What are fit notes?
Fit note is the informal name for the Statement of Fitness for Work.
Your doctor will assess you and if he or she decides that your health affects your fitness for work, they can issue a fit note and advise that:
- you are "not fit for work"
- you "may be fit for work taking into account the following advice"
Your fit note will show that this is the case:
- for a specified time, such as one week, or
- until a specific date
When do I need a fit note?
If you're off work sick for seven days or less, your employer should not ask for medical evidence that you've been ill.
If you're off work sick for more than seven days, your employer will usually ask you to provide proof that you've been ill. They will normally ask for a fit note from your GP. Fit notes may also be called medical statements or a doctor's note.
The seven days includes days that you don't normally work. When you work out how long you've been off sick, you should include weekends and bank holidays.
Sickness of seven days or less
Your employer can ask you to confirm that you've been ill. You can do this by filling in a form yourself when you return to work. This is called self-certification.
Self-certification forms usually include details such as:
- information about your sickness or illness
- the date your sickness started
- the date your sickness ended
These dates may be days that you don't normally work. For example, your sickness could start or end on a Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday.
Many employers have their own self-certification forms. If your employer doesn't have its own form, it may use an SC2 form from HM Revenue & Customs instead:
Sickness of more than seven days
If you're sick and off work for more than seven days, your employer will probably ask for proof of your illness. Most employers ask for a fit note from your GP.
However, this will also depend on your employer's company policy on sick leave (or sickness absence). This policy should tell you how many days you can be off sick before you need to provide proof of illness or a fit note.
Fit notes and how to get one
A fit note must be signed by a doctor, such as your GP. Your doctor will assess you, and if he or she decides that your health affects your fitness for work, they can issue a fit note and advise that:
- you are "not fit for work"
- you "may be fit for work taking into account the following
If you need a fit note, contact your GP surgery, who may advise you to make an appointment or book a telephone consultation.
If you're under the care of a hospital, your fit note may be issued by the hospital rather than your GP. If a hospital issues your fit note, it will always be a double-sided A5 handwritten fit note.
There is never a charge from an NHS doctor for providing a fit note if you're off sick from work for more than seven days.
Charges for fit notes
Some employers may request a fit note from employees who repeatedly take time off sick, for example, even if each time they're off work it's for seven days or fewer.
For sickness of seven days or fewer, your GP practice may charge you to provide a fit note. Your GP surgery can give you more information about what their charges are.
Can I go back to work before the end date on my fit note?
You do not always have to be 100% "fit" to be able to do some work – in fact, work can help your recovery from health problems or support your overall wellbeing if you have a long-term health condition.
You do not need a GP to sign a note to say you are able to go back to work for your employer.
You should go back to work as soon as you feel able to and, with your employer's agreement, this may be before your fit note runs out.
For example, you may want to go back to work sooner if:
- you've recovered from your illness or injury more quickly than expected
- your employer can offer you support to help you return to work
Your employer's agreement
You will need an agreement from your employer if you want to go back to work before the end date on your fit note.
If your employer thinks it's not safe for you to return, you will have to stay off work.
Your GP's advice
You should not go back to work before the end date on your fit note if your doctor has advised that:
- returning to work would be unsafe
- returning to work would be bad for your health
Do I need a note saying I'm fit for work?
You do not need to see your doctor again to be signed back to work.
The fit note does not have an option to say that you're fit for work. If your doctor wants to assess your fitness for work again, they will say this on your fit note.
They may also give you advice on your fit note about how your health affects what you can do at work.
Going back to work
You do not need to be fully fit to go back to work. For example:
- your employer may agree to make some changes to help you return
- if your health condition no longer affects your ability to do your normal duties, you may be able to return even though you've only partly recovered
Below are some examples of changes that your employer could consider:
returning to work gradually – for example, by starting part-time
working different hours temporarily
doing different duties or tasks
having other support to do your job, such as avoiding heavy lifting
Depending on your job, you may need to meet other requirements before you can return to work. For example, DVLA rules will apply if you drive:
- a large goods vehicle (LGV), such as a lorry
- a passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV), such as a bus
More information can be found online: