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When Do You Need a Doctor's Note?

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 27 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Note Fit Sick Illness Workplace Doctor

The whole ethos of the workplace sick note has changed recently, with the term ‘sick note’ being dropped in favour of ‘fit note’ since 6th April 2010.

As the new name suggests, the focus of the ‘fit note’ is what the unwell employee is able to do in the workplace, rather than what they cannot do. Consequently, the return to work rate after illness has improved, as many employers realise that while the employee may not be able to complete all the tasks associated with their job description, they are certainly able to be a positive presence in the workplace. This is good for both the recuperation of the employee and the employer/employee relationship.

What is a ‘Fit Note’?

‘Fit notes’ can be obtained from your GP or the hospital that is treating you. If you are requesting a GPs fit note and you have been ill for less than seven days (including days that you would not normally work, such as weekends and bank holidays) then your GP’s surgery is allowed to charge you a fee. You will also have to make an appointment to get the note. There is no set form for the GP to fill in, although it is expected to contain certain information, including confirmation of how long you have been ill, details of your illness and treatment, and suggestions as to what aspects of your job you are capable of. Crucially, the doctor will also give you advice as to what you can do to help yourself return to work as quickly as possible, whether that’s recuperation tips or further medication.

So when do you need to get a ‘fit note’?

For illnesses that last less than seven days, British employment law does not require a doctor to issue you a sick note, although you can request one if your employer asks for it. If you are ill for seven days or less (not working days, all days regardless of whether you would have worked on not), your employer can ask you to fill in a self certification sickness form. This can either be the Government’s official SC2 form or your employers may have their own version. This will usually include details of your illness, such as when it started, what medication you have taken and whether or not you are now completely recovered.

For illnesses that last for seven days or more, your employer can demand that you provide them with a ‘fit note’ from your GP or the hospital where you are receiving treatment. The ‘fit note’ is considered ‘evidence or proof’ of your illness and must be accepted by your employers. Since the ‘sick note’ was phased out and replaced by the ‘fit note’, your GP will not only say what you can and cannot perform as part of your duties, but what they consider you ‘may’ be able to do with the right guidance and support. This may include working in departments that you do not normally, or undertaking different tasks outside your job description. This is to encourage people to get back to work as soon as possible rather than staying on long term sick pay, which is costly both for the economy and for the individual employers.

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