Rise in workers requesting sick notes ahead of return to offices

Workers are increasingly requesting sick notes as the return to offices looms, figures from a private doctor service have suggested.

Gogodoc, an on-demand GP service, saw requests for absence notes rise by 78 per cent from 83 to 148 between April and May. This compares with up to 25 requests per month before 2021, when the prospect of returning to work was far more remote.

Stress, anxiety and depression were among the main illnesses cited.

The findings come as many employees prepare to abandon remote working and return to offices when Covid restrictions lift on July 19.

Mental health experts have said stress-related disorders related to the workplace are surging in what they described as a "MeToo moment".

The mental health charity Mind said remote working, combined with nerves over restrictions easing, could be contributing to the rise in sick notes.

"Many people with pre-existing mental health problems are reporting a worsening in the severity of their symptoms, with some feeling anxious about the prospect of restrictions easing," said Emma Mamo, a Mind representative.

"Therefore it’s not surprising that there has been an increase in demand for GP sick notes from employees experiencing issues like stress, anxiety and depression.

"It is likely that factors like longer working hours, a lack of work/life balance and managers being less able to identify and support staff experiencing mental health issues due to remote working could also be playing a role."

Although anxiety appears to be peaking ahead of employees’ return to workplaces, it has been higher in general since the pandemic struck, figures suggest.

The number of sick notes issued by doctors for mental health reasons rose from 36 per cent to 42 per cent in the year to May 2020, according to an analysis by NTT Data UK.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC union, added:  "Stress is preventable if staff have reasonable workloads, supportive managers and a workplace free from safety concerns, violence, bullying and harassment."

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