Sick Note Britain: The 5 Most Common Reasons Behind Days Off Work

According to Dr Seth from the London Doctors Clinic.

Five days a week for 52 days a year – there are 260 working days in the calendar year. That’s a lot of time in the office! So we’d be forgiven in taking the odd sick day every few months.

After all, we can’t control when we encounter the misfortune of poor health, right? But sick days are having a serious effect on our economy: it was recently reported that us Brits take 131 million sick days a year, costing the economy in the region of £100 billion.

As per the government’s law on taking sick leave, employees require a formal ‘fit note’, previously known as ‘sick note’ upon return to work, after a period of 7 or more consecutive days of illness. This essential note confirms the legitimate illness of the employee, and declares them healthy enough to return to work, and can be completed by either a hospital doctor or GP.

So we asked Dr Seth, Founder of Private GP chain London Doctors Clinic, what the most commonly seen sick note reasons were.


Musculoskeletal injuries

“This can be anything from a broken leg to swollen ankle. These are very common injuries, whereby a few days of R&R is often advisable, until any pain and swelling has reduced, and mobility improved. And due to those strict doctor-patient confidentially laws, your GP won’t mention the fact that your sprained ankle is actually the result of an alcohol-induced Friday night dancefloor injury.”


Anxiety/ depression

“Poor mental health burdens millions of people across with UK, with 9% of us suffering mixed anxiety and depression at one point in time. For some, this can be effectively managed by medications and therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants. For others, such mental health conditions can leave the sufferer unable to continue with normal activities of daily living, including going to work. During these times, doctors – usually GP’s –  are more than happy to provide the relevant sick notes, to give the patient adequate time off work to get their anxiety or depression back under control.”


Back pain

“In 2013, the Office of National Statistics reported that back, neck and muscle problems were responsible for almost 31 million days off work. With many of us working highly sedentary office jobs, slouched over desks for hours on end. That said, many active jobs – such as construction workers, nurses and gardeners – are also high risk for back injuries, as they entail lots of heavy lifting, carrying and bending.”


Viral infections

“What’s that in the air? Is it love? No it’s probably a virus! Cold and flu season is in full swing; the streets are alive with the sound of coughing and sneezing.

“We’ve all fallen victim to a winter viral infection, so we all appreciate just how lousy these can make us feel lousy, causing fever, tiredness and general malaise. They’re also highly contagious, meaning it’s often in the best interest of your company as a whole if you keep your germs to yourself, in quarantine at home, until your symptoms subside.

“Just please try not to cough too much in the GP waiting room while requesting that sick note, thanks…”



“Presenting in an unimaginably wide range of ways, stress is the number one reason patients request a sick note, according to Dr Seth. From headaches and insomnia, asthma and panic attacks, to even random musculoskeletal aches and pains – stress is often the culprit. It can take a doctor a few moments to dissect through such obscure symptoms, before discovering the root of the problem actually lies in stress.

“In many cases, stress is actually associated with the work environment, so taking some time off that environment can really improve the sufferer’s symptoms, and allow them time to work out a long-term solution to keep stress levels under control.

“And which group is the most likely to ask for a stress-related sick note? Believe it or not, it’s students! Suspiciously, these stress-related symptoms often coincide with deadlines and exams.

“In the vast majority of cases, students’ stress-related symptoms truly put them at a disadvantage in their preparing for their upcoming exam, or meeting that coursework deadline. After a certain number of sick note requests, however, it may be more appropriate for the GP to counsel people with how to better deal with acute stressful episodes, as a more long-term solution to stress. GP’s are some of the most sympathetic humans on the planet, specially trained to understand patients’ woes, but that said, your GP can’t be used to provide a ‘get out of jail free card’ for every missed deadline or flunked exam throughout your degree!”

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