Do you need to take some time off work for a period that’s longer than your usual holiday allowance? Whether it’s for personal reasons, illness or to further your education, asking for extended leave can be a tricky and nerve-wracking situation. Whatever your reasons, it’s important to stop putting off the inevitable and put in your request as soon as possible.
To help you out, we’ve put together this in-depth guide with tips and tricks on how to format your leave of absence request letter and, most importantly, get the answer you want.
Asking for leave can be a troublesome situation – after all, your employer won’t want a valued team member out for a long period of time. To make the situation a little easier for everyone involved, follow these tips:
- Warn Your Employer Early On: If a member of your family has a life-threatening illness, for example, let your employer know early on as they will expect you to take time off to bereave if that relation sadly passes away. Likewise, if you know you’ll need to be scheduled for some kind of operation, do let your manager know as soon as you do.
- Don’t Send the Application without a Word of Warning: In order to get approval for that vacation of a lifetime or that medical leave that you badly need, you’ll have to speak with your manager before sending a formal application. This is best done face-to-face and in private, away from your other colleagues. Send your boss an email or IM and ask for a quick chat when it’s convenient for them.
- Be Specific: Be as transparent as possible by being honest and open about your time off (depending on your relationship with your manager). If it’s to further your education, for example, make sure you explain how it will benefit the company in the long run. If your reason is for an illness or to look after a sick family member, you do not have to go into much detail if you do not feel comfortable doing so.
- Discuss How Your Work Will Be Handled in Your Absence: Let your supervisor know how you plan to distribute your work while you’re away; you can take a plan of action with you, where you have delegated tasks to other team members that can continue those duties while you are out of action. This will show that you have been proactive and care about your responsibilities.
- Consider Any Alternatives: If you will still be able to work remotely during this period of time, let your employers know. This will benefit both you and them, as you will still be earning an income and the work will still get done, meaning the company won’t have to hire a temporary replacement.
Understanding Your Rights
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain employees in the US are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also mandates that employees’ group health benefits are maintained during this time.
Reasons to take FMLA leave include:
- The birth and care of a new-born child of the employee
- The placement of a child for adoption or foster care
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition
- To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition
Bear in mind that, according to the FMLA, you are required by law to provide 30-day advance notice in writing if your need for the leave is predictable (such as the anticipated birth of a child). In an emergency situation, for instance, this 30-day requirement is waived.
Depending on your contract with your employer, after a few years of working there, you should be entitled to a sabbatical (unpaid leave) for up to three months. Your allowance may vary in accordance to your company policies, so it’s important to check the fine print to see what your rights are before you place a formal request.
UK employees are entitled to the same benefits.
Structuring Your Letter
As with any official letter in the workplace, you must abide by some formatting rules to make sure it’s presented in a clear and professional manner.
Your letter should typically follow the below structure:
- Sender’s Address: Begin by typing your address in the top right-hand corner of the page. If in the US, you can include the address in the top left corner.
- Date: Allow a few lines and then include the date below the letterhead – if your request is via email, skip this part.
- Subject: If you’re sending your request by email, you should have a suitable subject name – depending on the circumstance, you could alter it or simply include something like: ‘Requesting Leave of Absence’.
- On-Arrival Notices (optional): If you want to include a notation that the letter is personal, you can do so. Ensure that it’s written in uppercase, eg ‘PERSONAL’ or ‘CONFIDENTIAL’.
- Inside Address: Your company’s address should appear a few lines below the above – again, if it’s via email, skip this step.
- Salutation: Even if you’re pals with your boss, you need to address them properly in a formal letter. Open with something like ‘Dear Emma’ or ‘Dear Ms Gray’.
- Opening Paragraph: Start your letter with the reason for your request, as well as the dates that you will be out of work.
- Body: It’s important to be as transparent as possible and explain why you need the specified days off work. This will minimise any potential conflict with your manager and will help them to understand why you have placed this request.
- Final Paragraph: Here you should explain how your work will be covered in your absence, how you plan on making your departure as easy as possible (ie: with detailed notes on each project, etc) and how you can be reached in the event of an emergency.
- Closing: It’s important to close your letter with appreciation for your job and company, and to thank your boss for their consideration.
- Your Name and Signature: If you’re handing in a printed letter, opt for a handwritten signature. If you’re sending an email, simply write your name.
We’ve put together a few different templates that you could follow when requesting a leave of absence.
For Medical Leave
To Care for a Sick Family Member
To Further Your Education
Holiday Request (email)
Leave from College or University
Things to Remember
- Copy in the HR Department: Remember to give a copy of your request to the HR department – they will need this information for your personal records. They may also be able to assist with your application as they will be involved in finding a temporary replacement depending on the specific circumstances.
- Review Before You Send: Be sure to proofread your request before you send it to your employer, ensuring that you have the correct information, dates and have made valid and clear points.
- Wait an Appropriate Amount of Time: If you haven’t heard back straight away, don’t panic and don’t begin to hassle your manager for an answer. Give it some time for the decision makers to deliberate before they get back to you.
To ensure you don't forget anything in the process, save this checklist to stay organised.
Asking for an extended period of time off can be stressful, but remember that you are legally allowed to do so if you have a valid reason. By following this guide, you’ll ensure that you do it in the most professional and considerate manner.
Have you recently requested a leave of absence? If so, let us know how you placed your application in the comments section below…