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How to Request a Sick Day, With Examples

Updated on August 18, 2022Professionals
Sick Day

Employees expect to be ready to work every workday, but sometimes health issues derail those plans. In these situations, you’ll need to inform your manager or employer that you won’t make it into the office that day.

But communicating the need for time off from work because you’re sick can feel daunting. That discomfort can surface for several reasons: You might feel uncertain about your job security, have self-inflicted guilt, worry about adding to your colleagues’ workload, fear that work will pile up in your absence, or be concerned that your employer won’t believe you’re ill. 

However, according to psychological research, taking a sick day when you need one is the kind of recovery that’s imperative for maintaining your well-being and work performance.

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7 reasons to ask for sick time

Calling, emailing, or messaging your boss about a sick day isn’t restricted to only when you’re exhibiting cold-like symptoms—though that’s a top reason. In reality, there are many health-related reasons that justify taking sick leave.

1 You have contagious symptoms.

According to a survey of two thousand US workers by career website Zippia, the number-one reason employees called in sick was that they felt under the weather.

If you’re exhibiting symptoms, such as coughing, a sore throat, a stuffy nose, a fever, or an unusual rash, calling out sick (and consulting a physician) can help you avoid potentially transmitting the illness to your coworkers. 

2 You’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that even asymptomatic individuals might be a carrier of the virus. If you test positive for COVID-19 but aren’t experiencing symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises isolating for five days.

If your line of work allows you to work remotely, that might be an option. However, if your profession requires you to complete your work on-site, taking a few sick days might be necessary in order for you to isolate yourself.

3  You or a family member have a medical emergency.

When you’re dealing with a medical emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is work. Taking time off to care for yourself or a close family member is a compelling reason to step away from work so you can recover without the stress of professional demands.

4 You’re recuperating from a medical procedure. 

Sick days aren’t reserved for only unexpected illnesses; they’re also meant for planned medical reasons. For example, you might need to request time off from work for a scheduled medical procedure and possibly additional time for recovery.  

5 Your productivity is affected by an illness or injury.

Recurring medical conditions might temporarily inhibit your work performance. If you suffer from chronic migraines, for example, noise and light sensitivity—even looking at a computer screen—can be debilitating and impact your ability to work.

In this scenario, you might need to let your boss know that you cannot clock in for the day. 

6 You’re taking family leave.

Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act, at many companies your job is protected for twelve workweeks of unpaid leave. However, you’ll still need to inform your employer of your planned leave. 

Eligible reasons include providing childcare after the birth of a child or for a child that’s younger than one year old; care for the health of a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition; and more.

7 You need a mental health day.

More employees and employers recognize that nurturing mental health is integral in the workplace. 

If you’re experiencing anxiety attacks, depression, or emotional burnout, taking time off is an option in addition to asking for professional help

Regardless of your reason for taking a sick day, you’re not required to divulge your private health details to your manager.  

How to ask for sick leave

Whether you write a concise email or an in-depth sick leave request depends on how many sick days you require and your medical circumstances. Regardless of how lengthy your sick day email or message is, it should include the following information: 

  • Reason for your time off: A general explanation for why you’re taking sick leave (e.g., feeling ill, taking maternity leave, or having “private medical reasons”). You do not need to share the details of your medical history or situation. 
  • How many days you’ll be on leave: Your best approximation of the days you’ll be away.
  • Whether it’s a paid or unpaid sick day: Explicitly state whether you want to take sick days (if your company provides them), paid time off (PTO), or an unpaid sick day.
  • How accessible you’ll be: Specify whether you’re available to answer questions while you’re away or if your team should expect you to be fully inaccessible. If the former, clarify the best way to communicate with you while you’re on leave.
  • Your pending projects: If you have urgent tasks that need to be addressed, debrief your manager or employer on your pending projects or tasks. Also share whether you need their assistance in delegating tasks to other teammates.
  • Doctor’s note, if applicable: Some employers require a doctor’s note for short- or long-term sick leave. If this is required, be prepared to attach your physician’s note to your sick day email.

After informing the appropriate parties about your absence, write an out-of-office message for incoming emails and messaging platforms, like Slack. This avoids potential communication and workflow bottlenecks while you’re out.

Always refer to your employee handbook to refresh your knowledge of your employer’s sick leave protocol. It might state specific communication channels for requesting PTO. 

Below are a few ways to write a sick day email or message to your boss, depending on the reason.

4 examples of how to ask for a sick day

Simple sick day email when you’re using your PTO

Hi [Manager’s Name/ HR Contact],

I’m emailing/messaging you to let you know that I won’t make it into the office today, [date]. I’m experiencing [reason for sick day] and would like to use my sick day PTO to cover my absence. If you have urgent questions, you can reach me by [communication method]. I’ll be available intermittently while I recover. 

[Your name]

Simple sick day email for unpaid time off

Hi [Manager’s Name/ HR Contact],

This email is to inform you that I’m taking an unpaid sick day today, [date]. I have [reason for sick day]. If you have urgent questions, you can reach me by [communication method]. I’ll be available intermittently while I recover. 

[Your name]

Communicating a sick day when you’re symptomatic 

Hi [Manager’s Name/ HR Contact],

I’m feeling ill and experiencing symptoms. I won’t make it into work today, [date], and am taking a paid sick day. I’ll monitor my symptoms and keep you apprised of my return to work. Please email me if you have any questions, and I’ll respond as soon as I can. 

[Your name]

Communicating an extended sick leave of a week or longer

Hi [Manager’s Name/ HR Contact],

This email is to inform you that I’m taking a paid medical leave of absence starting on [date] through [date]. I’m experiencing [reason for sick leave] and will require this period to focus on my health and recovery. Attached is a copy of my doctor’s note advising that I take sick leave.

Currently, I have [pending tasks/meetings/projects] in my queue. I’ll reschedule [XYZ task(s)] to a date when I’m back at work. However, during my absence, I’d appreciate your help with the following time-sensitive items: 

  • [Task 1] Briefly share status and how your manager can help move it forward.
  • [Task 2] Briefly share status and how your manager can help move it forward.
  • [Task 3] Briefly share status and how your manager can help move it forward.

During my leave, I’ll try to check my email intermittently. Please do not expect an immediate reply. I appreciate your patience and understanding as I recuperate. 

[Your name]

Communicate sick days as soon as possible

Informing your employer that you’re taking a sick day is the best way to show accountability for your health, your job, and your team. It might feel awkward telling your manager that you won’t make it into the office, but early communication goes a long way in preparing them for when you’re away.

Communicating key information in a sick day email to your boss helps them keep day-to-day business operating while also giving you time for much-needed healing.

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