Sick notes for teachers
The majority of teachers will have to request a sick note during some time in their careers.
It’s important to know what your employment rights are and the right procedures to follow.
We have published another support article which outlines what you need to know about taking sick leave.
GOV.UK explains that employees must give their employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) if they’ve been ill for more than 7 days in a row and have taken sick leave. This includes non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays.
You will want to familiarise yourself with your school’s sickness absence policy for specific details at your setting.
In this support article we explain how to request a sick note, what they look like and if you can ask for one without seeing a GP.
Sick notes for teachers: how can I get one?
Your doctor will assess you, and if they decide your health affects your fitness for work, they can issue a fit note and advise either that:
- You are “not fit for work”
- You “may be fit for work taking into account the following advice”
Your doctor will choose the “may be fit for work” option if they think that you are able to do some work with support from your employer.
Discuss this advice with your school to see if you can return to work. For example, your doctor may suggest possible changes, such as:
- Returning to work gradually, for example, by starting part time
- Temporarily working different hours
- Performing different duties or tasks
- Having other support to do your job. For example, if you have back pain, avoiding heavy lifting
If your school is unable to accommodate the changes advised by a doctor, then the fit note is treated as though it said “unfit for work”.
Sick notes for teachers: do I have to pay?
The NHS explains that there is never a charge from a doctor for providing a fit note if you’re off sick from work for more than 7 days. For sickness of 7 days or less, your GP practice may charge you to provide a private medical certificate.
For example, some employers may request medical evidence from employees who repeatedly take time off sick, even if each time they’re off work it’s for 7 days or less. A sick note cannot be used for this purpose and a doctor may charge to issue a private certificate.
Can I get a sick note without seeing a GP?
The NHS explains a fit note must be signed by a doctor, but you do not always need to see a GP in person to see one. It depends on:
- Why you’re off work sick
- Whether a GP needs to assess you face-to-face
- If you have been in hospital
Your GP practice will tell you whether you should make an appointment to see a GP or book a phone consultation. A GP can give you a fit note the day they assess you or at any time after the assessment.
You may already have seen another registered healthcare professional, such as a:
- Occupational therapist
In this case, a GP can base your fit note on a report written by that registered healthcare professional. For example:
- A hospital discharge summary or hospital letter
- Notes from a previous consultation with another GP at the same practice
Can I go back to school before the end of my sick note?
The NHS explains you do not always have to be 100% “fit” to be able to do some work – in fact, work can help your recovery from health problems or support your overall wellbeing if you have a long-term health condition.
You should go back to work as soon as you feel able to and with your school’s agreement. This may be before your sick note runs out. For example, you may want to go back to school sooner if:
- You’ve recovered from your illness or injury sooner than expected
- Your employer can offer you support to help you return to work
If you want to go back to work before the end date on your fit note you should discuss your return to work with your school.
In some cases, your school may not be able to agree to your early return. If this happens you should stay off work until the end date of your fit note. For example, this might happen if your employer is not able to make the required workplace adjustments. They will need to do a suitable risk assessment.
Do I need a note saying I am fit for work?
You do not need to see a GP again to be signed fit to go back to work.
The fit note does not have an option to say that you’re fit for work. If a doctor wants to assess your fitness for work again, they will say this on your fit note.
Some employers have their own policy that requires employees to obtain medical evidence that they are fit for work.
If this is the case, your employer should help you arrange this privately with a GP or occupational health specialist. A doctor cannot issue a fit note for this purpose.
Sick notes for teachers: explaining the different sections
GOV.UK has an exemplar sick note which explains the different sections of a sick note.
We outline these below (you can view the sample template on the GOV.UK page):
- The date your doctor assessed you, either in person or over the telephone, or when they considered a report from another healthcare professional.
- The condition(s) affecting your fitness for work. It‘s usually best for your doctor to be as accurate as possible, but they can enter a less precise diagnosis if being too detailed might harm your position with your employer.
- Your doctor’s assessment that you are either:
- Not fit for work – you are not fit for work of any kind
- May be fit for work taking account of the following advice – you may be fit for work, taking account of your doctor’s advice in the fit note. This does not necessarily mean doing your current job
- Your doctor’s advice about the impact of your health condition. See the comments box for more information.
- The period that your doctor’s advice covers. This will either be from the date of the assessment (Box 1), or between a particular start and end date. These dates are inclusive (so a fit note dated from 2 April to 10 April will no longer apply from 11 April onwards). This section may cover a previous period if your doctor thinks that your condition has affected your fitness for work before your assessment. This can be for any time up to an indefinite period.
- Whether your doctor needs to see you at the end of your fit note. If they expect you will be fit for work at the end of the fit note, they will indicate that they do not need to see you again.
- Your doctor needs to sign the fit note.
- The date the fit note is issued. This may not always be the same as the date of the assessment.
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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.