Career Development

When to Ask for a Leave of Absence

November 16, 2020

If you need an extended period of time away from work, you may ask your employer for a leave of absence. To help your employer prepare for your time away, present your reason for the absence professionally. In this article, we explain common reasons to ask for a leave of absence and steps and tips to communicate your need to take one.

Related: Guide: Leave of Absence Letter Request (With Examples)

Good reasons to take a leave of absence from work

A leave of absence is when an employee receives permission from their employer to take time off work for an extended period of time. Some types of leave, such as jury duty or maternity leave, include legal protections. Other types of leave are granted at the discretion of the employer.

Some examples of reasons for taking leave of absence include:

  • Jury duty
  • Military leave
  • Sabbatical
  • Short-term disability
  • Long-term disability
  • Medical leave
  • Maternity leave
  • Family or personal leave
  • Extended vacation

You should ask your employer for a leave of absence if you know you will be unable to work for more than a couple weeks but wish to return to your job. Some common reasons employees take a leave of absence are to recover from a serious illness, undergo a medical procedure, assist a family member, take an extended trip or welcome a new child into the family.

Related: Good and Bad Excuses for Missing Work

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Q&A: What is a Sabbatical?
A sabbatical is an extended leave from your job that guarantees your position when you return. Taking a sabbatical gives you the chance to:

  • travel the world
  • complete personal goals
  • participate in your community
  • connect with nature
  • rest
  • participate in a relaxing activity
  • spend time with loved ones
  • go back to school
Easily apply to jobs with an Indeed Resume

How to communicate your leave of absence

Use these steps to ask your employer for a leave of absence:

1. Check company policies

Before making a request for a leave of absence, check your company’s policies by looking at your employee handbook or contacting an HR representative. Research your company’s policies for lengths of leave, types of leave and whether they offer paid or unpaid leave.

2. Speak to your supervisor

Since your absence from your position may have a significant effect on your company, it is best to speak to your employer in person if you can. Try to schedule a meeting with your immediate supervisor to discuss your need for a leave of absence. After your conversation, send a follow-up email to confirm the details of your leave. 

3. Put your request in writing

Submit your formal request for a leave of absence by letter or email. Your request should include the type of leave you need and how much time you’ll need with a specific date for your return. Ask if there are any steps you need to take to make your leave official. Whether you disclose the specific reason for your leave of absence is optional, but if you have a close relationship with your supervisor or a compelling reason, it may a good idea to explain why you need extended time off from work.

Related: Guide: Leave of Absence Letter Request (With Examples)

Leave of Absence Letter Format
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Leave of Absence Letter Format

  1. Date
  2. Recipient company and address (name of optional)
  3. Request
  4. Statement of gratitude and next steps
  5. Closing and signature

4. Give advance notice

Try to make your request well ahead of time. Your employer may need a few weeks to find someone to cover your position or  make a plan to manage your workload. A timely request may also help you to maintain a positive relationship with your employer.

5. Offer to help

If you are able to, it is professional to assist your employer in making plans to manage your workload while you are away. You could offer to help find or train a temporary replacement, explain your workload to your colleagues or leave instructions about your typical duties.

Tips for asking for a leave of absence

While your conversation around asking for leave will be unique to your situation, there are a few basic tips you can follow to make the conversation as seamless as possible:

  • Provide clear start and end dates. Providing both a start and end date for your leave of absence will help make your request specific and clear.

  • Consider alternatives. Before requesting a leave of absence, consider whether you could work part-time or from home instead of leaving work completely.

  • Inform your colleagues. After you have communicated your leave to your employer, send a notice to your coworkers that you will be gone.

Related: Guide: Goodbye Email to Colleagues (With Examples)

Example requests for a leave of absence

Consider using these sample requests to help you communicate your own leave of absence:

Example 1: Formal email request

August 1, 2019

Subject: Medical Leave of Absence

Dear Mr. Jimenez,

As you know, I have been ill lately, and my doctor has suggested that I take time off from work to be able to recover completely. I am contacting you to request a medical leave of absence for two weeks, from Aug. 7 to Aug. 21.

Please let me know if there are steps I need to take to make this official with the HR department.

I will be happy to assist you in arranging for someone to manage my workload while I am away. Thank you for your understanding.

Natalia Bisset

Example 2: Email follow-up

August 1, 2019

Subject: Personal leave of absence

Hi Helen,

As we discussed earlier today, I am writing to confirm my leave of absence from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30. I appreciate you allowing me this personal time to be with my family. Please let me know what I can do to help with the transition before I leave, or if I should take any steps to make my leave official.

Thanks again,
Jaime Martin