Sick (fit) notes

“Employees must give their employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) if they’ve been ill for more than 28 days in a row and have taken sick leave. This includes non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays”.

If you are off work for 28 days or less, your employer may ask you to confirm that you have been ill by filling in a form yourself when you return to work. This is called a self-certification form (please see the link below).

If you are off work sick for more than 28 days, your employer will normally ask for a fit note (or statement of fitness for work) from your GP or hospital doctor. Fit notes are sometimes referred to as medical statements or a doctor’s note. You will not get this free of charge from your GP unless you have been off work sick for more than 28 days.

When you work out the number of days that you have been sick, you need to count all the days in a row you have been sick, including days you do not normally work such as weekends and bank holidays.

If you need a fit note, contact your GP surgery, or if you are getting hospital treatment, ask for one from your hospital doctor. Your doctor will assess you and if they decide your health affects your fitness for work they can issue a fit note and advise either that a) you are “not fit for work” or b) you “may be fit for work taking into account the following advice”. Your doctor will choose the “may be fit for work” option if they think that your are able to do some work even if it is not your usual job, with support from your employer. Discuss this advice with your employer to see if you can return to work. For example your doctor may suggest possible changes such as:-

  • returning to work gradually – for example by starting part-time
  • temporarily working different hours
  • performing different duties or tasks
  • having other support to do your job, for example if you have back pain, avoiding heavy lifting.
    If your employer is unable to accommodate the changes advised by your GP then the fit note is treated as though it said “unfit for work”.

Fit for work is a free service designed to help people who are off work due to sickness or in work with a health condition. If you have been off or are expecting to be off work for four weeks or more, your employer or doctor may refer you, with your consent, to the Fit for Work service. A Fit for Work professional will then discuss the type of support you need to return to work and produce a “return to work plan” which your employer can accept instead of a fit note. Anyone can access information on work related health issues on the Fit or Works website (link below). You can also chat online to a specialist adviser or call the helpline on 0800 032 6235.