seen others in this situation looked down on, people talking negatively behind their backs, being marginalised, not being believed about the reasons why they were off and being accused of skiving. I resisted going off sick because of this but this made me worse and ultimately has probably made my absence longer. I don't feel ready to return but cannot afford to have my pay cut. Thank you
Hetty - 23-Sep-16 @ 11:24 AM
R - Your Question:
I was off work for 7 months with depression (something I've lived with since my teens, now 36) this absence from work was caused by issues at work with redundancies, outsourcing etc. all of which was poorly handled by management. We were recently outsourced (tupe) to another company and I came back to work in the hopes that things would be better, I'm on my third tier of phased return (due to return to full hours next week) but the situation at work has gotten worse rather than better. With me still being on a phased return would I be able to get signed off work again without fear of any 'negative comeback' from the company we have been outsourced to? I can't handle work and the stress that has gotten worse since my return but I'm worried that having just been outsourced my job would be in jeopardy. Any advice would be appreciated

Our Response:
We can't really say. This will depend what view the company takes of prolonged sickness absence and if your depression is made worse by the job regardless of who is running the company then of course your employer will consider this. Bear in mind that any rights you had with the old company will still be honoured if you were transferred by TUPE.
SafeWorkers - 23-Sep-16 @ 10:06 AM
I was off work for 7 months with depression (something I've lived with since my teens, now 36) this absence from work was caused by issues at work with redundancies, outsourcing etc. all of which was poorly handled by management. We were recently outsourced (tupe) to another company and I came back to work in the hopes that things would be better, I'm on my third tier of phased return (due to return to full hours next week) but the situation at work has gotten worse rather than better. With me still being on a phased return would I be able to get signed off work again without fear of any 'negative comeback' from the company we have been outsourced to? I can't handle work and the stress that has gotten worse since my return but I'm worried that having just been outsourced my job would be in jeopardy. Any advice would be appreciated
R - 22-Sep-16 @ 9:04 AM
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