Can a company contact your doctor?

Fit notes and proof of sicknessA fit note is an official written statement from a registered healthcare professional giving their medical opinion on a person's fitness for work. Fi

Can a company contact your doctor?

Fit notes and proof of sickness

A fit note is an official written statement from a registered healthcare professional giving their medical opinion on a person's fitness for work. Fit notes used to be called sick notes.

Healthcare professionals who can provide fit notes are:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • occupational therapists
  • pharmacists
  • physiotherapists

The fit note might include recommendations for how the employer could support the employee.

Whether you need a fit note depends on the length of sickness absence.

A fit note can be provided in writing or electronically.

Off sick for 7 days or less

If someone is absent due to sickness for 7 calendar days or less (including weekends), they do not need a fit note.

This means they tell their employer they're not well enough to work and do not need to provide any further medical evidence.

This is called 'self-certifying' their sick leave. They should still be paid the amount of sick pay that's in their contract.

Off sick for more than 7 days

If someone has a period of sickness absence for longer than 7 calendar days (no matter how many days they work each week), then they should get a fit note from a registered healthcare professional.

Getting a fit note

If the employee knows they're likely to be off sick for longer than 7 days, they should try and get the fit note to their employer on the 7th day of sickness absence.

A fit note cannot be provided before the 7th day of absence.

If there's a delay getting a fit note, for example difficulty booking a doctor's appointment, the employee should contact their employer and explain.

What a fit note says

The healthcare professional will tick in the fit note whether the employee either:

  • is not fit for work
  • might be fit for work

If the healthcare professional has selected 'might be fit for work', they can give details of what level of work they consider the employee is able to do.

They might say the employee is fit for work in general, but not for a specific task.

For example, a factory employee with a back injury might be able to come back to work to do light tasks, but would not be able to do any heavy lifting.

The fit note might also say how the employer can help their employee get back to work. For example:

  • a phasedreturn to work where they might come back for a limited number of hours or days a week to start with
  • flexible working
  • different duties
  • making changes to their workstation or working pattern

The employer should carefully consider any fit note recommendations as they can help the person get back to work quicker.

If it's not possible for the employer to do anything that's recommended, the fit note will change from 'might be fit for work' to 'not fit for work'. There is no need to get another fit note.

Some workplaces might have an occupational health scheme or employee assistance programme (EAP) to help the return to work process.

If the employee is disabled

If the employee has a disability, by law the employer must make reasonable adjustmentsif the person needs them.

Find out more about disability-related absence

When an employer can ask to see an employee's medical records

An employer can ask for a doctor's report about their employee's health if it's needed to stick to the law. For example to:

  • assess whether the employee is fit to carry out their work
  • prevent health and safety risks
  • prevent disability discrimination

The employer can only do this if the employee agrees.

The employee can also:

  • ask their doctor not to give information they think could be damaging or is not relevant
  • ask to see the doctor's report first
  • not agree to the doctor's report being shared with their employer if they disagree with what it says

If the employee does not wish the employer to see their medical information, the employer will have to make a decision based on what they know and are told by the employee.Use our template letter to an employee's doctor

Keeping information confidential

Any guidelines on privacy and personal information should be in the employers privacy notice under the General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR).

For more information on UK GDPR, see the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) website.

Any information the employer does get about an employee must be stored and kept confidential. Only appropriate senior and involved members of staff should have access to the information.

The employee should be kept informed of how their records are being stored or used. The employer should let them know from the start how to withdraw their consent if they later wish to.

If an employee is unhappy with how their confidential information has been handled, they can raise this with their employer.

If the employee is unhappy with how their absence has been handled

If the employee feels their absence or sick pay was not handled fairly or correctly, they can raise the issue with their employer.PreviousChecking how your workplace deals with absenceNextTime off because of a mental health issuePrint this page Download this page - PDF Document Download entire guide - PDF DocumentPrintcloseXPrint this pagePrint entire guideEmail address Please tell us why the information did not helpSelect the statement you most agree with: I do not understand the information I cannot find the information I'm looking for I cannot work out what to do next OtherTell us more about your answerPlease do not include any personal details, for example email address or phone number.
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