Getting signed off with stress

My husband (not a lawyer) is sick with stress caused by work. I think he should go to the GP and get signed off work.

Are there any particular dos and don'ts from the perspective of protecting his position at work?

What is the cause of the stress? Workload, manager, type of work.

I think the main factor will be the manager and what sort of relationship s/he has with you husband

Is being signed off definitely the right thing for him? As somebody who has suffered from almost debilitating work stress at times I think sitting at home worrying about other people trying to sort out whatever is stressing me would be worse.  

The first thing he needs to do is find out if his workplace has a confidential counselling service. They really ought to have. 

I think once you reach this stage you just have to find another job

some places are toxic and no amount of time out will change that

I kind of agree, however understanding the employer, once you start going off with work stress your card is marked, also the thought of going back to the same situation compounded by having disappeared for a period of time will not help his stress anyway I would not think.  Different if he works in the public sector of course.

I'm not sure about law, but I know two people in my shop who have taken time off for stress/burnout who have gone on to be v senior (one is now CEO of a major subsidiary).  They were both v highly regarded before the stress period tho...

I know I am going to sound callous but I don’t really understand people who get so stressed at work that they need time of unless you are in a traumatic role like medicine or the military or the rescue services. In an office environment it is pointless to get that stressed and pointless to suffer and you should just get out.

Kind of agree with the above, unless he’s in a role where there’s not really an alternative employer (teacher, doctor etc) would he be better just leaving?

Chuffy, it can be compounded by pressures outside work, or mental health issues that can be treated - you're probably right generally, but there will always be exceptions.

Meurseult, if he's "burnt out"/too stressed to be effective and his mental health is suffering to the extent that continuing isn't an option, then there would seem to be two options:

1. quit, and change direction after taking time out to recover; or

2. get signed off sick, with a likely phased return, and then either find coping mechanisms that enable him to return to his previous job without a recurrence, or see whether he can be found a role/way of working that involves less stress. This will depend largely on how valuable he is within his organisation and how inclined they are to support him, with potential special treatment needed.

Option 1. involves missing out on sick pay, but also probably avoids needing to disclose the situation to a future employer if he ends up needing to find another job in the near future - I'm not sure how much of an issue that may be.

I've worked with two people who've been off with stress. One had a very long phased return but came back as a highly valued PSL (instead of a fee earner). They stayed on for years. Another was supported to come back for a few months with a view to then looking for another job from a position of strength - they moved out of law.

I've also been off myself finding the whole lockdown situation with small children completely unmanageable - I'm not sure what label to put on it (stress/anxiety/burnout/depression? none really seem to fit as I felt ok in myself) but my functionality suffered to the extent that when I had childcare again, I found I couldn't work at all. I had a few months off (as sick leave, monitored by "occupational health" arranged through work GP) and now I'm back after a phased return. But I'm glad I didn't quit, as I'd have lost out on the chance to build back my working stamina and confidence within a team that's inclined to support me, rather than having an unexplained absence followed by having to prove myself somewhere else while feeling shaky about my ability to cope. I also quite like many aspects of my job, and my team.

Good luck to you and your husband, it can feel like the end of the world but sometimes time to recover means you can build coping mechanisms and perspective, and come back stronger.

I've quit due to stress. Last day is Thursday.  I'm completely unable to work effectively.  Life is too short. Suggest a sabbatical if you believe in the company. 

As someone who suffered from work related stress, I can tell you it is debilitating.  My firm paid me off (I was happy with that).  There was no sympathy or understanding in any way or form (I didn't seek it).  The best advice I was given at the time was "remove yourself from the source".  I did.  It worked.  My blood pressure is now completely normal and I am happy.  

"I know I am going to sound callous but I don’t really understand people who get so stressed at work that they need time of unless you are in a traumatic role like medicine or the military or the rescue services. In an office environment it is pointless to get that stressed and pointless to suffer and you should just get out."

This. Totally.

My late colleague, a good friend of mine, had an exemplary attitude to office politics. Having been in the Falklands, he had a bit of perspective on life's priorities. 

"I know I am going to sound callous but I don’t really understand people who get so stressed at work that they need time of“

Yes, and why can’t depressed people just cheer up??  Ffs.  Afraid I don’t have any advice on the legal situation for the OP but I do have sympathy.

I think it entirely depends on where you work.  In my place it would be fine.  I have had at times a few months off and caused no issues, so have senior management.  In any event life is too short so you need to do what you must for your health.  Good luck x

From my experience (had quite a few juniors go off on stress) it's usually a combination of home stress and work stress and they can't function. It's easier to take time off and relieve the work stress, so the home stress can be sorted and then they can return.

The high performers were welcomed back and suffered no ill consequences (in terms of career etc). The ones which were low performers and tried to allege bullying etc were quickly sent on their way.

First check if he will be paid. Plenty of companies in the UK perfectly lawfully do not pay you if you are off sick - first 3 days is unpaid then statutory sick pay after that which is pretty de minimis.

The problem with the "well, just leave" brigade, is that it takes time to sort out not just alternative employment that is suitable for location/pay/prospects but also to ensure you are not jumping from frying pan into fire. And that is time from when you eventually decide that you need to leave. 

I found that I had put up with unacceptable work load in the hope that things would return to the way they were with the company in earlier years. They didn't, but it took over a year for me to realise that this was the way it was going to stay and my attempts at persuading the bosses falling on deaf ears (well, they had their hands tied from above and so their own stress). 

By the time I started to actively look elsewhere I was nearly on my knees and it took a number of months from then to finally get out. Absolute nightmare. 

 

I know I am going to sound callous but I don’t really understand people who get so stressed at work that they need time of unless you are in a traumatic role like medicine or the military or the rescue services. 

It sounds like you don't understand how fight or flight and stress response works. Your body doesn't understand the sense of threat in an office isn't a genuine threat to your life - it floods you with cortisol regardless.

I've worked with several ex-military folk who have said that being a lawyer is more stressful overall than the military because you are on your own, not in a team.

The problem with the "well, just leave" brigade, 

I think everyone gets that. It's about not buying into sunk costs fallacy or worse still when your brain convinces you you can't leave.

The ones which were low performers and tried to allege bullying etc were quickly sent on their way.
 

This is interesting. Very common in the medical game as Chimp may also testify. A failing doctor will typically have lots of time off with stress, then they want all sorts of adjustments (no nights, no weekends, limited hours for full pay), then they allege bullying by all and sundry. 

Good to see some of the prehistoric views on mental health being aired here. Go to the doctor if it is serious (eg self-harm), but think twice if it can be managed given it will go on your medical list record. 

Ultimately if they want the same pay they are going to get short shrift dressed up to comply with employment law. I would write down all the causes of stress specifically, home and at work, then go to their manager and set them all out together with the consequences, and what they think will resolve it, showing some give and take (eg if home pressures are too much can anything be done to offset that).

May not be the case with you, but the expectations of a partner, expressed or assumed, about home life can be a huge cause of stress even if it appears fine on the surface. Couples come together with separate lives that continue in many ways (jobs, friends) but loads gets piled on top and it can be hard to say you have topped out on that front. 

He may find his GP is sympathetic to the sensitivities of being off with stress and will sign him off with fatigue (as that tends to be a co-symptom). I have been in a situation before when I asked the GP not to put stress on the sick note.

Just to add that of course lots of highly regarded and successful people have an episode of stress and have a period off before returning to continue excellent careers.