My employer (and I think it’s a statutory thing so everyone is the same – but don’t quote me) allows you to “self certificate” for the first 8 days of sickness. This includes weekend days during that period of sickness. After this time if you are still ill you require a sick note from your GP.
Sick notes are a certificates whereby the doctor formally states that you should refrain from work and for how long as well the diagnosis of the disorder causing your abscence from work. I seem to remember there’s a couple of kinds of notes but generally you get issued a Form Med 3. At least that’s what it says at the bottom of most of my notes
On the back of the note you need to complete some details (name, address, national insurance number, works/employee number if applicable).
You can continue to have sick notes issued by your doctor for as long as your doctor agrees you should refrain from work. So in that sense you just keep asking for a new sick note when the current one runs out.
Your GP can’t put a future date on the sick note, but they can give you a backdated sick note. Make sure the sick notes cover you continously to avoid problems further down the line.
If you can keep a copy of the note before you send it to your employer/benefits office (I use a scanner and keep copies of my electronically on my computer as photocopy is not practical for me!).
If there is a gap in the sick notes (between the end of the last one and the start of the new one) contact your GP surgery and explain you need a note that covers the gap.
Often GP’s are usually happy to write sick notes without seeing you where the condition is “long term”. Ring your surgery and ask about getting a repeat without an appointment (unless of course there’s things you want to discuss at the same time). Some doctors may insist on seeing you. As we know not all doctors are sympathetic about ME/CFS – if you have problems getting a note I can only think to try and see another doctor.
My GP surgery will also let you request a phone call from a doctor where you can have a quick discussion (ie. “there’s no change doc”) and they’ll look at your records and do the note for you there and then.
I started off with a 2 week note I think and then the GP suggested going for a month, then 2 months. If you realistically and honestly think it will be a while before you are well enough to work again then it makes it easier for your employer to plan knowing it’s going to be a bit more than 2 weeks. Plus if you feel better before the note is up you can see/speak to your GP and they will do you a return to work note which cancels it out.
(Speaking from personal experience I found it very hard to accept being signed off for a month and then for 2 months. I’ve always been very conscientious and it was difficult to come to terms with the prospect of recovery taking so long. But in the end it was useful both for starting to come to terms with the reality of my situation and for setting realistic expectations for my employer and in particular my colleagues.)
Sometimes a doctor will write an open note and sometimes they write the date you can return to work. If it’s an open note (eg. refrain from work for 2 weeks) then you must get a return to work note before you go back to work. If you’re not sure if you need one or not ring your surgery and ask.
A GP can write a note for a few days or for many months. I am currently having 3 month notes as I find it a useful excuse/reminder to see my GP every 3 months and have a little review of where things are at.
You will need to send the original sick note to your employer, until such time as they stop paying you and you have to make a benefits claim - in which case you need to send a copy to your employer and the original goes to the benefits people (I haven’t made a benefits claim yet so I don’t know about that bit). Hopefully it won’t come to that!
As for how long you can continue to be off work sick with a doctors note before losing money and so forth this varies from employer to employer.
Some will continue to pay full wages for many months while you are off sick. This is what they call an “occupational sick pay” scheme. Your employer voluntarily pays your full wages. My employer gives 6 months full pay, then 6 months half pay , before going to nothing (and leaving me needing to claim benefits). They are public sector and it’s a good deal. Part of my sick pay has been made up with Statutory Sick Pay but it all gets a bit complicated so don’task me to explain!
Other employers are not as good as mine! They will only pay Statutory Sick Pay so you will see a change in your income/wages almost immediately. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) isn’t a lot (£72.55 as I type) - but it’s better than nothing! SSP is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.
You’ll need to check your employers policy to see what they offer – give your HR people a ring or email if you’re unsure. There may also be rules about eligibility for Occupational Sick Pay (like how long you have worked there etc).
There’s also rules about eligibility for SSP.
More information about Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be found at:
Sick pay makes my head spin - but this blog post is about sick notes after all!
I hope some of this is useful to others.
So far I’ve had 18 months of experience with sick notes and signing back on to work and off again! It can be quite daunting when first have to deal with it.
Finally here’s what a sick note looks like - with some blurring to protect the innocent. It’s not that exciting – they could use a nice colourful border to cheer us sickies up.
And, yes, I know my sick note says “Post Viral Fatigue” but lets leave that for another blog post and think calm thoughts.
Example of a Sick Note:
Example of the Rear of Sick Note:
When do I need a sick note?
Advice on sick pay:
Your sick pay rights:
PLEASE NOTE (Feb 2009):
This post was originally written in Sep 2007.
I’m not an expert. I am no longer up to date with the provision of sick notes or sick pay.
Ring your GP surgery for advice on how to get a sick note.
If you need further advice on sick notes, sick pay or employment issues I recommend you contact your union (if you are a member) and/or contacting your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Citizen’s Advice Bureau www.citizensadvice.org.uk