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Do you need a doctor's certificate in the first seven days of an illness?

No, illnesses that last less than one week are usually minor and self-limiting and you may not require a visit to a doctor. It can be difficult for your doctor to judge whether or not you are incapable of reporting for work in this situation and all the certificate really indicates is that you attended the surgery on a specific date stating that you had a minor illness. In general, the Departments of Health and Social Security, employers, doctors, and patients do not recommend that you attend your doctor for sickness certification alone. Your GP is required to issue a certificate only if your absence from work through sickness lasts more than seven days, if you require one earlier there is a charge of £25.

What do you need?

For the FIRST SEVEN DAYS (including weekends) of any illness you do not require any form of certification from a doctor. It is for you to decide if you are fit to work, however, your employer may ask you to fill in a self-certification form, SC2 which is available from your employer or for download from here

After the FIRST SEVEN DAYS you will need a 'Fit to Work' certificate signed by a doctor.

If you have been in hospital, or have already been seen by the GP for this illness then your GP may be able to give you a Fit to Work note without seeing you or by telephone consultation. If we do not have any documentation of your illness then you will need to see the GP.  

If you are under the care of a hospital, your fit note may be issued by the hospital, rather than by your GP.

With the fit note, your GP can choose one of two options:

  • you are ‘not fit for work'
  • you ‘may be fit for work'

What does ‘may be fit for work’ mean?

Your GP will choose the ‘may be fit for work’ option if they think that returning to work – with support from your employer – will help you recover.

Your GP can give general advice on the fit note about how your illness or injury may affect your ability to work. Discuss this advice with your employer to see if you can return to work. For example, your GP may suggest possible changes, such as:

  • returning to work gradually, for example, by starting part-time
  • working different hours temporarily 
  • performing different duties or tasks 
  • having other support to do your job, for example, if you have back pain, avoiding heavy lifting

Fit for Work Scheme

If you are employed and have been, or are likely to be, off work for four weeks or more, you can be referred by your GP to the Fit for Work referral service, which is available across England and Wales. Ask your GP about how you can be referred. For more information about this Government scheme please click here.

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