How to get Signed Off Work Permanently? (Ways to cope with Pressures)

In this brief guide, we will look at some ideas on how to get signed off work permanently, as well as specific situations like depression or stress where you might want to get signed off work with the help of a psychiatrist or general practitioner.

How to get Signed Off Work Permanently?

If you are thinking of ways on how to get signed off work permanently, you should know that the first step always needs to be talking to the employer, no matter what the problem is and why you need to get signed off work permanently.

When someone wants to get signed off work permanently, it’s either because they have been sick for a long time or because someone in their family is sick and they have to take care of them.

You may have other reasons to want to get signed off work permanently, but whatever the reason, you need to first explore the idea of taking short-term or long-term leaves or look into finding out what you can do about your finances once you get signed off work.

The first thing you always need to consider before getting signed off work permanently is to figure out whether you may be eligible for a short-term or long-term leave or even an unpaid sabbatical, and if your purpose is getting fulfilled by either of these you need to try to get them.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), leave structures may be of the following types in the UK:

  • Short-term sickness absence as lasting up to four weeks.
  • Recurring short-term sickness absence as a number of episodes of absence from work, each lasting less than four weeks.
  • Long-term sickness absence (including recurring long-term sickness absence) as absences from work lasting four or more weeks.

On the other hand, detailed information of state-wise leave related information in the United States may be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Some possible leaves and their purposes are defined by the NCSL as the following:

Parental (including maternity and paternity leave): To care for and bond with a child at or around the time of childbirth or the adoption or fostering of a new child.

Family Care: To care for a family member (usually an immediate family member with a serious health condition).

Medical: To attend to one’s own serious health condition (such as cancer).

Sick: To recover from a less severe, short-term medical condition (such as the flu).

How to go about signing off work?

To sign off work you need to first decide what course of action you want to take, do you want to take a short term leave, a long-term one, or a sabbatical, and based on what you decide to do here are some initial inquiries your employer may make:

  • The reasons for absence.
  • Information regarding whether the employee has received or made efforts towards receiving appropriate treatment.
  • How likely it is that they will come back to work.
  • Any real or perceived/assumed barriers to returning to work (this may include the need for workplace adjustments based on the illness or reason for leaving)
  • A consideration of the employee’s age, sex/gender, and the type of work they do, or just general factors that may affect their speed of recovery and ability to return to work.
  • A look into any incentives or financial issues that may encourage or discourage a return to work (for example, any impact on pay).
  • An assessment may also be made to determine what interventions/services are required and if there may be a need to devise a separate return-to-work plan.
  • Talking about a need for a dedicated caseworker who can help coordinate a detailed assessment, deliver any proposed interventions, or produce a return-to-work plan.
  • Caseworkers may have a clinical or occupational health background or just have the skills and training to act as an impartial intermediary.

What to say to the doctor to get signed off work with stress?

To get signed off work with stress you can say to the doctor that you have been feeling extremely low and describe your symptoms candidly and without hiding anything.

If you need a break, knowing what to say to the doctor to get signed off work with stress can itself be stressful, especially if you have never done it before.

In this case, you can also try some of these tips given below:

  • Be upfront about your symptoms or problems
  • Be clear about your feelings and try not to leave out any details.
  • Listen carefully to your doctor’s advice and follow it as instructed
  • If needed, go for follow-up appointments
  • Explain your situation clearly and what you feel triggers your stress

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Can a Psychiatrist Sign you off Work?

Yes, a psychiatrist can sign you off work as they are medical professionals and mental health issues have become widely accepted as important reasons for getting signed off work.

If you are experiencing mental health issues like depression or anxiety, a psychiatrist may definitely be able to sign you off work, provided you actually have a problem, and are not just malingering.

In addition, if you do have a psychiatric condition and are worried about privacy when you get signed off work by a psychiatrist, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has laws that determine how much you talk about and how much your employer can ask, and it says:

“In most situations, you can keep your condition private. An employer is only allowed to ask medical questions (including questions about mental health) in four situations:

  • When you ask for a reasonable accommodation
  • After it has made you a job offer, but before employment begins, as long as everyone entering the same job category is asked the same questions.
  • When it is engaging in affirmative action for people with disabilities (such as an employer tracking the disability status of its applicant pool in order to assess its recruitment and hiring efforts, or a public sector employer considering whether special hiring rules may apply), in which case you may choose whether to respond.
  • On the job, when there is objective evidence that you may be unable to do your job or that you may pose a safety risk because of your condition.”

The same commission also specifies how and when you may be able to get signed off work:

“Your condition does not need to be permanent or severe to be “substantially limiting.”  It may qualify by, for example, making activities more difficult, uncomfortable, or time-consuming to perform compared to the way that most people perform them. If your symptoms come and go, what matters is how limiting they would be when the symptoms are present.”

“Mental health conditions like major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) should easily qualify, and many others will qualify as well.”

How to ask to get signed off work permanently?

Here is a sample of a letter you can write to get signed off work permanently:

“Dear ‘Name of supervisor’,

I regret to inform you that this is my application for sick leave. As I have been suffering from health issues, the doctor has advised me to accept treatment which will take some time to finish. Due to ‘details of illness’, I will not be able to perform my job well and so I request you grant me some time off work.

According to the doctor, it will take me at least [X] days to recover and be able to attend work again. I have also attached a copy of the certificate provided by the doctor for verification purposes.

I shall be obliged for your approval.


Name of employee,

Name of the department”


In this brief guide, we looked at some ideas on how to get signed off work permanently, as well as specific situations like depression or stress where you might want to get signed off work with the help of a psychiatrist or general practitioner.

Work is a stressful situation anyway, and when you feel that you are struggling, you may often start considering getting signed off work permanently when taking long leaves or sabbaticals is just not cutting it anymore.

In these cases, it may help you to read about your rights and how you can go about taking the necessary time off, so that you may be able to do the best thing for yourself.

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you have about how to get signed off work permanently, and leave us any suggestions about what else you would like to see on this blog.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How to Get Signed Off Work Permanently

How long can your doctor sign you off work?

Usually, your doctor will only be able to sign you off work for 7 days for sickness, and it could be increased if you have very obviously not gotten better.

After 7 days, the employer might require a fit note or Statement of Fitness for Work from a GP or hospital doctor. These notes may also be known as medical statements or a doctor’s note, and they are required in most places when the leave time has gone beyond the typical short-term leave duration of 7 days.

Can I go back to work after being signed off?

Yes, you may be able to go back to work after being signed off if you can provide the adequate fit note or statement of fitness saying that you are not ready and prepared to get back to work.

In other cases, if you get better before the assumed date and want to get back before the end date on your fit note you can discuss you going back to work with your employer. 

Some workplaces may not be able to agree to an early return, which would mean that you might have to stay off work until the end date of your fit note.

Can I get signed off work with stress?

Yes, you can get signed off work with stress if you feel that your workload may be contributing to your significant stress or if you think you will recuperate from stress better without the pressure of work.

Your general practitioner can sign you off work with stress if they deem it necessary as well, but you need to remember that your employer may not be obliged to keep your job available on an open-ended basis for a long period of time while you are signed off work, so you should check the details of your contract or talk to them before you decide to get signed off work.

Can you get a sick note for anxiety?

Yes, you can get a sick note for anxiety, and other mental health-related conditions like depression or work-related stress.

What’s the longest sick note a doctor can give?

The longest sick note a doctor can give can cover a maximum of three months. The doctor may assess your condition after that and they may be able to extend it depending on the clinically appropriate period.


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