How to get a sick note from the doctor

There’s nothing worse than going to work when you’re feeling under the weather. Okay, maybe being physically unable to do the work is worse. Problem is, you’ll need a doctor’s note to prove it. If you’re wondering how to get a sick note from the doctor it's important to note that what used to be called a doctor’s sick note is now referred to as a 'fit note'. The Mix tells you how to get one.

A young woman is thinking. She want to get a sick note for work. This is a wide-angle image.

What is a fit note?

A fit note (a.k.a the Statement of Fitness for Work) is a medical certificate issued by your doctor. Fit notes give your doctor (GP) the option to say you are ‘not fit for work’, ‘fit for work’ or ‘fit for some work’.

The difference between a fit note and a doctors sick note for work

The ‘fit for some work’ part is the major change. In an old-style doctors sick note for work, your doctor only had to decide whether you were fit for work or not fit. The fit note allows your doctor to decide whether you can work with some diminished responsibility or with certain conditions. The new note also allows space for the GP to explain how your condition affects you and your ability to work. We should mention that a sick note can’t be sent to your employer’s email address though. It has to go directly to you. 

Fun fact: fit notes replace the Med 3 (the standard sick note) and Med 5 (used if a patient was seen by a different doctor). So maybe fun was the wrong word – interesting fact? 

When do I need a fit note from a healthcare professional

We have to answer the all-important question: How to get a sick note from a doctor? 

If you’ve had a sickness absence of up to seven working days, your employer doesn’t need medical evidence that you’ve been ill. But once the eighth day rolls around you might need to pay your GP practice a visit (this differs according to each company, so make sure you check your contract or your employer’s sick-pay policy beforehand).

Do I need a fit note for coronavirus/COVID-19?

To make it easier to stay at home if you have COVID-19 (and avoid going to work sick), you don’t need to see a GP to get a fit note. Instead, the government is asking people to get an ‘isolation note’, which can be done by filling in a form online. But, remember, this type of sick leave is ONLY if you have the virus – not a bad back.

Can I still get a fit note if I’m self-employed or unemployed?

If you’re self-employed or unemployed you’re probably googling ‘How to get a sick note from a doctor without working at a company?’ Well, we have the answer. You can use the fit note as evidence in a claim for benefits. For more info, you can check out the rest of our self employment resources here.

What does ‘fit for some work’ even mean?

Fit for some work basically means that you’re not in full health. It’s a message for your boss to ease up on the work slightly. But just slightly because you can still go to work. The amount and type of work you get given is what changes. 

What sort of conditions might the note suggest?

The fit note might suggest a phased return to work, e.g. working part-time at first, working altered hours, or with different duties. The note might also suggest work-place alterations. This includes different seating arrangements, altered lighting, special equipment or even changing location to a different floor.

Does my employer have to comply with the fit note?

Your employer doesn’t have to follow all the suggestions made on the fit note. But if your employer isn’t able to accommodate your needs then you’ll be signed off as ‘not fit for work’. Alternatively, your employer can request that you return to the GP for alternative suggestions, or seek advice from an occupational health specialist.

Will the hospital doctor/GPs sick note state when I should return to work?

Your GP will recommend a period of time off and include this on the fit note. Regardless, you should definitely discuss your return to work with your employer. You might even agree on a time before your fit note runs out. However, if your condition is more serious then it’s advisable to follow the doctor’s advice, as this could affect your recovery.

Do I need to see my GP again before I go back to work?

Your GP will say on the fit note whether they need to see you again before you return to work.

Will the fit note affect my benefits?

The benefits process is unaffected by the fit note. If you’re marked as being ‘fit for work’ then you can still apply for benefits. More information on this can be found on the back of the fit note.

How does this affect my sick pay?

If your fit note says you’re fit for work but you and your employer agree that you’re not ready to come back then you can still get statutory sick pay. You can learn more about statutory sick pay here. It’s important to note that there are some temporary changes due to coronavirus. These mean that you can only be asked for a fit note to claim SSP after 28 days of sickness, including non-working days.

What if I think I’m fit for work and the GP thinks I’m not?

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you act on the GP’s advice on a sick note for work. If you feel well enough to return to work and your employer is happy with that decision then you don’t have to act on it. But we’d say that it’s still a good idea to listen to what your GP suggests and follow their advice.

Next Steps

  • Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law. 0300 123 1100
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


work rights

By Hazel Davis

Updated on 30-Jan-2022