I was diagnosed with a non-terminal chronic illness sometime back. It got worse, and the medication provided me with a constant headache. I only found out that headache was a side-effect after a subsequent Doctor's visit, who changed my medicine to some improvement. One reason I assumed it got worse was because I neglected medication in priority of other commitments, work and otherwise.

So I decided I need time off (after having suffered from the side-effect for about a month), informed my manager (who is great), and informed that I might take extended leave. They agreed. At the time, our leave policy allowed time off for people on Probation. But one day after I left, HR altered it. And now I require a medical certificate. I assumed it would be no issue since I've been visiting this doctor for months.

My doctor however while having acknowledged that the headache was indeed a side effect, said that I wasn't "unfit for work", and since the illness does not have an end-date, he can't recommend the requested time off. I requested a letter acknowledging the sickness.

My employer said a note would not be enough. While I can get a medical certificate from another practitioner who is more sympathetic, I'm having trouble with the ethics of the situation.

I don't want paid time off (which I will get if I present the certificate). And my health gets priority over any job, so I don't mind resignation. But I am grateful to my manager, and would like to make a proper exit in the recent future having given proper notice.

What's the right and ethical way to handle this?

  • 1
    Do you need time off because you cannot manage to work with the headache or because you cannot properly take medication during work? The first one seems to be possible, however the second sounds like an excuse.
    – Adam Smith
    Jan 14, 2018 at 18:22
  • 1
    @AdamSmith Headache was a prominent factor, but it's the second one. Medication compromises my availability so when work load is heavy I can't take it. Condition worsened due to not taking it and it compromised my availability anyway.
    – user62773
    Jan 14, 2018 at 19:12
  • So this time off would be used to try to overcome the side-effects of medication: headaches, performance impairment?
    – Adam Smith
    Jan 14, 2018 at 20:06
  • 1
    HR altered the policy a day after you left, after agreeing to leave on the previous policy? This could be constructive dismissal if you can prove it.
    – Jay
    Jan 15, 2018 at 13:42
  • Management agreed to leave and I think they weren't aware of an ongoing policy update at the time.
    – user62773
    Jan 17, 2018 at 2:42

2 Answers 2


As far as I have understood, your problems are:

  • Medication for your chronic illness impairs your performance at work due to its side-effects.
  • Change of medication improved side-effects a bit, but it still not enough so you feel you can get back to work.

You intend to take a leave to overcome the side-effects of the medication.

Based on these facts, I would think:

  • It is perfectly reasonable to talk to another doctor if you feel your problems are not being addressed by your current one.
  • Side-effects might be more tolerable after your body gets used to the medication.
  • The new doctor might be able to gradually improve the side-effects you are experiencing.

I would suggest, however:

  • to clearly state to the new doctor that the headaches and decrease of cognitive performance impairs your work. You feel pressured to regain your previous self during high workload periods and quitting the medication is the only way you found to do that.
  • to ask for further advice on how to address the side effects you are getting.

Good luck with your treatment.


Please add tags for locations, since there regulatory issues in place that greatly affect the answer. Assuming it's in the US:

There are various types of "absences" that are partially regulated and required by law. A "medical leave of absence" indeed requires a doctor to declare you unfit for work. In this case the company has to give you leave until the time when the doctor declare you "fit for work" again. It's actually illegal for you (or the company) to work, while you are on a medical leave of absence. You can't set foot into the office, unless a doctor declares you fit again. It's tightly regulated since the medical insurance mechanisms kick in to cover your compensation to varying degrees: sick days, short term disability, long term disability, etc.

That's probably not what you want. You can always try to negotiate an unpaid leave with your employer. Most companies do have a policy for this. Refer to your employee handbook for details. The details are actually important: how long will they keep the job open for you, how long will you still be getting benefits like health insurance, etc. Take a look at https://www.thebalance.com/leave-of-absence-what-a-leave-is-and-how-to-apply-1918176

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