How to get a sick note for depression

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Health Assured team

04 June 2019

Responsible for 15 million working days lost in a year, depression is a serious mental health concern.

If you’re depressed, you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself—if you’re not fit for work due to depression, there are steps and procedures you need to take.

If you’re off work for fewer than seven days, you don’t need a sick note for stress and depression. You can ‘self-certify’—this means filling in a form when you return to work. This applies to any sickness, not just mental health issues. An understanding employer will let you call in sick with depression.

What if I’m too depressed to work?

It’s common for this condition to affect your ability to do your job. If you cannot work because of or have an inability to work due to depression, a little time off can help you to recover. Sometimes a little time to yourself to decompress and take care of issues is what you need.

It’s a good idea to do this in moderation. The routine of work can help ease mental health issues. Just be sure the depression isn’t caused by workplace harassment or a toxic environment.

If you’re absent for more than seven days, including weekends and bank holidays, your employer will likely request a ‘fit note’. This is often known as a ‘sick note’ or ‘doctors note’ and is issued after an assessment of your depression.

How to get a sick note for depression

  • Contact your GP as soon as you know you’ll need a fit note, and get the first appointment you can. Be honest and forward when answering their questions, so they can build a truthful picture of your issues.
  • If your doctor decides your problems affect your fitness for work, they can issue a fit note. This note can advise that either you’re ‘not fit for work,’ or ‘fit for work taking into account advice.’
  • Your doctor can suggest possible changes to make returning to work easier. These include a gradual return, changes to the duties you perform or different working hours. If you’re off work with stress or depression, these changes can really help—discuss them with your employer. If your employer is unable to make the changes, however, the note will be treated as if it simply says ‘not fit for work.’


Will my doctor sign me off with depression?

Depression is a serious mental health issue, and in genuine cases, a doctor will issue a fit note. Follow the earlier advice—attend the first appointment you can, and speak honestly about your problems. You can take someone with you as a form of support to the appointment.

There’s a degree of stigma around taking time off work with mental health issues. People can be seen as skiving or playing the system. But if you’re depressed, you need to be certain to look after yourself. And the doctor is not there to judge you as a person.

Getting medical leave for depression is a good step on the road to recovery. It’s only a step, though—use the time to assess yourself, the things you need out of life and the barriers to your happiness.

You might use the time to look for other work. This is perfectly fine—a new role with less stress could be just what you need. Or you might use the time to simply breathe, be mindful and clear your head. It’s up to you.


How can you support employees off work with depression?

Our Employee Assistance Programme can support your employees through difficult times with 24-hour mental health support.

They can access confidential counselling to help them cope in the moment and make a quicker recovery.

If you have any questions, call us on 0800 206 2532

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