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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. August 9, 2023

Your Complete Guide to Obtaining a Doctor's Note for Work

Your sick days, documented

Woman home sick from work
Photo courtesy of Bermix Studio

Sometimes, life throws unexpected curveballs, and you might find yourself needing a doctor's note for work. Whether it's due to an illness, injury, or medical appointment, having a doctor's note can help you navigate these situations smoothly and maintain your professional reputation. In this guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about obtaining a doctor's note for work.

What's included in a doctor's note

A doctor's note is an official document provided by a medical professional that confirms your health condition or the reason for your absence. It typically includes the following details:

  • Your personal information: Your name, contact information, and possibly your employee identification number.

  • Date of visit: The date you visited the doctor's office. 

  • Diagnosis: A brief description of your health condition or reason for the visit.

  • Recommended time off: The doctor's recommendation for the duration of your absence from work.

  • Restrictions or accommodations: If applicable, any specific restrictions or accommodations your doctor suggests for your return to work.

Read more: How to Write a Sick Day Email 101

Times when you might need a doctor’s note for work 

There are various situations in which you might need a doctor's note for work. Some common instances include:

  • Illness: When you're genuinely unwell and cannot perform your job responsibilities.

  • Injury: If you've sustained an injury that affects your ability to work.

  • Medical appointments: When you have scheduled medical appointments that coincide with your work hours.

  • Extended absences: For longer absences due to medical reasons, especially if it affects your attendance record.

Obtaining a doctor's note during or after a visit to the doctor

At the doctor's office:

  • Schedule an appointment: If you're feeling unwell or require a note, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

  • Provide details: Explain your situation to the doctor, sharing information about your illness, injury, or medical appointment.

  • Request a note: Politely ask the doctor to provide you with a note outlining your condition and the recommended time off.

After the doctor's visit

  • Contact the office: If you forgot to request a note during your visit, call the doctor's office and explain your situation. They might be able to provide the note without requiring another visit.

  • Online portal: Some healthcare providers offer patient portals where you can access and download your medical documents, including doctor's notes.

Read more: A Quick & Dirty Guide to Calling in Sick

Can you get a doctor’s note for work without going to the doctor?

In some cases, you may be able to obtain a sick note for work without physically seeing a doctor, but this largely depends on the policies of your workplace, the severity of your illness, and the regulations in your country or region. Here are a few scenarios where you might be able to secure a sick note without visiting a doctor:

  • Telemedicine or virtual consultations: Some healthcare providers offer telemedicine or virtual consultation services where you can discuss your symptoms with a medical professional online. Depending on your condition and the doctor's assessment, they might be able to provide you with a digital sick note.

  • Previously established doctor-patient relationship: If you have an ongoing relationship with a healthcare provider and they are familiar with your medical history, they might be willing to issue a sick note based on your description of your symptoms and their prior knowledge of your health.

  • Minor illnesses: For minor illnesses such as colds, mild infections, or common ailments that do not require a physical examination, some doctors may be open to issuing a sick note based on your description of your symptoms over the phone.

  • Company policies: Some companies have policies in place that allow for self-certification for short periods of illness (usually one to three days). This means that you can provide a self-declaration of your illness without requiring a doctor's note. However, these policies vary widely and typically have restrictions on how often they can be used.

  • Online health services: There are online platforms that offer sick notes or medical certificates for a fee. These services may require you to answer questions about your symptoms and then provide you with a digital sick note that you can submit to your employer.

It's important to note that the acceptability of a sick note obtained without seeing a doctor varies greatly depending on your employer's policies, the nature of your job, and the laws in your region. Some employers may require a physical examination and an official note from a licensed medical professional. Always check your company's policies and consult with your HR department if you're uncertain about whether a non-physical sick note would be accepted.

For serious illnesses or extended absences, it's generally recommended to consult a healthcare professional in person to ensure proper diagnosis, treatment, and documentation.

Who should you give the doctor's note to? 

Depending on your workplace's policies, you might need to submit the doctor's note to different parties:

  • Supervisor or manager: In most cases, provide the note to your immediate supervisor or manager. They need to be aware of your absence and the reason for it.

  • Human Resources (HR): Some companies require you to submit a copy of the note to HR for record-keeping purposes.

  • Company policy: Familiarize yourself with your company's policies regarding doctor's notes to ensure you follow the correct procedure. And it’s always a good idea to keep a copy for yourself just in case!

Obtaining a doctor's note for work doesn't have to be a daunting task. By understanding what's included in the note, knowing when you might need one, and being aware of the process to obtain and submit it, you can navigate work-related medical situations with confidence. Remember, your health is a priority, and a doctor's note can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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