Should I return to my job after being off work with depression?

I've been off work with depression for several months and I’m meant to return soon. Honestly, I hate the job. The problem is I’m worried I’ll find it difficult to find something else because of my poor attendance record. Should I go back to my current job and stick it out for a few months to show prospective employers that I gave it another go? If I do start looking for another job, should I tell them about my time off and the reasons behind it?

Depression at work – your rights

It’s understandable you’re worried about returning to work after you’ve been off for several months. Work related depression can be a difficult thing to manage. And if you’ve been off work with depression for a period of time, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re gonna feel when you get back. 

We wanna highlight that depression is a valid reason to be off work; in fact, you actually have the right to take time off for depression (and other mental health issues). And whether you choose to go back or not is completely up to you. Although you might find it useful to speak to your doctor (GP) who can advise you on the right course to take. You can learn more about depression in this article.

How long can you be off work with depression?

You’re probably panic googling ‘How long can you be off work with depression’ while reading this article. Well, lucky for you we’ve got it covered. 

If you’re on sick leave for depression or any other mental or physical illness, you still have rights. You’re entitled to up to seven days’ sick leave without a doctor’s sick note, or fit note as they are now known. Just know that if you’re off work for more than seven days, you’ll probably be asked for a fit note. Don’t worry though, these can be given by your doctor or GP. So it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to get your hands on one. 

It’s also worth noting that fit note policies will differ from business to business. We’d recommend checking your employer’s policy to see what yours is. Speaking of recommendations, you might wanna see our article on how to get a sick note here for more information.

Finding a new job after being off work with depression

If you hate your job and you feel like it’s contributed to your depression, it’s probably best to explore other career options. Think about what you might enjoy and what skills you have. To help out, you might also wanna speak to a career advisor at Learndirect on 0800 100 900. Alternatively, you can have a look at our article ‘I hate my job’ for more ideas.

Discussing mental health when applying for jobs

If you do decide to go for another job, the employer is likely to ask about your attendance record. They might do this at an interview, in which case you’re legally obliged to tell them. If you lie, you could be dismissed later on for deliberately withholding information from them. While you may have rights for depression at work, if you don’t tell them about it, you’ll lose those rights by getting sacked. For more information, see our article on mental health at work here.

On the other hand, if you’re not asked specifically about your mental health at your interview or on an application form, then it’s totally up to you whether you tell them or not. But something to consider is that a lot of people suffer from depression and have time off work. This means that employers should be sympathetic to this and might have even dealt with a similar situation before.

We know that it’s really hard to open up to people and be vulnerable, but it’s definitely worth it. Talking about how you feel in general and how you feel about your job can stop you from feeling isolated and/or overwhelmed. Plus, the person you tell might have some life-changing advice. You truly never know unless you try.

Getting counselling and advice for depression

If you don’t feel that you can talk things over with someone you know, another option is seeing a counsellor. They would be able to help you explore your feelings about what you might like to do in the future. And they’ll have tips on perhaps coping with your depression.

Ultimately, while it could be really helpful to get the advice of professionals, the decision about your work-life has to be yours. If you go back to your job, it may demonstrate to future employers that you show commitment. But it’s important to remember that, before any job, your health is the most important thing. So make sure you are doing the right thing for you.

If counselling sounds appealing to you, you can find out more about our free counselling service for under 25s right here at The Mix.

Other options & support for returning to work after depression

There are also other options open to you. For instance you could return to work while looking for another job, work part time or take some time out to think about what you really want. Whenever you choose to join the workforce again, if you’re dealing with depression workers’ rights will always be there to protect you. To find out more about part time work, click here.

Not to mention, there are lots of organisations that can help you. The NHS can actually help you find depression support groups in your area. Another organisation you might wanna look into is Mind. They have an extensive fact sheet about understanding depression. And you can contact its helpline on 0845 766 0163. Otherwise, you’re always welcome to check out the rest of The Mix’s articles on leaving a job here and our mental health resources here.

Answered by bss on 25-Sep-2012

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