Can self-employed people get signed off work with stress?

I'm 20 weeks pregnant and my employer is putting me under a lot of stress at work which is really affecting me. My doctor has said that they can sign me off work with pregnancy related stress. Problem is, I also have my own business. Would I still be able to work for my own business even though I’m technically off work? Honestly, not being able to continue my business will probably make being signed off work redundant with the amount of stress it’ll cause.

I’m self-employed, how does getting a sick note work?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the support available for self-employed people. This isn’t helped by the rapidly changing benefits system which makes it frustratingly difficult to keep up with new developments. A reader of The Mix who is both formally employed and self-employed got in touch to ask if self-employed people can be signed off work with stress. Here’s our answer. 

Typically, a self-employed person loses their access to benefits like statutory sick pay. If, however, a doctor were to sign you off work with stress and the doctor’s note stated you were unable to work, then (provided you had built up enough National Insurance contributions) you may be able to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This allowance is intended to provide support for people too sick to work and can be claimed by self-employed people. If you wanna find out more about ESA, you can click here.

How to get signed off with stress

Looking for advice on how to get signed off work with stress? Well, you’ve come to the right palace 

To get signed off work with stress you’ll need a sick note for stress from a qualified medical professional like your doctor (GP) a.k.a. a fit note or doctor’s note. If they’ve given you a legitimate reason to take sick leave from your employment, based on a diagnosis of pregnancy related stress, then of course it’s fine for you to take a sickness absence. But remember this can only be for up to 28 weeks; unless you and your employer discuss reasons why you couldn’t return to work. 

Stress during pregnancy should be limited as much as possible to ensure that you and your baby remain healthy. Keep in mind that your employer should’ve carried out risk assessments in the workplace. This includes identifying hazards such as stress during working days. So you shouldn’t try to hide what you’re feeling.

You didn’t mention what type of work you do or what kind of business you own. Unfortunately without this info, we can’t say for sure whether or not you could continue with your own business once you get signed off with stress.

Getting support with sick notes for stress at work

If there’s a lack of support for stress leave from your work, we would recommend speaking to an independent expert. They’ll help give you better idea of your options. To start with, you can contact ACAS. This’ll be excellent if you don’t want to directly involve your employers at this stage. ACAS are the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and can advise on problems in your working environment. This means that they can give you advice on what legal options you may have, and give you detailed information about your rights. You can call their helpline on 08457 47 47 47.

You could also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) as they have advisors who are trained in employment law and can give you information directly relevant to your situation.

On top of getting the legal stuff sorted out, it’s important to keep your stress levels in check. Some ways to do this include relaxation techniques and thinking positive. For more tips and tricks, you can check out our article on coping with stress here. Otherwise, it could lead to mental impairment in the long term.

Stress can also have an effect on your physical health and concentration levels. This can get to the point where you become sick with stress. Therefore, it’s important that you eat well and keep your energy levels up while going through all this. Avoid food that makes you feel lethargic, and try to maintain a balanced diet and stay hydrated. If you need help with this then feel free to read about how to get a balanced diet here.

Extra support

If you feel your stress levels are getting out of control, it might be worth considering visiting your GP again for further support and advice. This is extremely important if the stress starts causing mental health issues. And, as always, don’t hesitate to visit our support services on our website if you need help with anything.

For more support, you can check our article on looking after your mental health at work here. Or if you just need a place to vent, head over to our discussion boards and get some support from our friendly community.

Answered by bss on 20-Mar-2013

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