What are fit notes?

A 'fit note' is the informal name for the Statement of Fitness for Work. Other names used include medical statement or doctor’s note.

The fit note allows your GP to give you more information on how your condition affects your ability to work. This will help your employer to understand how they might help you return to work sooner or stay in work.

Your GP can give you advice to help you return to work or stay in work. This is because work can play an important part in helping people to recover from illness or injury.

From early July 2012, your GP may start to give you a computer-completed fit note, rather than a handwritten fit note. They will be printed on one side of A4 paper and will include the same information as handwritten fit notes, presented side by side rather than front and back.

Your GP may still give you a handwritten fit note, for example, during home visits or until your GP's computer system has been upgraded.

Hospital doctors will continue to only use handwritten fit notes.

With the computer-completed or the handwritten fit note, your GP can choose one of two options:

  • you are ‘not fit for work'
  • you ‘may be fit for work'

The fit note also includes:

  • more space for your GP to give general advice about how your illness or injury affects you
  • tick boxes for your GP to suggest, where appropriate, ways in which your employer could support your return to work

What does ‘may be fit for work’ mean?

Your GP will choose the ‘may be fit for work’ option if they think that returning to work – with support from your employer – will help you recover.

Your GP can give general advice on the fit note about how your illness or injury may affect your ability to work. Discuss this advice with your employer to see if you can return to work. For example, your GP may suggest possible changes, such as:

  • returning to work gradually, for example, by starting part-time
  • working different hours temporarily
  • performing different duties or tasks
  • having other support to do your job, for example, if you have back pain, avoiding heavy lifting

Getting advice and support

Talk openly and honestly with your GP about how your illness will affect you at work so they can give you the right advice to help your recovery.

You should also be open with your employer about what you can and can’t do at work. If you’re not, your employer may not provide the right support.

If your employer has an occupational health service, an occupational health advisor can give you advice about going back to work.

Read the answers to more questions about workplace health.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 27/06/2012

Next review due: 26/06/2014