What Is a Sick Leave Email?

Employees that feel unwell and are unable to come to work are often required to send a sick leave email to their supervisors or managers for immediate notification. Although company protocol usually tasks employees to call in sick, an email can also work to document the entire exchange for future reference. It’s basic etiquette to let your employer know that you’ll be out of the office for a day or two to take care of yourself or a sick loved one. While there may be other guidelines that employees must follow to secure a paid or unpaid leave of absence, sending a sick leave email the night before or the morning before your shift begins is still suitable to keep your team and superiors informed of your condition.


Reasons to Take Sick Leave of Absence

A 2017 study by Statista revealed that 58% of civilian workers between the ages of 18 and 30 years old took an average of five sick days from work for various reasons. Some people wake up with a runny nose and a slight fever but still think they’re capable of doing their job. While you may manage to survive the day without being sent home, you’re also exposing the people around you to whatever disease you are carrying. If you don’t think that what you have is a valid excuse to miss work, you might want to take the following reasons into account.

To Treat a Contagious Disease: There’s no better reason to stay home than to spare everyone from getting sick. When you come to work when you’re ill, you’re putting also putting those around you at risk of catching your disease. A virus can spread like wildfire in places where people are in direct contact with one another. Conjunctivitis, for example, is a highly contagious virus that can quickly spread through contact with an infected person or a contaminated object. If you happen to carry a highly transmissible disease, it’s best to confine yourself to a place where you can’t cause harm. To Manage Your Mental Health: As humans, we all need a break sometimes to take a breather. Spending most of your days and nights at the office is bound to take a toll on both your physical and mental health. When you experience burnout, it becomes hard to function normally and to cope with the demands that come your way. This is a good reason to take some time off to care for yourself before it drives you off the edge. A few days off to recharge your batteries is enough to clear your mind and give your body the rest it needs to work actively again. To Visit the Doctor: Some people have regular checkups with their doctors for certain conditions that require constant monitoring and treatment. If you need to visit your doctor for a recurring disease or medical testing, you can note this in your leave form. Any health concerns that demand a physician’s immediate attention should not be put aside all because you refuse to take the day off. Your manager will understand, and your coworkers won’t mind the extra workload if it’s for a reasonable cause. To Care for a Sick Family Member: The FMLA Act of 1993 permits employees to take unpaid leaves from work for qualified medical and family reasons. So if someone from your family falls ill and is in dire need of support, employees are allowed to take the day off to care for their loved ones. It’s still important to inform your employer about the individual’s condition and the length of time you’ll be missing work. To Stay Safe from Extreme Weather Conditions: Severe weather can often make it impossible to get to and from work without being caught in its wrath. If it’s bad enough to close roads, schools, and public offices in your community, don’t think twice about calling in sick. Most employers don’t expect their staff to risk their health and safety to get to work on time, so you might as well keep your priorities in check by sending your sick leave email before you head back to bed.

How to Write a Sick Leave Email

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71% of workers in private sectors had access to paid sick leave in 2018. This is great news for those who force themselves out of bed each morning with stuffy noses and bad migraines. But whether or not the company you work at offers these benefits, it is still your responsibility as an employee to inform your employer that you’ll be missing work that day due to a medical emergency. To help you determine what to include and what to skip with your email, the following steps should come in handy.

Step 1: Create the Subject Line

The subject line of your email is one of the first things your recipients will see as soon as they check their mail. Hence, it’s always a good idea to keep your subject line as short and direct as possible. It should tell readers exactly what your email is about before they even get the chance to open it. Be sure to use key phrases or words that make it easy for readers to grasp the subject of your email.

Step 2: State Your Reason for Absence

You don’t need to provide a timeline of events to prove what made you sick and why you can’t report to work. To keep your email clear and concise, avoid going into too much detail. You can go right to the point by indicating the specific illness that is preventing you from coming to work and the symptoms that you’ve been experiencing since you felt sick. This might help your manager find out whether one of your colleagues might have also acquired the virus after coming in contact with you. You don’t need to list everything, just enough to let your recipient know about your condition.

Remember to refer to your company’s sick leave policy for details regarding the acceptable reasons for absence. If your reason does not apply, perhaps a different type of email should be sent to your employer.

Step 3: Indicate Your Availability to Communicate

Technology has made it possible for employees to respond to calls and emails from their clients and managers, even from the comfort of their own homes. If you’re capable of working on minor assignments despite calling in sick, you can let your employer know about this. But if it’s physically impossible for you to check your email and answer calls throughout the day, be honest about it. If you want to rest peacefully without anyone bothering you, make it clear that you’ll be unreachable during your day off. Don’t feel guilty about leaving all your tasks to somebody else, especially if it means saving everyone at the office from getting sick.

Step 4: Address the Next Steps to Take

One of the reasons that might have made it difficult for you to decide whether to take a leave of absence is your hectic work schedule of client meetings and project deadlines. Unless you have a partner who could act on your behalf and run these assignments for you, it’s best to inform your employer of your decision to reschedule the meeting. You can also let your manager know where you currently stand with your project and whether you were able to contact someone to cover these tasks while you’re gone.

Step 5: Send the Email ASAP

Never wait until the last minute to send your email. As soon as you realize you aren’t capable of coming in to work, start composing your email. Don’t let it sit around in your drafts for another minute too long. Your illness could get worse as the day goes on, making it difficult for you to think clearly and stay in close contact with your manager and coworkers. The last thing you want to do is to leave them in a panic about your whereabouts, so you might as well click “Send” before making that trip to the doctor’s office.

The Dos and Don’ts of a Sick Leave Email

While everyone deserves some time off from work to reenergize, there are right and wrong ways to let your boss know you wouldn’t be coming in that day. Consider the guidelines below on what to do and what not to do when informing recipients about your absence from work.


1. Do give notice first thing in the morning. 

If you wake up feeling under the weather, decide whether you need to take the day off to rest. The last thing you’ll want to do is to spend the entire day at work with a bad headache or an upset stomach.

However, avoid informing your manager at 8:30 am if you’re expected to come in at 7:00 am. You have to give your employer enough time to find a replacement for the day, especially for special assignments and client meetings that require immediate attention.

2. Do inform the right people.

Don’t think that telling your coworker about your condition is enough to excuse yourself from work. Company protocol may require you to report to your direct supervisor and/or human resource manager for any medical-related absences. Thus, it’s essential to secure their contact details beforehand in case of an emergency. Even if you’ve managed to lose their business cards, their email signatures are likely to contain alternate email addresses and phone numbers that you could call.

3. Do apologize for the inconvenience. 

You don’t have to be sorry about being sick, but it’s common courtesy to apologize for any inconvenience that your absence may bring. Every person plays a specific role in the workforce, so, in the absence of one, the entire team may have to compromise on some issues for operations to continue running smoothly. Even if you are taking some time off to rest, it won’t hurt to keep your lines open for any questions or concerns that need to be addressed.

4. Do get a doctor’s note if necessary. 

Refer to your employee handbook for policies regarding paid and unpaid leaves of absence. Some companies may require their employees to submit a doctor’s note or a medical certificate as evidence to excuse themselves for the day. This may also inform your employer about any medical procedures required to treat your condition, along with the amount of time you’ll be taking off based on your doctor’s advice.

5. Do have a valid reason for calling in sick.

It has become alarmingly common for people to call in sick despite being fit to work. It’s easy to lie about your condition when you don’t meet face-to-face with the person you are corresponding to in your email. What one may consider as “valid” may depend on your company policies and state laws. So if you’re taking a sick day to go to the beach or to sleep in for the rest of the day, make sure you have your story straight if you don’t want to get caught. Anyone who fails to comply with the rules of the company may face severe consequences for their actions.


1. Don’t settle with an email. 

While emails are suitable for securing a printed record of the correspondence, don’t assume that it’s enough to keep the necessary people informed. Your manager could be out of the office to attend to an important client, forcing your email to sit idly in their inbox. You can’t expect people to see your email right away, no matter how often they check their accounts in a day. It’s always best to call if you don’t receive a response within the next hour of sending your email. You can also consider texting your employer if you can’t get anyone to pick up the phone after two attempts.

2. Don’t keep your employer in the dark. 

After taking the day off, you might not be in the condition to come back to work just yet. Don’t assume that your employer will know about your decision to take another sick day without you telling them. Employers discourage employees from coming to work when they’re not in shape to function effectively, so it only makes sense for you to be honest about how you feel. Make sure to provide regular updates about your condition so as not to let anyone worry too much about how you’re doing.

3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

If you know you won’t be able to come to work in the afternoon, don’t tell your employer that you will. If you aren’t capable of answering calls and helping out with some tasks from home, don’t say that you can. While you do have obligations to meet as an employee, you need to know your limitations and priorities as an individual. Your health should always come above anything else, so try not to make any promises that your employer will expect you to fulfill. Fast recovery and efficient performance are far better than a half-baked output.

4. Don’t have someone else make the call. 

You might have your roommate, sibling, parent, or significant other write the email for you, and that won’t matter, knowing that it’s impossible to identify who’s on the separate line. But when it’s time to make the call to your manager, you need to do it yourself. Unless you’ve been hospitalized or intubated, there’s no reason not to make the call on your own. Not only does it prove your ability to communicate effectively with others, but it also shows professionalism outside the office.

5. Don’t take a sick day before or after a long weekend. 

Mondays and Fridays are often considered as critical working days, including the days that come before and after the holidays. During these times, companies have strict guidelines against sudden, unplanned absences made by members of their workforce. Unless you have enough evidence to prove that you were actually sick, it would be difficult to convince your employer that your reason for absence is valid. Many employees try to take the day off to extend the weekend, to cure a hangover, or to avoid the piles of paperwork sitting on their desks.

Whether you’re required to do so or not, it’s always a good idea to notify your manager about your absence beforehand. Be courteous enough by letting your colleagues know how you can be of help during this time. The email must be kept short and straightforward to carry your message across to your recipient professionally.