Fit notes and proof of sickness

Employees must give their employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) if they’re off sick for more than 7 days in a row (including non-working days).

GPs or Hospital doctors  can provide a fit note and may charge a fee if the note is asked for before the 7th day. The fit note will say the employee is either ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’.

If it says the employee ‘may be fit for work’, employers should discuss any changes that might help the employee return to work (e.g. different hours or tasks). The employee must be treated as ‘not fit for work’ if there’s no agreement on these changes.

Employers can take a copy of the fit note. The employee should keep the original.

Telling your employer you are off sick

If you can, you should tell your employer straight away that you are sick and unable to go to work. You may lose sick pay if you don’t do this. Your employer may have rules about what to do if you cannot come to work because you are sick. They can, for example, insist that you tell them you are sick on the first day that you cannot go into work. Your employer must let you know what these rules are in advance. If you don’t keep to the rules, you will be breaking the terms of your employment contract.

If you’re off work for seven days or less, your employer shouldn’t ask you to provide medical evidence that you were unwell or injured. However, they can ask you to provide proof and you should be prepared to show your employer your fit note (sick note) or complete a self-certification form when you return to work.

What is self-certification?

Self-certification is a way to prove that you were ill or injured and needed to take time off work to recover. Not all employers ask their employees to self-certify on their return – a fit note is usually enough to prove you were unwell.

Self-certification form

If your employer asks you to complete a self-certification form, you should provide as much detail as you can about the:

  • illness or injury;
  • causes of your illness or injury;
  • dates your sickness started and ended.

Many employers have their own self-certification form, but HM Revenue and Customs have created a form template, which is publicly available should your employer not have one. Download the Statutory Sick Pay: employee’s statement of sickness (SC2) form on GOV.UK.

What if I can’t prove I was ill or injured?

If you’re unable to prove why you needed to take time off, your employer could withhold any sick pay you might be entitled to.

The law does not state what evidence you must give to your employer to prove you needed to take sick leave, but your organisation’s sickness absence policy, or contract of employment, might specify what you need to produce and at what times during or after your absence.

What if self-certification isn’t appropriate for me?

If you’ve been off work for longer than seven days you won’t be able to self-certify. Your employer will probably ask you for a fit note as proof of your illness, although every company has different absence policies in place.

You do not call in sick straight away

If you do not tell your employer that you are off sick straight away, you could lose some or all of either SSP or contractual sick pay, unless you have a good reason for not telling them. Your employer can refuse to pay you contractual sick pay for the days you are off and do not call in sick.