On stress leave

If you are suffering from stress, a sick leave may be necessary. Read about your rights and duties during the stress-related sick leave and get an overview of the mandatory interviews and statements when you are on sick leave with stress.

On this page you can find answers to the most important questions about stress-related sick leave.

What am I allowed to do when I am on sick leave with stress?

If you are on sick leave with stress, there are limits to what you can do. Basically, you are not allowed to do activities that aggravate your stress, because the purpose of your sick leave is to get well. For example, some people may find travelling stressful, while others find it relaxing.

Therefore, always talk to your GP, IDA's Legal Department and your union representative about what activities you can participate in during your stress leave.

However, there are a few general rules you should pay particular attention to when you are on stress leave:

  • Second job: If you have more than one job and your sick leave is concentrated solely in your main job, you can continue in a second job. However, you must be very careful that you do not appear generally healthy. Therefore, consult your doctor before continuing in a second job.
  • Job search: A job change may be necessary if you are on leave due to your stress illness. However, we do not recommend that you look for a new job until you have contacted IDA and received thorough advice from our legal advisors. If you look for a job while you are on sick leave, the job centre may stop paying you sickness benefit.
  • Travel/weekend breaks: As a general rule, you may not travel or go on a weekend break if it has not been approved by your municipality. If you travel without the approval of the municipality, you may be considered to be committing benefit fraud.

Are you stressed?

Contact IDA's Legal Department by creating a case on the IDA website. You will then be contacted by one of IDA's legal advisors.

Contact IDA's Legal Department

How should I communicate with my employer?

Sickness absence interview with your employer

Your employer is obliged to hold a sickness absence interview with you within four weeks of your first day of sickness. The purpose is to see if you and your employer can work together to find solutions to help you get back to work.

You are obliged to attend the sick leave interview, unless your doctor believes that it will aggravate your stress. If you and your employer agree that you do not need to attend in person, you can also attend online or over the phone.

If you and your employer disagree about whether you should attend, your doctor will decide whether an interview would be too stressful for you and therefore increase your stress. If you have any doubts about whether you should attend, you can contact IDA's Legal Department.

Get in touch with IDA's legal advisors.

Communicating with the municipality

Your employer will probably notify your municipality of residence that you are on leave, and the municipality may send you an electronic information form to fill in.

The municipality or job centre may also ask you for a medical certificate, and they may want to get involved in your sick leave and in making a follow-up plan. The aim is to help you get the right treatment for your stress, but for some it can feel like you are made an object of suspicion when you have to answer the same questions repeatedly.

When you are on sick leave with stress, it is important that you check your e-Boks regularly for messages from the municipality. In addition, you are obliged to attend any interviews with the municipality and to fill in the municipality's information form.

What certificates do I need when I get sick leave?

You should inform your employer as soon as possible if you become ill with stress. Your employer may then call you in for a sickness absence interview and ask for a number of statements:

Sick note (friattest)

A sick note is a certificate written by your GP. The certificate confirms that you are on sick leave due to stress and states how long you are expected to be on sick leave. Your employer may ask you for a sick note after your first day of sickness.

Fit for work certificate (mulighedserklæring)

A fit for work certificate is a medical statement that assists you and your employer in retaining you as an employee — or helping you return to your work duties.

Your employer may ask you for a fit for work certificate if it is doubtful whether you can work. There are three parties involved in completing the fit for work certificate: your doctor, your employer and you.

The fit for work certificate is a good tool to start a dialogue about the limitations of your ability to work when you are affected by stress. It can also be used to identify the possibilities for you to return to work at a pace and to an extent that suits you.

You are not obliged to inform your employer of the details of your illness and symptoms, but we recommend that you keep as close to the truth as possible. This will give your employer a better chance of organising your return to work so that it suits your ability to work and does not exacerbate your stress.

There are two steps when filling in the fit for work certificate:

  • First, together with your employer, you fill in a plan of what your options and limitations are after being on sick leave due to stress. You can do this, for example, during a sick leave interview organised by your employer.
  • Then you take your plan to your GP, who will assess whether it is safe health-wise. You take the final certificate back to your employer, but it is your GP who has the final say on your ability to work.

Your fit for work certificate should describe three things:

  • The challenges your stress brings. For example, if you have difficulty concentrating, remembering, reading, or making decisions.
  • The limitations caused by being stressed. For example, you may have a low tolerance for noise and distractions or have difficulty navigating complex tasks with many stakeholders and tight deadlines.
  • Suggest solutions to make it easier for you to return to work. For example, you could divide your tasks into green, yellow and red as you gradually progress from the easier green tasks to more complex red tasks.

The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment has made an example of a fit for work certificate that you can use as a starting point or inspiration.

Find the fit for work certificate on the website of the Agency (in Danish).

Is stress a work-related injury?

Stress is not on the list of occupational diseases and in principle you cannot get stress recognised as an occupational disease. An exception is if your stress develops into depression or if you have experienced violence, threats, sexual harassment or bullying at work without getting adequate support from management. If this is the case, your case may come before the Occupational Diseases Committee (Erhvervssygdomsudvalget), which deals with specific cases. You can get advice from IDA's legal department on whether this is appropriate.

Can I be dismissed when I am on sick leave with stress?

Absence due to illness is counted as "legal absence" and therefore you cannot be fired because you are on sick leave with stress if the following conditions apply:

  • That you have informed your employer in the context of your sick leave and according to the company's procedures.
  • That you have a medical certificate or declaration of good faith that you should take sick leave for stress.
  • That you have not deliberately withheld information about your health condition during the job interview.

However, you can be dismissed while you are on sick leave due to stress if your employer has a valid reason. For example,  if there is little hope that you will be able to return to work, or your employer may have problems with operations or certain tasks during your absence.

When does the 120-day rule apply?

If you are a salaried employee and have been on sick leave for more than 120 days within a year, you may be dismissed with a shortened notice period of 1 month + the current month. Sundays, holidays and days off are included in the 120 days, which do not have to be consecutive.

There are a number of conditions for the 120-day rule to apply:

  • It must be written into your employment contract.
  • The notice must be given immediately after the 120 days.
  • You must be on sick leave when you are dismissed.
  • Sickness due to pregnancy is not included in the 120-day rule.

Do I have to resign or sign a redundancy agreement when I am on sick leave with stress?

If you've been overloaded at work for a long time, it's normal to want to quit and get away from the workload as soon as possible.

Resigning may be a solution, but we do not recommend that you do so until you have contacted IDA's Legal Department.

Call or write to our legal advisors. 

Broadly speaking, there are three ways you can leave your workplace:

  • You can resign yourself
  • You can be dismissed
  • You can conclude a resignation agreement

We do not recommend that you resign during sick leave, so contact IDA's legal advisers. They can assist you in making the process as smooth as possible.

Can I get paid while on sick leave? If not: How can I get benefits?

If you are employed as a regular employee and are on sick leave due to stress, you are generally entitled to a salary even if you are not working.

How do I recover from stress?

Stress is very individual, derives from different sources and has different duration according to the situation and the person who experiences it. Therefore, it is difficult to say anything general about how you will recover after being on sick leave with stress.

Basically, however, you need help and support to deal with the challenges that have triggered your stress whether these are experienced in your work or private life. We recommend you to talk to your GP, IDA, a union representative and possibly another professional, such as a psychologist, about what you can change in your everyday life to reduce the strain.

In addition, healthy habits, relaxation techniques and different techniques to manage your thoughts and emotions can help relieve your stress. However, if you are severely stressed, lifestyle changes are not enough to relieve your stress.

Where can I get help to manage my stress?

It's a good idea to talk to professionals about your condition so you can get guidance on how to manage your symptoms and prevent further stress:

  • Psychological help: many companies have agreements with external psychologists or offer health insurance where employees can get full or partial coverage for sessions with a psychologist. Contact your HR or your union or health and safety representative to find out what arrangements are in place at your workplace. You can also check your pension company and your own insurance if you have health insurance. If you are unable to have the sessions covered, contact your GP and/or IDA.
  • Occupational health clinic: there are regional occupational health clinics all over the country, which also offer individual counselling on stress. Ask your GP if you can be offered assistance from a clinic.
  • Your municipality: If you do not have the opportunity to get help through your health insurance, workplace or own doctor, contact your municipality. Several municipalities have good interdisciplinary efforts on stress.
  • Unemployment insurance fund (A-kasse): several unemployment insurance funds offer individual counselling and stress prevention courses, including mindfulness and meditation training.
  • Evening schools: several evening schools run courses and offer lectures on stress and well-being.

How long can I be on stress leave?

The length of time you should be on sick leave due to stress is individual, and there is no fixed limit to how long you can be off sick.

Many find that it takes longer than they expected to return to work after being affected by stress. If your symptoms are less severe, you can extend your sick leave by 14 days at a time, but if you are more severely affected, it is a good idea to extend for longer periods at a time. Otherwise, you risk increasing your stress levels because you have to deal more frequently with your sick leave and questions related to when you are able to return to work.

As it is difficult to say anything in general about the length of a stress-related sick leave, you should be in regular contact with your GP, IDA's career-/ legal advisors or other professionals about your progress.

How do I know if I'm ready to go back to work after stress?

There are many individual factors to consider when deciding whether you are ready to return to work: How severe your stress illness has been, whether you've been working on the causes of your stress, and what tasks you're returning to.

Therefore, you should always make the decision in consultation with your GP, IDA and, if necessary, a relevant professional such as a psychologist.

When you have to return to work, it's normal for your body to react with symptoms because it "remembers" the situation that triggered your stress. You don't have to be completely symptom-free, but you need to be careful that the symptoms don't become more severe, and you need to be very careful not to push yourself too hard or to make too many demands on yourself in the run-up.

What do I do if my employer pressures me to return to work?

Only your GP and you can decide whether you are ready to go back to work. So don't feel pressured to return to work until your symptoms of stress have significantly reduced. If you feel that your manager is trying to pressure you to return too early, you should contact IDA's Legal Department and your union representative for advice.

Get legal advice about stress now. 

Returning to work after stress

Returning to work may seem like an impossible feat following a stress-leave. But with the right support, you are likely to make a full recovery and resume your daily tasks.

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