Time off Work for Depression

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Taking Time off Work for Depression

Taking time off work for the reason of depression is a complicated issue which overlaps with several different aspects of UK employment law. Research indicates that the cost of taking time off work for mental health reasons including anxiety and depression is approximately £8 billion annually.

This area includes considerations of Statutory Sick Pay, the need for reasonable adjustments in the workplace, and the obligation of employers generally under the Equality Act 2010. It is crucial that one understands those legal frameworks in order to navigate the challenges associated with depression and mental health issues generally in the workplace.

Depression Sign Off Work

If an employee has difficulties with mental health, including depression, it is crucial that their employer takes the situation seriously and approaches this with the same concern that would be applied to any physical illness. While some may still consider it a taboo subject, most employers recognise the impact that depression and other mental impairments have on the business and the workforce generally.

Depression is a serious mental health condition which in some cases, can significantly impair an individual’s ability to perform their role. Symptoms of depression can range from persistent sadness and fatigue too severe cognitive impairments as well as, in some situations, physical symptoms.

Employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if they are unable to work due to any illness, including depression. Statutory Sick Pay is available for employees who have been off work for a minimum of four consecutive working days. It is paid by the employer at a rate currently of £109.40 per week (as of 2024) for up to 28 weeks. Employers sometimes offer more favourable sick pay benefits which include full pay for a prescribed period of time, instead of Statutory Sick Pay. For further information on the levels of benefits offered to employees, they should review the employer’s intranet which should contain the employee handbook provisions and any provisions in particular which appear within a sickness absence policy or their contract of employment..

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Time Off Work for Depression Reading

Not all individuals will display obvious signs of poor mental health or depression and therefore, it is important that employers do not jump to conclusions. There are certain physical manifestations which employers should be aware of including an increased level of sickness absence, changes in the standard of work provided, changes in an employee’s usual behaviour or mood, as well as employees who are appearing more fatigued withdrawn or anxious. It can often be difficult for employers to easily spot these signs, and therefore, it is important for employers to regularly ask their employees how they’re doing and be open and honest about how an individual may be feeling.

Employers have a duty of care pursuant to the overall duty to maintain a safe working environment for all their employees. This means an employer is required to do all that is reasonable to ensure they maintain their employee’s health, safety and wellbeing which includes protecting staff from discrimination or other poor behaviours as well as making sure all individuals have a safe working environment. In order to discharge their statutory obligations, it may be appropriate for employers to carry out risk assessments on an individual’s workplace. The Equality Act 2010 provides protection for individuals who are taking time off work for depression. It may be the case that those individuals are suffering from a disability pursuant to the Equality Act 2010, which means that the employer should not treat them any differently from any individual who is not suffering from a disability.

This Act also triggers obligations on the employer to consider reasonable adjustments both to the individual’s role as well as the workplace itself to facilitate an individual’s return to work if they have been forced to take time off work for depression. In instances where an individual has been forced to take time off work for depression, an employer would be well advised to obtain an occupational health expert’s opinion giving further details on the prognosis of the illness as well as explaining, in the expert’s opinion, which reasonable adjustments the employer should be considering. An employer should not take any action in relation to an individual who has taken time off work for depression until they have obtained an up-to-date medical opinion on both the prognosis and the recommended reasonable adjustments in relation to the individual concerned.

For further advice on this area, please do not hesitate to contact us on the numbers provided.

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