Time off for stress

How to manage this productivity killer

Most of us deal with stress on a daily basis, often in the workplace. But for some—over a long period of time—it can become overwhelming.

Eventually, one of your employees may need to take time off work to recuperate.

But what are the laws surrounding this and how can your business legally respond? This article explains everything you need to know.

The causes of stress

First off, it’s important to highlight why some staff members may start to feel the strain of modern life. Common causes include:

  • A high workload.
  • Presenteeism.
  • Difficult family situations (i.e. the loss of a loved one).
  • Money troubles.
  • Concern over the future of their job.
  • Difficult relationships with colleagues.

Employees may struggle with acute, episodic, or chronic stress. The latter is the most harmful form and can lead to them requesting sick leave from work.

How your business can help

There are steps you can take to ensure you limit the stress your employees are feeling.

This means considering factors such as:

You should also be aware a staff member may be suffering through bereavement, which can heighten their issues to an overwhelming level. Look for opportunities to limit stress. This can include providing staff with better equipment, providing longer lunch breaks for relaxation periods, or ensuring staff don’t overwork themselves.

Remember that it’s in your business’ best interest to keep your workforce happy.

Stressed out employees won’t work to their highest standards. They make take sick days, too, which can lower your productivity.

And in the worst case scenario, they may end up having a longer recovery period. So you can keep an eye out for signs of stress—anxiety and depression are two common examples.

Signs and symptoms will potentially include:

  • Persistent lateness.
  • Lowering quality of work.
  • Complaints of insomnia.
  • An increase in sick days.
  • Complaints of headaches.

Considering employee support and wellbeing is an excellent way to combat the strain of daily work.

As a business, you can also consider health & safety advice to overcome any issues there.

Taking time off work for stress (UK)

Okay, so what are an employee’s rights if they need to take time off work for stress?

They have every right to do so, but remember they’re the ones who have to bring the issue up with you—if they don’t inform you of their struggles, then you can claim you were unaware of them. But you can still, as a business, broach the subject with your staff member if you have any concerns.

If your employee does let you know, then you can always refer them to your employee assistance programme (EAP). If you don’t have such a service, then there are other approaches you can take to offer support.

An occupation health referral is an example. This makes stress manageable for staff members through professional support.

It’s a good option to take if your employee is struggling with absenteeism and issues such as anxiety and depression need addressing head-on.

How much time off for stress can you allow?

The maximum time off for stress (UK) varies quite significantly case by case and what your business policies are.

An employee will need to visit a GP to get a sick note if they require extensive time off.

Staff members can only ‘self-certify’ without a sick note for less than seven days.

After this, it is up to your business to decide how long the staff member can take off to fully recuperate and return to work.

Need our help?

You can get in touch with us for immediate guidance through stress-related work issues. Call us today on 0800 783 2806.

Share this article

Have a question?

Ask away, we’ve got lightning fast answers for UK business owners and employers powered by qualified experts.

More on leave and absence

Someone at the beach on Annual Leave

Leave at Work

As an employer, there will be times when some of your employees require time away from the company. And when this happens, its important youre ...


As an employer, you must include several terms of employment in an employee’s contract. There may be occasions when an employee is asked to work ...

father holding two children

Adoption Leave

For many people across the UK - adopting a child is the realisation of a lifelong dream. But when the adoption goes through, you have a legal duty ...

Woman frustrated.

Late for Work

From time to time, some of your employees will be late to work. Whether they are delayed in traffic, their car has broken down, or have slept ...

Sick Building Syndrome

In the workplace, various types of illnesses can develop. Some may be more uncommon than others, so it’s important to keep an eye on each of your ...

Emergency Leave

Leave can be a tricky subject to define for both staff and employers, especially when dealing with an absence without notice. Emergency leave can ...

Carers Leave

Being a carer can often be unpredictable and arrangements can be tricky to balance in the workplace. To make your employees comfortable, you may ...

Absence Review Meeting

From time to time, your employees will take time off. But, when an employee is off far too often, it may raise concerns for your business. Your ...

Absenteeism Rate

From time to time, employees may miss work due to hundreds of reasons. You should expect your staff to be off for sickness or other causes throughout ...