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Sick notes or fit notes, when is the employee required to provide one?

View profile for Philip Richardson
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Concern for the future of GP care provision

Fit notes have replaced sick notes if an employee is off sick. The requirements around the procedures employees need to follow around time off due to illness will depend on their employer’s employment policies and their contract with the employer.

However, these general principles tend to apply. Previously, employees were required to obtain a sick note from a doctor after being absent from work for a specified period. However, the rules have been revised to provide more flexibility and reduce the burden on medical professionals. Here are the current guidelines:


For the first seven calendar days of sickness absence, employees can self-certify their illness. This means they can inform their employer about their absence without providing a note from a doctor.

Fit notes

If an employee's illness continues beyond seven calendar days, they will need to provide their employer with a fit note from a doctor. Fit notes replaced the old sick notes and provide more detailed information about an employee's fitness for work. Fit notes can indicate whether an employee is "not fit for work" or "may be fit for work" with certain adjustments and support.

Best practice

It is considered good practice for employers to carry out return-to-work discussions with employees who have been absent due to illness, regardless of the duration of their absence. These discussions can help identify any adjustments or support the employee may need to facilitate their return to work.

In some instances, employees may not follow the correct defined procedures when they are absent due to illness. If an employee has not followed what is defined in the employee handbook and their contract, they could face disciplinary action and it will impede their ability to be paid statutory sick pay (SSP). If a fit note is not provided, an employer may investigate further and ask for other evidence.

We are used to advising on clauses in relation to sick leave in employee handbooks and contracts and what happens when this has been breached. Our fixed price employment package Workplace Plus can assist you with this and more. We frequently advise our Workplace Plus clients on these types of issues but we are also able to provide specific advice to non-Workplace Plus clients. If you have a query or concern around staff absence, contact us today to see how we can help on 0161 696 6170.