Expert advice

Legal advice: Can I attend university if I am on sick leave from work? 

You may be allowed to attend university if your GP has issued you with a ‘fit note’ indicating which tasks you can and cannot perform, but contact your manager to make sure you are not in breach of contract, says legal expert Marc Cornock. 

You may be allowed to attend university if your GP has issued you with a fit note indicating which tasks you can and cannot perform, but contact your manager to make sure you are not in breach of contract, says legal expert Marc Cornock

If you are absent from work due to illness, you can self-certificate for the first seven days. During this time, you are saying you are unfit for all work, including attending university.

After this period, your fitness for work needs to be assessed by your GP. In recent years, changes have been made to the way absence due to illness is managed. Instead of issuing you a sick note which means you are unfit for all and any work your GP will issue you a fit note, detailing what you can and cannot do.

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You may be allowed to attend university if your GP has issued you with a ‘fit note’ indicating which tasks you can and cannot perform, but contact your manager to make sure you are not in breach of contract, says legal expert Marc Cornock 


Picture: iStock

If you are absent from work due to illness, you can self-certificate for the first seven days. During this time, you are saying you are unfit for all work, including attending university. 

After this period, your fitness for work needs to be assessed by your GP. In recent years, changes have been made to the way absence due to illness is managed. Instead of issuing you a ‘sick note’ – which means you are unfit for all and any work – your GP will issue you a ‘fit note’, detailing what you can and cannot do.

Assuming you have visited your GP, and have not self-certified, your doctor should have indicated which aspects of your work you are unable to perform. This could vary from being unfit for any type of work to not being able to undertake any form of manual handling due to a back injury.  

Different activities

If your GP has said you are unfit for any type of work, it would not be reasonable for you to attend university. As this would involve travelling to university, getting around campus, attending a tutorial or lecture and then travelling home, your manager might question whether you would be fit to attend work to carry out administrative tasks, for example. 

However, if your GP has indicated that the tasks you cannot perform are different from the activities you would be carrying out at university, it may be possible for you to undertake your course. 

Best practice would be for you to contact your manager and ask for advice about whether attending university would be considered a breach of your contract while on sick leave from work. 

 

Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University

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