What Does Off Work Indefinitely Mean? (A complete guide)

In this brief guide, we will look at the topic “What does off work indefinitely mean?” as well as other subjects related to taking leaves at work and about quitting or getting off your job.

What Does Off Work Indefinitely Mean?

To be off work indefinitely means to be on sick leave or other type of leave indefinitely to take care of a situation that needs more time and attention than the person can specify at the outset of the leave.

Being off work indefinitely is usually a last resort for most people and no one starts out wanting to take a leave that is indefinite, usually people take short term or long term leaves and realise towards their end that the problem is not going to resolve as soon as they might have hoped or planned for.

Usually people go off work indefinitely because of medical conditions, either their own or that of someone in the family, because serious illnesses like schizophrenia or cancer can sometimes take very long to recover from and they may need constant care and attention, which may not be manageable with work.

In cases where the reason for being off work indefinitely is medical, the doctor will usually supply you with a sick note or fit note, and you can attach that to a formal letter to give to your employer, and it is always advisable to first talk to your employer in person or on the phone about your condition.

How will being off work indefinitely affect my pay and position?

There are some things most people worry about when they talk or think about getting off work indefinitely, out of which a primary concern is being fired, and for that, you should know that you cannot be fired because you are sick and if you have not worked for very long at the job, that does not matter.

Once you have started working somewhere, or in some cases even before that, human rights legislation comes into existence and forbids your employer from making adverse decisions about your employment based on a prohibited set of grounds, including illness or disability. 

Another thing that most people are concerned about is whether they will be paid when they are off work indefinitely, and the answer to that is that no, employees who do not work are not entitled to pay, unless they are in a period of government sanctioned sick leave or other kind of leave that comes with pay. 

In cases where the person is off work indefinitely, they may have no legal right to sick leave, however, you should check your employment contract because sometimes those are drafted with special measures for some positions. 

If you do get paid for any part of the leave you should consider it to be gratuitous and do not expect it to continue. 

Additionally, you should always keep in mind that any participation in any company benefits plan may make you eligible to make a claim for short-term and, eventually, long-term disability payments but this may be problematic if you have not worked at your job for long enough because some insurance companies require you to work for a certain period of time before their benefits kick in. 

Lastly, Employment Insurance benefits are available to employees who are unable to work because of sickness or physical damage but usually insurance has preconditions. 

For instance, when one wants to receive benefits, they should already have put in at least 600 hours for any employer in the last year or since their last claim for benefits. 

Sick Leave

Sick leave is sanctioned leave that any employee is entitled to if they are sick, and after providing a note from a physician they should be able to take time off work.

Sick leaves are usually taken for the initial period of 7 days, and though they may be extended according to what the person is suffering from, there may be a requirement to supply the employer with the necessary documentation of why the employee needs to take time off.

Another thing to remember is that sick leave may be taken with pay or without pay, depending on how many sanctioned leaves an employee has left or how long they need sick leave for.

The Department of Labor website specifies the criteria for sick leaves as such:

“Currently, there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave. For companies subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Act does require unpaid sick leave. FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of the employee’s immediate family. In many instances paid leave may be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave.

Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, and have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.”

Family and Medical Leave Act

The US government allows an employee to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is a provision through which someone can take time off to care for their family.

According to the FMLA official page:

“The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.

FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
  • For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to FLSA principles for determining compensable hours or work.”

How to take time off work indefinitely?

Usually to take time off work indefinitely one needs to supply the employer with the necessary evidence of why they need to be out of work, and this will usually consist of the necessary medical documents that prove that the person has no other option.

Another thing to remember is that the employer is not obliged to keep your job open for you indefinitely and if the work starts to suffer, or if you recently started working at that job and therefore don’t have a strong rapport with the employer, they may be less inclined to work in your favor.

However, if you explain your situation to your employer, most of them will try to help you out at least, and they won’t give away your position without at least informing you in advance.

Here is what you can do to get off work indefinitely:

  • Give the reasons for absence.
  • Provide any relevant information about whether you have taken or made efforts towards receiving appropriate treatment.
  • Tell the employer how likely it is that you 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)
  • Any factors that may affect your speed of recovery and ability to return to work.
  • Provide a list of any incentives or financial issues that may encourage or discourage a return to work (for example, any impact on pay).
  • Try to get any assessments you need of possible interventions/services that may be required and if there may be a need to devise a separate return-to-work plan.


In this brief guide, we looked at the topic “What does off work indefinitely mean?” as well as other subjects related to taking leaves at work and about quitting or getting off your job.

Being off work indefinitely can be both voluntary and involuntary, and if you ever find yourself in a position where you are dealing with something that absolutely cannot be covered by just taking a sick leave or personal leave or even a sabbatical, you might need to get off work indefinitely.

However, getting off work indefinitely shouldn’t be confused with just being off work permanently, or taking a very long time off, because those are different things.

If you have any more questions like what does off work indefinitely mean, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What Does Off Work Indefinitely Mean?

Can you be signed off work indefinitely?

Yes, you can be signed off work indefinitely in cases where you don’t know when you are going to get better and there doesn’t seem to be a time limit on your medical or mental condition.

To get signed off work indefinitely you might need to talk to your doctor and ask them about how long they consider necessary for you to get well or feel better. 

In some cases you can also self-certify the first 7 days and after it, if you need to get signed off work indefinitely, you can get a sick note or fit note from your GP.

How long can you stay on the sick leave from work?

You can stay on sick leave from work for both short term and long term, and usually when employees have been off work sick for four weeks or more it counts as a long term sick leave.

Additionally, for the sick leave to be long term, the four weeks don’t have to be continuous and in some cases the periods can be linked if they last at least four days and are eight weeks apart or less.

What do you mean by indefinite leave?

Indefinite leave to remain is a type of immigration status in the UK, the possession of which allows the person to live in the UK for an indefinite or limitless period of time.

In some other cases, however, an indefinite leave can also mean a long term leave of more than 12 weeks, which does not specify an exact date the person is going to be returning to work, as they may have a condition they need to take care of which does not have any set time limits.

Can a doctor write you off work?

Yes, a doctor can write you off work, but most doctors can only do it if you or someone in your life is actually sick, and therefore this type of sick note advising of the time you are allowed to be off should only be considered in cases where it is actually required.

There is also a provision of a Statutory Sick Pay in some places and to claim that you need to be an employee and have done some work for your employer and your illness should have been present for at least 4 days in a row, which can include non-working days.








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