What to say to the doctor to get signed off work while pregnant?

In this guide, we will discuss “what to say to the doctor to get signed off work while pregnant”, how being off sick can potentially affect your maternity pay, health, and safety while pregnant, reasonable adjustments and some additional considerations.

What to say to the doctor to get signed off work while pregnant?

If you are wondering what to say to the doctor to get signed off work while pregnant could be because you have been thinking about being signed off before your maternity leave starts or because you feel like you need just a few days off.

There are many reasons you could potentially be signed off, for instance, one of the most common are exhaustion, unrelenting morning sickness and back problems. 

Even if your job may not be extremely demanding, our bodies keep working overtime hours, which can make us feel very tired.

Being pregnant can make you worry all the time when you notice the slightest of changes.

However, it is not a secret that there are very complicated pregnancies with many pregnancy problems.

Moreover, stress that comes with everyday work-related duties can be too much and even more so if your colleagues or your boss are giving you a hard time which could potentially result in a miscarriage so be careful with your stress levels.

Most doctors will be supportive and understanding, most likely will agree with you and help you get signed off work for as long as they consider you need to.

The idea here is to be very honest with your doctor about how you feel and how it is affecting your work.

Alternatively, you could ask your employer to make some adjustments.

For instance, if you are feeling too tired ask them if they could give you an extra break or some time to rest.

Also, it could be possible to cut back the hours and instead of working full time you just work part-time or a few days a week but this will depend on how comfortable you feel reducing your paycheck.

Also, consider how being off sick can affect how much Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you get.

Different rules may apply depending if your illness is related to your pregnancy (or not).

How does getting sick pay affect my maternity pay?

As ‘Citizens Advice’ mentions “Your maternity pay might be affected if you’re off sick while you’re pregnant and your pay is less than usual.”

Your first 6 weeks of maternity pay is 90% of your average pay during an 8 week ‘qualifying period’ (taking place while you are pregnant).

Let’s take a look at the following example:

Assuming you have been working the whole 8-week maternity pay qualifying period and you are receiving your usual pay of £250 per week.

This will mean that your first 6 weeks of maternity pay will be £225 per week.

However, if your doctor has signed you off sick for 2 weeks during your maternity pay qualifying period, your normal pay of £250 per week will be reduced to £95.85 per week, which corresponds to the amount of Statutory Sick Pay.

This, in the end, will mean that your first 6 weeks of maternity pay will actually get reduced per week because you’d claimed sick pay. 

Taking sick leave will affect your statutory maternity pay and consider how according to maternityaction.org.uk, “In order to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay you need to earn at least £118 per week on average (April 2019-April 2020) in the two months (if you are paid monthly) or eight weeks (if you are paid weekly) before the end of the 15th week before your baby is due. If your maternity pay is at risk you may wish to use annual leave during these weeks.”

Off work sick because of pregnancy?

If your pregnancy is making you feel ill you can:

  • Claim Statutory Sick Pay until 4 weeks before your baby is due.
  • (might) get maternity pay and early maternity leave in the 4 weeks before your baby is due.

Your doctor will know and can tell if you are feeling unwell as a result of being pregnant.

You could fake some of the symptoms just to get some time off work but you can’t fake your pregnancy without your doctor being certain of it.

Remember how you can’t be dismissed for having time off sick because you are pregnant, you are protected against pregnancy discrimination.

In addition, you have other rights that allow you, for example, to take time off for ante-natal appointments so make sure you are informed about your rights while pregnant.

However, it can also happen that you feel sick but it has nothing to do with your pregnancy.

For instance, if you have the flu or a stomach bug, still you can claim sick pay until either the week of the due date for delivering your baby or the date you’ve chosen your maternity leave pay to start. 

Health and safety while pregnant

Every employer is required by law in the UK to protect the health and safety of its employees.

They must carry a general risk assessment of the risk you could be potentially exposed to at work. 

If you know you are pregnant and you have told your employer then the general risk assessment must include a specific risk assessment of risks (new and expectant mothers) that could arise from (maternityaction.org.uk):

  • Any process.
  • Working conditions.
  • Physical agents.
  • Biological agents.
  • Chemical agents. 

If after the risk assessment, your employer finds a risk then they must do all the reasonable adjustments to remove you from it or prevent you from being exposed.

Your employer must provide all the necessary information on those risks and the actions that need to be taken.

However, if you have notified your employer in writing about any other risks while you are pregnant, breastfeeding or gave birth in the last six months, “your employer must consider the risks and take action.”

Employers may potentially look for these types of risks:

  • Physical agents: movement and postures, manual handling, shocks and vibrations, noise, radiation, compressed air and diving, underground mining work, among others.
  • Biological agents such as infectious diseases. 
  • Chemical agents: toxic chemicals, mercury, antimitotic drugs, pesticides, carbon monoxide, lead, among others.
  • Working conditions: facilities, mental and physical fatigue, long working hours or overnight shifts, stress, passive smoking, temperature, working alone, traveling, violence, nutrition, among others. 

Reasonable adjustments

If you are currently working at a nursing home lifting residents, it is necessary to let your employer know that you can’t do that type of job due to your pregnancy (it could be detrimental for you).

What they can do instead is assess the risk in your particular situation and make the necessary adjustments. 

For instance, if your doctor has recommended you should not keep working in the night shift because it could be dangerous to you or the baby, or your employer is making you work long hours or overtime, it is necessary to put this in writing and expect for your employer to make the changes such as reducing your hours, changing your schedule or modifying your job duties.

If your employer fails to consider your individual risks and do not take any actions to remove those risks, and after you have notified them in writing that you are pregnant or breastfeeding, seek professional advice since this can be taken as pregnancy/maternity discrimination and/or sex discrimination.

Moreover, remember that you are protected against discrimination and your employer can’t dismiss you or treat unfairly due to being pregnant.

If as part of your job you need to lift heavy boxes or maybe people (if you work at a nursing home) don’t be afraid of telling your employer, they are obliged to make the necessary adjustments to guarantee your health and safety.

So they can’t actually fire you because you can’t lift anything at this moment.

Even if you’re not pregnant, but want to take a leave because you’re sick or otherwise, you should know for how long can you take a leave of absence from work.

Why is this blog about what to say to a doctor to get signed off work while pregnant important?

As discussed on what to say to a doctor to get signed off work while pregnant, the real issue here is not what to say but how it can potentially affect you if you are constantly signing off work sick since it can affect your statutory maternity pay.

However, we know that being pregnant is not easy and sure you are allowed to take some time off if you are feeling exhausted, fatigued, in a lot of pain, etc.

Just make sure, to be honest with your doctor and he/she will understand your situation.

Also, make sure you know your rights and enforce them.

If you feel you are being discriminated against or treated unfairly, is necessary to make a complaint and seek professional advice.

Additionally, You should be aware of what not to say to occupational health assessment, in order to get a leave from work.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about what to say to doctor to get signed off work while pregnant

Can a doctor sign you off work when pregnant?

Yes, a doctor can sign you off work when pregnant if they assess your condition and they determine you’re ill because of your pregnancy.

In addition, be aware you can’t be dismissed if you are being signed off work sick because of your pregnancy since you are protected against discrimination while pregnant.

Will a doctor give me a sick note for pregnancy?

A doctor can give you a sick note if you are feeling ill due to your pregnancy.

Most employers will actually allow you to take a few days off without having a doctor’s note, but if you need more time then you need to ask your doctor for a sick note. 

Can I ask to be signed off work?

Yes, you can ask to be signed off work by your GP if you have been off sick for more than 7 days (self-certify).

If you need more time or it is a long-term condition that requires treatment then you need to get a sick note from your doctor.

When should you leave work when pregnant?

You can leave work when pregnant right up until the start of labor if you have had a normal and healthy pregnancy.

However, you can be signed off earlier if there are complications or if your doctor advises you should take care of your health and your baby’s health. 

Are you entitled to more breaks at work when pregnant?

According to maternityaction.org.uk “all employers must provide suitable facilities for a pregnant woman or nursing mother to rest, which should include somewhere to lie down.

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, you are entitled to at least 20 minutes uninterrupted rest break if you are working more than 6 hours.”


Citizensadvice.org.uk: “Getting Sick Pay When you’re pregnant”

Maternityaction.org.uk: “Health and Safety during pregnancy and on return to work”