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to say don't go and get signed off with stress

(469 Posts)
writingonthewall Fri 26-Feb-16 13:26:42

I see this all the time on MN

OP: there's been a death in the family, I'm doing fine but need time off work to organise the funeral/comfort DH. work will only give me 3 days compassionate leave, after that I have to take holiday or unpaid leave

everyone else: go to your GP and get signed off with stress.

before I get flamed, I am a GP and I fully understand that bereavement hits different people in different ways. I sometimes do sign people off work after a bereavement - if you can't stand up for crying, then you can't work. And whilst there is no hierarchy of grief, as a general rule losing a child is very very traumatic whilst losing a parent is something that you do expect to happen at some point. So no problems with signing certificates for genuine mental health problems post bereavement.

What I do object to is this "get signed off with stress" when you aren't ill.

Do people not realise that, firstly, you are asking the GP to commit fraud. Secondly general practice is buckling. We are under resourced (all practices in one area I know are about to lose 20-25% of their funding) and even if we had the money, there are no GPs to recruit. And it's going to get worse if the new juniors contract doesn't get sorted out.

Every appointment taken up with a medicalisation of normal life, is an appointment that someone who is ill can't have and a potential delay in the diagnosis of someone else's cancer or other serious condition.

so please. see your GP if you are ill - physically or mentally. But think before you do and don't involve us in your battles with your employer and your general normal life events. Being sad after a bereavement is normal. The treatment is to talk about the person you have lost, cry a bit, and take care of yourself. It isn't to rush to the doctor for a medical cure.

CaptainCrunch Fri 26-Feb-16 13:31:46

This won't go well.

writingonthewall Fri 26-Feb-16 13:33:04

why not?

Flossyfloof Fri 26-Feb-16 13:33:17

Do you fully understand it? The grief? Doesn't sound like it to me.

Wolfiefan Fri 26-Feb-16 13:33:26

I haven't seen this ever on MN. But if someone is so upset they can't work and their employer won't allow them leave them what do you suggest?
And I am aware my mum will most likely die before me. That doesn't mean I won't be devastated when she does.

gandalf456 Fri 26-Feb-16 13:34:41

I don't actually think 3 days is enough for a parent or parent in law. I'm actually shocked that that's all people get because, where I work, we get two weeks for a close relative and they are also flexible if you need more. I agree that there is no need for people to run to their GP but you realise that the reason why they do is because the support from their employers is inadequate. I think this thread/opinion would be better placed directed elsewhere - i.e. the bosses of big companies. That way, things are more likely to change.

It's not just the loss, the funeral but also the sorting out afterwards. When my father died, it took me a good 6 months to get all the paperwork straight and I did end up using annual leave for that. I dread to think what happens when my mum goes because we'll have the house to organise, too.

I'm sure some do play the stress card and abuse the signing off for stress thing but, often the root cause lies in the workplace, with employers not being supportive, not being flexible, not tackling bullying staff and managers, making too many changes for change's sake, not employing enough staff to get the job done... When all that stops, that's when people will stop running to their GP with stress.

InternationalHouseofToast Fri 26-Feb-16 13:34:48

Often on here, it's people trying to offer something to a person who has asked for advice. If the OP's employer has a rubbish, or very restricted, bereavement policy and they need time when not allowed under the policy, or more time than is allowed, people want to suggest something other than "take annual leave" because many of us are prents and have leave tied up to care for kids in school holidays.

It's the same when your kids have longer illnesses as well.

Zazedonia Fri 26-Feb-16 13:35:48

I agree that there is too much taking time off work for stress. Sometimes it is malingering. Other times the person is genuinely feeling stressed by something going on at work (eg criticised by their boss), and taking time off with stress 1) makes them more unpopular at work than they already were, 2) makes it increasingly difficult for them to feel able to go back and face things. It's counter-productive and often ends in dismissal or resignation.

writingonthewall Fri 26-Feb-16 13:36:36

But if someone is so upset they can't work and their employer won't allow them leave them what do you suggest?

as I said on my OP - if you are so upset that you really can't work, that's one thing. But I see it all the time on MN - it is clear that the time off is needed to sort out the funeral etc, not because there is a catastrophic grief reaction, and the response is "get signed off with stress".

writingonthewall Fri 26-Feb-16 13:37:33

Do you fully understand it? The grief? Doesn't sound like it to me.

well I've lost my father, and other relatives including some quite young, as well as had various dogs put to sleep. I've gone back to work on the afternoon of having my beloved dog put to sleep and had to have the odd break between patients to have a bit of a cry. Don't you dare say that I don't understand grief.

writingonthewall Fri 26-Feb-16 13:38:10

It's counter-productive and often ends in dismissal or resignation.


dumbbelle Fri 26-Feb-16 13:38:15


GPs are self employed. Therefore, their spouse may have left, the kids may have chicken pox, and their mum's just been diagnosed with cancer, and they've got a viral infection, but they're still there to see patients, otherwise the practice doesn't function. If you have no choice but to be at work, you can work.

Sick notes are exactly that. For when you're sick. Not for employment disputes. Not for when the dog's died. Not for when you think your employer doesn't give enough compassionate, annual or parental leave. It's for when you're sick.

There is always the option of annual or unpaid leave.

PovertyPain Fri 26-Feb-16 13:38:26

You sound like my gp, OP. She likes to tell me all about the 'stages of grief' and how it will get better with time. She also likes to tell me how she feels I'm getting better because I have put on weight and look better.

'Stages of grief' is bullshit.
I've put on over a stone since my husband died (I've always been thin) as I comfort eat.
I now tell her what she wants to hear as I'm fed up with her thinking she knows how I feel.
I feel worse as time goes on and have stopped telling her how I wish I could die, but I can't because the kids need me.

If someone tells you they need time off to sort things out, fair enough, but to think you know how someone responds to loss depending on their blood relationship with the deceased shows an incredible arrogance.

MammaTJ Fri 26-Feb-16 13:38:53

Well, with the surgery I go to, I have got used to which doctor specialise in which areas.

I guess if I was at your surgery, I wouldn't bother you with this. I know which lovely doctor in my surgery I would go to and she is lovely, has empathy (you may need to look that up) and understanding.

PovertyPain Fri 26-Feb-16 13:42:00

I've gone back to work on the afternoon of having my beloved dog put to sleep and had to have the odd break between patients to have a bit of a cry. Don't you dare say that I don't understand grief.

Are you fucking kidding me? I adore my pets and they are part if my family but ffs!

dumbbelle Fri 26-Feb-16 13:43:39

Sick leave is not an optional extension to other kinds of leave.

PovertyPain you sound ill. It sounds like your grief isn't following the usual pattern, and you need help from a sympathetic doctor, yes.

If you're ill, ask for a sick note.

If you're not ill, don't ask your GP to commit fraud on your behalf.

Twowrongsdontmakearight Fri 26-Feb-16 13:44:23

I'm probably the only person who will agree with you OP. And you're not the first GP to come on here re sick notes. There was a post from a young GP shocked when lots of patients turned up for their sick note and had no interest in her efforts to make them better.

dumbbelle Fri 26-Feb-16 13:45:25

I recall a thread on here where a poster got flamed PovertyPain for suggesting that someone shouldn't call in sick after their dog got put down.

OldestStory Fri 26-Feb-16 13:47:09

I agree with the OP. Being sad is not a medical condition. Obviously, some people do become ill as a result of a bereavement, but that's not the default.

I also agree that if you are self employed you will be much more likely to go to work because you have to.

I also think that in some cases, my own included, it is better to go to work and maintain some routine. I am not, because of this "a strong person", nor unfeeling. It also preserves some sort of normality for dcs.

Again, in some circumstances for some people they are genuinely unwell, not just sad, devastated,nor needing time off for funeral arrangements or paperwork, and that is totally different.

oceanjanie Fri 26-Feb-16 13:49:01

I completely agree - grieving does not mean you are ill and unable to work. It might do for some people, but not for most I would think. Just cry in the loos when you need to and soldier on.

I think there's a tendency for people to not deal with things themselves in life and they think a doctor can fix everything, or SOMEBODY should fix things for them. Surely it's healthier to be independent.

I wouldn't expect extra time off work would help much. Grieving can take a long time - years, a lifetime maybe, better to learn to carry on sooner rather than later.

Iliveinalighthousewiththeghost Fri 26-Feb-16 13:49:54

God Lord for a GP you don't have much sympathy.
3 days compassionate leave is not even anywhere close to be enough time. It's ridiculous. Yes of course the 3 day rule is not your doing,
I'm sure you're aware or you certainly should be that sending people back to work before they are fully ready is a safe guarding issue. After all you send them back when they can't concentrate on their job, anything could happen, and I'm sorry but you may not like this, but you would be responsible, after all you refused to sign them off with stress. They told you they were not ready.

KateReddy Fri 26-Feb-16 13:50:54

You understand grief because your dog died? hmm
Did you mean to say you were a GP or is that a typo for GF?

writingonthewall Fri 26-Feb-16 13:51:16

to think you know how someone responds to loss depending on their blood relationship with the deceased shows an incredible arrogance.

my OP specifically said that there isn't a hierarchy of grief so I fully understand that.

Babyroobs Fri 26-Feb-16 13:51:40

In my place of work people generally take 4-6 months off sick on full pay for the death of a parent. I took 3 weeks off when my mum died suddenly and felt some colleaugues frowned upon me going back so soon. This may be because my work involved dealing with death and caring for the deceased and their relatives. I do feel some people take it a bit too far. For example one colleauge took weeks off with stress to care for her partner's ( not even long term partner) dad when he was ill. A couple of years later she took another six months off sick with stress as her mum was ill. I'm sure she was stressed but others in similar situations don't do that, i guess everyone handles stress differently though and she may have been too ill to work. I think sometimes people just can't afford to take carers leave or unpaid leave to deal with family crises so they go off sick instead.

MerryMarigold Fri 26-Feb-16 13:51:43

I haven't seen the 'go and get a sick note' all over MN. I do sort of agree about people going to the GP and wasting time about minor things though.

Sorry there are 20-25% cuts. It is hideous.

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