Returning to Work Before the End of a Fit Note: Understanding GP Sign-Off Requirements in the UK

Navigating the Process: Do Employees Need GP Sign-Off to Return to Work Before Fit Note Expiry?

Darryl Horn, Tuesday, 11 July 2023 • 3 min read

Returning to work after a period of illness or injury is a significant step for employees, but what happens if they wish to return before the end of their fit note? In the UK, there may be some confusion regarding whether employees need to be signed as fit to work by their GP in such cases. This article aims to shed light on this matter and provide clarity for employers and employees alike.

Understanding Fit Notes

A fit note, formally known as a Statement of Fitness for Work, is a document issued by a healthcare professional, usually a GP, to provide evidence of an employee's health condition and their ability to perform work-related duties. Fit notes can recommend various options, such as not fit for work, fit for work with adjustments, or a phased return to work.

The End Date on the Fit Note

One common misconception is that employees must wait until the end date specified on their fit note to return to work. However, there is no legal requirement for an employee to be signed as fit to work by their GP if they wish to return earlier.

Collaborative Decision-Making

The decision to return to work before the end of a fit note should be a collaborative process involving the employee, their healthcare professional, and the employer. It is crucial for employees to consult their GP and discuss their intention to return early, seeking their professional advice regarding their readiness for work.

Employer's Responsibility

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees' health and safety. When an employee expresses their desire to return to work before the fit note expiry, employers should carefully consider the employee's health condition, the recommendations or restrictions mentioned in the fit note, and the nature of their job.

Reasonable Adjustments and Gradual Return

Employers should explore reasonable adjustments or accommodations that can support an employee's early return to work. This may include modifying duties, adjusting working hours, providing additional support, or implementing a gradual return-to-work plan. Communication and collaboration with the employee and their healthcare professional are vital to determine the feasibility of such arrangements.

Documentation and Review

Throughout the process, it is essential for employers to document all discussions, agreements, and modifications made regarding the employee's early return to work. Regular reviews should be conducted to assess the employee's progress, address any concerns, and ensure their well-being.

Legal Compliance

Employers must adhere to employment laws, including those related to sick leave, return to work, and reasonable accommodations. Consulting HR professionals or legal experts can provide guidance on complying with specific regulations applicable in their jurisdiction.

In the UK, employees do not require formal sign-off from their GP to return to work before the end of a fit note. However, collaborative decision-making, considering the employee's health condition and fit note recommendations, is crucial. Employers should engage in open communication, explore reasonable adjustments, and document the process to ensure a smooth and supportive return to work for their employees.

#FitNote #ReturnToWork #EmployeeWellbeing #UKEmployment #Healthcare
This article was first published on 11/7/23.

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About the author


Darryl is a Chartered CIPD Member, business leader and operational manager with 30 years experience in on-the-ground and strategic HR, specialising in Human Resources Management, Employment Law, Employee Relations and Learning & Development.

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