Purpose: To investigate fatigue as prognostic risk marker for identifying working employees at risk of long-term sickness absence (SA). Methods: At baseline, fatigue was measured in 633 white collar employees with the checklist individual strength (CIS) including scales for fatigue severity, reduced concentration, reduced motivation, and reduced physical activity. SA was medically certified by an occupational physician in the 3rd or 4th SA week with diagnostic codes according to the 10th version of the International Classification of Diseases. Medically certified SA was retrieved at the individual level from an occupational health register after 1-year follow-up. CIS scores were investigated as prognostic risk markers predicting medically certified SA and particularly SA certified as mental SA. Results: 614 employees (N = 378 men and N = 236 women) had complete data and were eligible for analysis; 63 (10 %) had medically certified SA of whom 39 (6 %) had mental SA. Fatigue severity and total CIS scores were associated with medically certified SA in men, but poorly discriminated between men with and without medically certified SA. Fatigue severity, reduced concentration, reduced motivation, and total CIS scores were also associated with mental SA in men. CIS and its reduced concentration scale were valid prognostic risk markers of mental SA. Conclusion Fatigue was a prognostic risk marker of mental SA in white collar men. The CIS should be further validated as a screening tool for the risk of mental SA in white collar working populations. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.