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How Long Can A Doctor Give A Sick Note For UK?

Feeling ill can stop you from working. In the UK, a doctor can give you a note to explain this to your employer. Our article shows you how long these notes can last and what they mean for your job.

Keep reading to find out more!

Understanding Sick Notes in the UK

A person receiving a sick note in a doctor's office.

When do you need a sick note in the UK, and how can you get one? Discover how long a sick note can cover.

When to consider a sick note

You might need a sick note if you’re unwell and can’t work for more than seven days. Illnesses like flu, mental health issues, or injuries are reasons people ask healthcare professionals for help.

Sometimes, your job might affect your health and make existing problems worse. In these cases, talking to a doctor is a good step.

To get this document from your doctor or another medical expert, you must give them details about your condition. They will decide if you’re not fit for work or may be fit with some changes at your workplace.

Next, let’s find out how to actually obtain one of these notes.

How to obtain a sick note

Getting a sick note, also known as a fit note, is straightforward. This guide will show you the steps to follow.

  1. Decide if you need one. If you’re ill and can’t work for more than seven days, get a fit note from a doctor.
  2. Start with self – certification. Fill out an employee’s statement of sickness for the first seven days off work. You’ll need a doctors note for work in this case.
  3. Call your GP or hospital doctor for an appointment if your illness lasts more than a week.
  4. Discuss your situation openly with your doctor. They need details about your illness and how it impacts your work.
  5. Your doctor might suggest meeting with other health experts like occupational therapists or physiotherapists if needed.
  6. Ask your doctor about possible adjustments at work. These may include changing your tasks or working hours.
  7. Collect your fit note from the doctor’s office or ask if they provide digital fit notes through NHS systems.
  8. Understand what your fit note says about returning to work, whether you “cannot work” or “may be fit for work”.
  9. Share the fit note with your employer to prove why you can’t work or to make necessary changes at work.

This process helps ensure everyone involved knows about your health condition and how it affects your job duties.

How long a sick note can cover

Once you receive a sick note from a healthcare provider, you might wonder about its duration. A sick note can vary in length depending on your condition. For short-term illnesses, you can self-certify for up to 7 days without needing a doctor’s note.

If your illness lasts longer, doctors or nurse practitioners can issue fit notes for as long as necessary. These professionals assess your health and decide on the period of leave based on medical evidence.

For ongoing health issues resulting in prolonged absence from work, the duration of a sick note can extend to several months. It is vital for both patient and employer to make reasonable adjustments during this time.

The aim is always to support recovery while considering the impact on work life balance and productivity.

Important Information on Sick Notes

A person holding a fit note in a doctor's office.

When sick, you can self-certify for up to 7 days. If it’s longer, get a fit note from a health professional and follow the info provided in it. The fit note should detail what you can and cannot do at work during recovery.

Self-certification for up to 7 days

You can write your own sick note for the first week off work. This means you tell your employer you’re sick, without a doctor’s note. You just fill out a form from your job or write a letter saying why you’re not working.

After seven days, if you’re still sick, see a doctor. They might give you a “statement of fitness for work.” This proves to your employer that you need more time to recover.

Obtaining a fit note for more than 7 days

If you’re ill for more than a week, you may need a fit note from a doctor. This tells your employer about your health and when you might return to work.

  1. Start by self – certifying your first 7 days off work. You do this with a form from your employer or by writing a letter explaining why you’re off sick.
  2. After 7 days, visit your general practitioner (GP) or hospital doctor for an assessment. They will decide if you need a fit note.
  3. Explain your symptoms honestly to the doctor. They need accurate info to assess your situation.
  4. The doctor might suggest adjustments at work instead of complete time off. These suggestions go on the fit note too.
  5. If the GP agrees, they issue the fit note then and there during the appointment.
  6. Each fit note covers a specific period up to as long as the GP thinks necessary, sometimes months.
  7. Keep in touch with your employer about your health status and expected return date as stated on the fit note.
  8. Understand that obtaining a longer-term fit note may involve follow-up appointments with specialists or allied healthcare workers for more assessments.
  9. Use this time wisely – if possible, focus on recovering and following medical advice.
  10. If you disagree with what’s recommended, discuss it with your GP or seek advice from another healthcare professional like nurses or pharmacists.
  11. Remember, having an open dialogue with both healthcare providers and employers is key to managing long-term sickness absence effectively.

What a fit note should include

A fit note needs certain details to be valid. It should have your name and the date of the medical assessment. The health professional will write down why you’re not fit for work or if you can do some work with changes.

They add how long they think you’ll be off or need adjustments.

The doctor or allied healthcare worker also states if they need to check on you again. This is key for both short-term and long-term conditions, like long covid or cancer, affecting your job.

Your employer uses this note to understand your condition and plan how they can support you at work, such as offering flexible working hours or part-time roles.


Doctors in the UK can write sick notes for different times. At first, you can say you’re ill yourself for a week. If sick longer, a doctor must give you the note. They decide how long it goes for, based on your health.

This helps make sure workers have time to get better and keeps jobs safe too.


1. What is a sick note and who can give one in the UK?

A sick note, also known as a medical certificate, is given by doctors to patients who are too ill to work. Allied healthcare professionals might also provide them under certain conditions.

2. How long can a doctor give me off work with a sick note in the UK?

Doctors can issue sick notes for as long or as short as they believe you’re unable to work due to illness. There’s no maximum limit, but there are rules for pay during this time.

3. Can I get paid while I’m off work sick?

Yes, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re employed and meet certain conditions like having worked enough days and earning over the minimum amount required for National Insurance contributions.

4. What happens if my sickness lasts longer than the original sick note?

If your illness continues past your first sick note, go back to your doctor before it expires. They can assess you again and possibly extend your leave with another sick note.

5. Is there protection for my job if I take long-term sick leave?

The Equality Act protects employees from unfair treatment related to disabilities and health issues that qualify as disabilities under this act. However, it’s wise to understand your rights fully by consulting resources like ACAS or even legal advice through solicitors regulated by the SRA.

6. Can taking too much sick leave affect my job?

While everyone has the right to take time off when genuinely ill, excessive absences could lead employers to question your commitment or capability leading potentially towards discussions about employment terms or even dismissal within legal frameworks.

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