If you're off work sick for 7 days or less, your employer should not ask for medical evidence that you've been ill. Instead they 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.
If you're off work sick for more than 7 days, your employer will usually ask for a fit note (or Statement of Fitness for Work) from a healthcare professional. Fit notes are sometimes referred to as medical statements or doctor's notes.
When you work out the number of days that you've been sick, you need to count all the days in a row you've been sick, including days you do not usually work, such as weekends and bank holidays.
If you need a fit note, contact the healthcare professional treating you. This should be a doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist or physiotherapist.
Your healthcare professional will assess you, and if they decide your health affects your fitness for work, they can issue a fit note and advise either that:
- you are "not fit for work"
- you "may be fit for work taking into account the following advice"
Your healthcare professional will choose the "may be fit for work" option if they think that you 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, the healthcare professional treating you 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 a healthcare professional, then the fit note is treated as though it said "not fit for work".
There is never a charge from a healthcare professional for providing a fit note if you're off sick from work for more than 7 days.
For sickness of 7 days or less, your GP practice may charge you to provide a private medical certificate.
For example, some employers may request medical evidence from employees who repeatedly take time off sick, even if each time they're off work it's for 7 days or less. A fit note cannot be used for this purpose and a healthcare professional may charge to issue a private certificate.