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Fit (Sick) Notes

Understanding your fit note

When your doctor provides you with a fit note they will advise you on one of two options. Either you will be 'not fit for work' or you 'may be fit for work'.

'Not fit for work'

Your doctor will choose this option when they believe that your health condition will prevent you from working for a stated period of time. 

'May be fit for work'

Your doctor will choose this option when they believe that you may be able to return to work while you recover with some help from your employer. 

Your doctor may include some comments which will help your employer understand how you are affected by your condition. If appropriate, they can also suggest one or more common ways to help you return to work.

This could include:

  • a phased return to work - where you may benefit from a gradual increase in your work duties or working hours, for example after an operation or after injury
  • altered hours - allowing you the flexibility to start or leave later, for example if you struggle travelling in the 'rush hour'
  • amended duties - to take into account your condition, for example removing heavy lifting if you have had a back injury
  • changes to your workplace - to take into account your condition, for example allowing you to work on the ground floor if you have problems going up and down stairs

Discussing your fit note with your employer

If your doctor has indicated that you 'may be fit for work', the fit note will give your employer the information needed to begin a discussion on whether you can return to work.

If it is possible for you to return to work, agree:

  • how this will happen
  • what support you will receive and for how long
  • how your pay may be affected if you return to work on different hours or duties

Sometimes it may not be possible for your employer to make the changes required to help you return to work. If this is the case, you will not be able to return to work until you have further recovered. You can use the statement as if your doctor had advised you were 'not fit to work'. You will not need to see your doctor for a new fit note.

NOTE: Back to work notes from a GP are now NOT required

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