Changes to fit notes: how to get sick note for work, can I get one without seeing a doctor, when do I need it?

A wider array of healthcare staff can now certify fit notes in new rules which aim to cut workloads for doctors

Sick notes can now be written by more health professionals under new rules that aim to reduce the workload for GPs.

Until today, only doctors had the power to authorise absence from work. Ministers say the changes will help to minimise the pressure on GPs and make it easier for people to get authorised time off for sickness.

Sick notes can now be written by more health professionals under new rules (Photo: Adobe)

Who can authorise a fit note?

From 1 July 2022, the following health professionals can legally sign authorise absence from work:

  • GP or hospital doctor
  • Registered nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Occupational therapists

The updated guidance means that people will no longer have to see a doctor to have a fit note - also sometimes called a ‘sick note’ - signed when seeing and receiving treatment from an alternative professional for their health condition.

The government said the move will cut the pressure on NHS doctors, particularly GPs, and make it easier for people to get advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional.

The change is being delivered in GP surgeries, hospitals and other NHS settings where healthcare professionals delivering NHS services will have access to the new fit note form.

It applies across England, Scotland and Wales, and is being mirrored in Northern Ireland.

The reform follows fit notes going fully digital as they no longer need to be signed in ink.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Slashing unnecessary bureaucracy is key to ensuring more patients can see their GP quickly and get the care they need as we bust the Covid backlogs.

“That’s why we have introduced these powers to ensure certifying fit notes can be carried out by other healthcare professionals – helping to relieve pressures on GPs so they can focus on patients and deliver an extra 50 million appointments a year by 2024.”

When do I need a fit note?

Employees must give their employer a ‘fit note’ if they have been ill for more than seven days in a row and have taken sick leave. This includes non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays.

A healthcare professional needs to assess an employee’s fitness for work before issuing a fit note.

The note will say the employee is either ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’, and will record details of the functional effects of their condition so that the their employer can consider ways to help them return to work

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

Fit notes are free if the employee has been ill for more than seven days when they request one, but there may be a charge if the employee has been ill for seven days or less.

How do I get a fit note?

A healthcare professional will only give you a fit note if your health affects your fitness for work.

If you are fit for work, you do not need a note, nor do you need one if you are off sick from work for seven calendar days or less, because you can self-certify your leave for this time.

If a fit note is issued it is your property, but an employer can take a copy if they want one for their records.

Fit notes can be handwritten, computer-generated and printed out,  or computer-generated and sent digitally to you.

It must include the issuer’s name and profession, and the address of the medical practice.

If the fit note does not include the issuer’s name or signature it will not be valid and could be rejected by your employer or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).