Increase in fit notes issued by doctors due to stress, study suggests

The number of notes issued by doctors saying someone is not fit to work due to stress-related disorders increased by 8% last year, new research suggests.

There were 741,210 so-called “fit notes” handed out due to stress, compared with 686,670 the previous year, said employment law firm GQ Littler.

The total number of fit notes issued by doctors increased by 4% in the same period to 9.7 million, said the report.

The law firm said that if employers fail to make reasonable adjustments to help people returning to work after suffering from stress they could face employment tribunal claims.

Sophie Vanhegan, of GQ Littler, said: “Mental health in the workplace is having something of a #MeToo moment. It is important that employers keep up with that change.

“Employers need to have adequate policies and practices in place for supporting employees returning to work after a period of leave due to stress.

“If someone returning from a stress-related absence has been stripped of their previous responsibilities, or is otherwise treated less favourably than before, then they may have grounds for a disability discrimination claim.

“Failing to make reasonable adjustments for those returning from stress-related absences could also leave employers exposed to claims.

“For example, it may be reasonable for an employer to allow a phased return to work or offer them greater support with their workload.”

The number of fit notes where doctors have advised that an individual is “maybe fit to work” depending on changes being made to workplace conditions also increased last year, to 668,720, from 629,440, the report added.