Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

In this guide, we will discuss ‘Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?’, the rules of the fit note, how will your doctor assess your health, what is the comments box, and some additional considerations regarding the fit note.

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

Yes, a doctor can refuse to give you a sick note if your health does not affect your fitness for work.

This means they may refuse if you are requesting a fit note due to minor health issues that do not compromise your ability to work.

In addition, your doctor won’t issue a fit note for non-medical problems, meaning, personal problems at home or at work.

Supporting what we have previously stated, Dr. Zubair Ahmed and Jenny Huelin indicate, “Sick notes are discretionary. A doctor can refuse to give you a sick note if they feel you are fit to work. It helps to document when your symptoms started, what symptoms you have had, and how severe they have been to give the doctor a clear and accurate picture of your health condition.”

Moreover, if your doctor considers you are fit for work, you don’t need a fit note and also if you have been off for less than 7 days you can self-certify your leave during this time. 

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

In contrast, if your doctor considers you need time off work or you are not fit for work, he/she will issue a fit note and in their opinion, if you are expected to reach four weeks of sickness absence, you may be referred for an assessment by Fit for Work. 

In addition, and as stated on ‘The fit note: A guide for patients and employees’, “The purpose of this assessment is to give you, your employer and your GP more occupational health information to assist your return to work more quickly. It is a voluntary service where you can consent to a referral and participation in Fit for Work.” 

Lear what to say to a doctor to get signed off work with stress and not be refused.

Rules of the fit note

Here are some rules when getting a fit note:

  • You should get a fit note from the doctor who is treating you. Usually is your GP but if you are getting treatment at a hospital then, your hospital doctor will be the one issuing the fit note either handwritten or printed but should always be signed by them.
  • Duplicate fit notes can only be issued if the original has been lost.
    The fit note is classed as advice from your doctor and your employer can decide whether or not to accept it but your doctor can’t get involved in any disputes between you and your employer.

How will my doctor assess my fitness for work?

Your doctor will assess your fitness for work by considering how your health is affected and how it directly affects your ability to perform your work.

They can decide whether you are completely unable to do your job or ‘not fit for work of any kind’ or if you are indeed able to do your job or ‘fit for work’ taking into consideration their advice.

Consider that you already have a medical condition, doesn’t mean your doctor will automatically consider you ‘not fit for work’.

Instead, they will consider your fitness for work in general and not only based on your current job.

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

If your fit note states ‘not fit for work’ show it to your employer where they may take a copy and you can keep the original, so you can arrange any benefits you may be entitled to such as sick pay.

On the other hand, if your note says you may be fit for work, your doctor will give you advice in the rest of your fit note about how your health affects what you can do at work. In addition, make sure to discuss with your employer if they can help you return to work such as making arrangements to change your schedule or your current job role.

What is the comment box for?

As indicated on ‘The fit note: A guide for patients and employees’, “Your doctor can use the comments box to give you more detailed advice about the impact of your condition on what you can do at work. This will be advice about what you can do at work in general, and will not be tied to your current job – this gives you and your employer maximum flexibility to discuss ways to help you return to work.”

For instance, if you have dry eyes, your doctor may include in the comments box ‘should not drive, take regular breaks if using a display screen’.

Moreover, if your doctor considers that your job is the one causing your health issues, they will also indicate this in the comments box.

Your employer is able to make reasonable adjustments according to the advice included in the comments box.

For example, your employer may modify some of your job duties or the location, reduce your working hours, or offer a phased return, provide additional training or even offer you to work from home.

Do I need to pay for a fit note?

NHS fit notes are free if you have been off sick from work for more than 7 days. However, your GP may charge you if you need a private medical certificate if you have been off sick for 7 days or less.

Most of the private doctors will charge additional fees if they issue a sick note. 

Moreover, fit notes from private doctors may range between £45 to £60 depending on the provider.

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

How can I get a private sick note?

If you need a private sick note after being off sick for less than 7 days or at short notice, you may find an online doctor who can offer same day private sick notes.

In many cases, it is not necessary to see the doctor in person to get the sick note.

Before going back to work, there is no need for you to go back to see your GP. 

When should I go back to work?

You can go back to work as soon as you feel better, even before your fit note ends which will depend on your employer’s agreement.

Can I get a sick note for bereavement?

No, a GP can’t issue a sick note due to bereavement but you may be entitled to take compassionate leave if your employer’s policy allows you to.

According to the UK government, as an employee, you are allowed to take time off to deal with an emergency that involves a dependent.

This includes children, grandchildren, spouse, partner, and parents.

This is considered an emergency leave, meaning it won’t apply if you knew about this situation in advance.

However, in other cases, you may also be eligible for unpaid parental leave.

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

Sick notes for mental issues

Many employees worry about the possibility of getting a mental health sick note since, for most people, this is not as valid as having a migraine or the flu.

However, as indicated by Dr. Zubair Ahmed and Jenny Huelin from Medicspot.co.uk, “You can get a sick note for mental health issues like depression, work-related stress, and anxiety.

The NHS introduced the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health in 2016 to reduce the long term impact on people experiencing mental health problems.”

In conclusion, yes, you can get a sick note due to a mental health condition, and employers are recognizing, even more, the impact and importance it has for an employee.

Why is this blog about Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note important?

As we discussed, your doctor can actually refuse to give you a sick note if your health does not affect your fitness for work.

This means they may refuse if you are requesting a fit note due to minor health issues that do not compromise your ability to work.

They may issue it as ‘fit for work’ or ‘not fit for work’,

Fit notes have their own set of rules so it is important to be aware of them. Moreover, we need to consider how just having a medical condition, doesn’t make us automatically entitled to get a sick note.

Our GP will assess how our health affects our performance or our ability to do our job.

In addition, an important part of the fit note is the comments box where they will include some advice for our employer to consider and make reasonable adjustments when necessary. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note

Can a doctor refuse to give a fit note?

Yes, your doctor can refuse to give you a fit note.

Especially if you ask for a fit note for a non-medical problem or if they determine you do not need a fit note to get time off work.

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note UK?

A doctor can refuse to give you a sick note in the UK.

If they determine you don’t need a fit note then they won’t issue it.

How long can a GP give a sick note for?

There is no maximum or minimum a GP can issue a sick note for.

However, if you have been sick for more than 7 days (self-certification), and you still feel unwell, you need to see your GP and ask for a fit note to justify your absence. 

Will the Dr give me a sick note?

Your Dr may or may not give you a sick note.

There is no charge from your doctor to issue a fit note if you are off sick from work for more than 7 days.

However, if you are sick for 7 days or less, your GP may charge you to provide a private medical certificate.

Can I get a sick note without seeing a doctor?

Yes, you can get a sick note without seeing your doctor based on a telephone assessment.

However, you will need to collect it from your GP practice or ask someone else to get it for you.

References 

Department for Work & Pensions. “The fit note: A guide for patients and employees.” Click here.

Zubair, A. & Huelin, J. (2019, Mar.) Sick notes explained. Retrieved from medicspot.co.uk.

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note?

Daniela Paez

Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.