Mental Health Sick Leave – Your Rights, Getting Signed Off, & How to Call In

Requesting mental health sick leave is no different to being signed off work for any other type of medical condition. If you are wondering if it’s acceptable to call in sick for mental health conditions such as anxiety, stress, or depression, be reassured that you are entitled to do so.

Your mental health is no different to any other type of illness, and it should be treated as such by your employer.

Our guide will look at your right to sick leave for mental health, how to get signed off work, and what to say to your employer when calling in sick.

We’ll also highlight what you can do when off sick with stress, anxiety, or depression, and help with information on a successful return to work.

Can I Call in Sick For Mental Health?

Your mental health is just as serious as a physical health condition. It’s perfectly acceptable to call in sick for this reason.

Whilst it can be a difficult conversation to have with your workplace, they should be supportive of your illness and do all they can to aid your recovery. Taking time off for mental health should not be seen in a negative light.

See Also: Good Reasons to Call Out Sick – Mental health is one of many good reasons to need time off work.

How to Call in Sick For Mental Health – What to Say

If you need to call in sick for mental health reasons, it can be hard to know what to say or how to approach your manager.

If you are suffering from stress or anxiety, it can feel overwhelming. However, do make sure you follow all your company policies for taking time off sick.

Here are 3 suggested ways to word the reason for needing time off when calling your workplace:-

1. How to Disclose Mental Health Issues

“Hi [Manager Name], I have been struggling due to some mental health challenges that are affecting my performance. I’m not well enough to come to work today. I need to take some time off to address the issues and come back to work in a more productive state.”

If you think your manager might probe into your reason a little more than you are comfortable with, be ready to say:-

“I don’t feel well enough to discuss this today, lets make a time to have a conversation about my current challenges when I return.”

This deflection tactic will help you feel in control, and open the door to a conversation down the line. This will give you time to consider what you want to say, and control over when you need to talk about it.

2. How to Avoid Directly Mentioning Mental Health

“Hi [Manager Name], I’ve had some health challenges recently that are affecting my ability to function day to day. I need to take some time / a day off to help me get ahead of the issues.”

If your manager asks you how much time off you need or when you will return to work, don’t feel pressured. If you think it’s a possibility you’ll need more than one day off you can simply say:-

“I will be in touch about my return to work by end of play today, I will email / call you to confirm my situation.”

This will give you some breathing room, and will mean you avoid putting pressure on yourself when put on the spot.

Make sure you follow up as promised, and if there’s any time sensitive work handover or updates to colleagues required, take ten minutes to do this right away. You can then focus on your mental health without worrying over work.

3. Asking For Extended Leave

If you know you’ll need more than a day or two off, it is best to disclose this if you feel able. If you are taking more than 7 days off, you’ll need to get a fit note from a GP.

“Hi [Manager Name], My current mental health challenges are affecting my ability to function at work and home. My GP has said I need to take an extended leave to protect my wellbeing.”

If you have not yet seen a GP you can also say “I feel I need to take an extended leave, and have an appointment this week to discuss the issue with my doctor. I will update you after my appointment.”

Open communication will mean you can get support when you return to work, and create opportunity for a discussion on reasonable adjustments if your work is the cause of poor mental health.

If You Don’t Feel Able to Speak on The Phone

If your workplace sick policy requires you to phone in sick, you can keep the call brief. Simply advise you can’t come in to work today, and it is a difficult matter. You can then say you will send an email explaining your situation.

If you don’t feel able to discuss mental health as your reason to stay off work, you could say you have a migraine or tummy bug. However, once you are feeling well you should consider discussing your health with your workplace so they can support you.

Our more general guide has lots of tips on how to navigate calling in sick to work.

Sick Notes & Self Certification

It’s straightforward to get sick notes for mental health conditions. Although you may not consider yourself ill, a mental health condition is an acceptable reason to be signed off work.

You don’t to go to the doctor immediately to get signed off work with stress, depression, or other mental health conditions. You can self certify for the first few days.

How to Self Certify for Mental Health

Self certifying for mental health is a simple process. For the first 7 days of any illness you can self certify your reason for taking time off without needing a doctors note. 

Usually, you fill in form SC2 upon your return to work. Usually your employer will provide you with a form, but you can also find the form on the UK Gov website.

Our guide on how long you can self certify for, and when you will need a sick note has detailed information on the process.

How to Get a Sick Note for Mental Health Leave

If you need to take a longer period than 7 days of mental health leave, you can get a sick note from your doctor.

All you have to do is call your GP surgery and ask for an appointment. Explain to your GP how your mental health has been affecting you. If they agree that your condition will leave you unfit for work, they will issue you with a sick note.

Sometimes you will be able to have a consult over the phone. The process to get a sick note is straightforward. If you have never discussed your mental health with your GP before, it may feel a little daunting. However, it is a good opportunity to seek some additional support.

Our guide on getting signed off work with stress has lots of tips on how to cope with the process, and some helpful examples of how to have the conversation.

Mental Health Sick Pay Entitlements

As a minimum, you will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you take time off for mental health.

However, this type of sick pay is only payable from the 4th day off work. SSP rates for 2023 / 24 are set at £109.40, increased from £99.35 a week in April 2023. This means the first 3 days off will be unpaid sick leave. These days are known as SSP waiting days or qualifying days.

Your employer may offer enhanced sick pay, often known as occupational sick pay. Check your contract of employment to see what you are entitled to.

Long Term Sickness

If you’re concerned about your mental health meaning you need to take long term sick leave, you will be concerned about the financial implications.

You are entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. After this time, your right to sick pay runs out.

Disclosing Health Issues to Your Employer

It can be difficult making the decision to reach out and ask for support for poor mental health from your employer. Workplaces should be sympathetic and supportive and most employers will want to help you.

If you feel  able, you could ask your manager to have a chat when you are feeling well. Not everyone has an understanding manager, but if you are able to talk with them before you need to take time off, it may make calling in sick less daunting.

You can start the conversation by saying something like “I need to discuss something personal with you, can we take some time for a chat?”

Medical Confidentiality at Work

Remember that you have the right to medical confidentiality at work. Your manager cannot disclose your medical information to your co-workers.

Letting your employer know that you are having issues with your health can give you additional employment rights and protections. Mental health is considered a disability if it has a long te

What Are You Allowed to Do When Off Sick?

If you’re off sick with stress or other mental health issues, there’s no need to confine yourself to the house.

In many cases, being out and doing normal things such as visiting the shops or going out to lunch can support recovery. Similarly, there should be no reason why you are not able to go on a holiday whilst off sick for this reason.

Further Reading


Can you get sick pay for mental health?

You are eligible for sick pay for mental health issues. If you need time off work for this reason, it should be treated in the same way as any other illness.

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