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What can I do if an employee is off sick for over a week with no doctor's note?

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Usually, employers are happy for staff to self-certify their absence from work for the first 7 days of sickness and only require a doctor’s note (also known as a fit note) if they are sick for longer than 7 days. If you are in the situation where an employee is off sick for longer than this period and they do not supply you with the doctor’s note, there are a number of steps you can take, for example, withholding sick pay or you could initiate disciplinary proceedings. Our Employment team explain more here about how to take these measures, and why it is so important to have the correct sickness policies in place.

Making contact with the employee

If your employee has been off work for longer than 7 days with no doctor’s note, you should first attempt to contact them by telephone to find out why no doctor’s note has been provided. If this is unsuccessful, or if you are not satisfied by the employee’s explanation, you should write to them explaining the sickness reporting requirements in your sickness absence policy, if you have one.

You should explain that not complying with the correct notification procedure may result in their absence being treated as unauthorised and any sick pay may be withheld if no evidence is provided. You should also advise that unauthorised absence can be a disciplinary matter and explain that this may then be dealt with in accordance with your disciplinary procedure.

Can I withhold sick pay?

If your employee has been off work for longer than 7 days with no doctor’s note then you may be entitled to withhold Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay. You are entitled to reasonable information so that you can determine if the employee is entitled to SSP, including evidence such as the doctor’s note. If this hasn’t been provided, you can accept alternative varieties of evidence, such as proof of being admitted to hospital, a report from a physiotherapist, podiatrist or occupational therapist.

You can decide to still pay SSP if the employee has a good reason for not supplying a doctor’s note. However, if you are not satisfied that your employee is genuinely ill and they have not provided any evidence you can withhold SSP, but you should always check the terms of your sickness policy prior to making any decisions to confirm that the evidence you are asking for is consistent with that of your policies. 

Importance of sickness policies

Many of the decisions you will make as an employer when it comes to employee relations will be determined by your policies and procedures, as these dictate the process you should follow in particular situations and will allow all employees to be treated fairly and consistently. 

It is not enough to simply have these policies; you must also ensure that these are communicated to your employees so that they know what is expected of them, and the consequences of not following them.  It is advisable to ask each employee to sign a document to confirm that they have read and understood these policies, which is particularly useful if they ever bring a claim against you.

Implementing new policies or reviewing your current policies is an area we can support you with through our Peace of Mind package. As well as a full review of your employment contracts and staff handbook, we can also provide you with unlimited advice from a dedicated and experienced Employment lawyer, as well as access to training events. To find out more about how you can benefit from Peace of Mind, click here

Alternatively, if you have any questions about employee sickness or what you should include in your sickness policy, contact our Employment team on 023 8071 7717 or email them on


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.