What’s the best way to handle it when you need a leave of absence from work? There are many reasons why you may need to take a leave of absence from your job. You may have personal or family-related reasons for requiring extended time away from work.
If you have a job you’re happy with, it can make good sense to request a leave, if feasible, rather than resigning from your position. Even if the organization isn’t legally required to grant you a leave or company policy doesn’t provide for personal or family leave, you may still be able to work out an arrangement with your employer.
How to Ask for a Personal Leave
This is the type of conversation that’s better conducted in person than via email. The discussion with your supervisor or human resources department should be followed by a leave of absence letter citing your personal reasons. Your request will be documented, and the terms of your leave will be put into writing, which will help ensure a smooth transition from, and back to, employment.
Here’s some information on types of work leave, how to request a leave of absence for personal reasons, and a sample letter to give you an idea of how to write your own request.
Legally Required Leaves of Absence
There are certain circumstances under which your employer, by law, has to grant you the time off you request. The company may not be legally required to pay you, either fully or in part, while you are away from your job, but there are legal protections to guarantee that you can return to your job when your leave is finished.
Some of the reasons for mandatory leave approval are the birth or adoption of a child, certain medical conditions, to honor a military commitment, or for a military caregiver.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides the legal guidelines businesses have to follow regarding mandatory leave for eligible employees.
There may also be other federal and state laws providing paid or unpaid leaves of absence from work, depending on the reason you are requesting the leave. Check with your state department of labor for the availability of leave in your location.
Voluntary Leaves of Absence
Reasons for taking a voluntary leave would be more personal, like continuing your education, dealing with personal stress, or taking a break from work to travel for an extended period of time. Company policy may provide options for taking a personal leave from your job. However, your employer is not required by law to grant voluntary, or personal, leave.
When you start your job, get to know what your rights and obligations are regarding requesting and taking a leave of absence. Guidelines can vary significantly between companies, so don’t assume that they are all alike.
Extended leave is often unpaid, but you may be able to use accrued vacation time if you can plan ahead.
In many circumstances, employers are happy to honor your request for the leave of absence, especially if you are open and honest with your boss about what you are going through and request the time off with plenty of notice.
Unfortunately, you will sometimes find yourself seeking leave unexpectedly and may not be able to give much warning ahead of time. Whatever your circumstances, be sure to ask for an extended period of leave professionally and courteously.
Ask Verbally and in Writing
Plan to request your time off both verbally and in writing. It is always advisable to have a face-to-face conversation with your supervisor about your need to take a leave of absence.
You do not have to provide every detail about what you are dealing with, but the more aware your employer is about what you are going through, the more understanding they are likely to be. That will increase your chances of getting your leave approved.
You should follow up your in-person meeting with a written document clearly requesting the terms of your leave.
You can either email your letter or give it to your supervisor in person. Also, if you have a team of coworkers, you should notify them after your leave is approved.
You can also send an email to your colleagues as a group or individually, depending on the size of your company/department and how close you are to the people with whom you work. The key is to be open and honest with those you work for and with, but remember, you only need to share as much detail as you are comfortable with regarding your leave.
What to Include in Your Letter
When you write your letter, there is some essential information you should include:
- Begin by stating how much time you are planning on taking off and when you would like the leave of absence to begin and end.
- Include a brief explanation of why you are taking the leave and perhaps state where you will be while you are away.
- If it is possible, offer your assistance and provide the best way to contact you during your time off.
- Be sure to thank your employer for considering your request.
Letter Example Requesting a Leave of Absence for Personal Reasons
Your City, State Zip Code
Your Phone Number
City, State Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. [Lastname]:
I would like to formally request a two-month leave of absence for personal reasons. If possible, I would like the leave from work to begin on August 1, 2019, with a return date of October 1, 2019.
If approved, I will be staying with family in [Anycity] during this time period, and I would be glad to assist with any questions via email or phone whenever possible.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Your Signature (hard copy letter)
Your Typed Name
Sending an Email Leave Request
If you are sending your letter by email, you don’t need to include the contact information at the top of the message.
Your subject line should state something clear and concise, like: “Leave of Absence Request – [Firstname Lastname].” Begin your email with a salutation, and include your contact information with your signature.
Email Request for Personal Leave Example
Subject: Leave of Absence Request—Michaela Fox
As we discussed, I am requesting a personal leave of absence from work for family reasons from January 15, 2020, through February 28, 2020.
If approved, I will return to the office on March 1, 2020. I’d be glad to assist with planning for covering my responsibilities when I am away.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Check Your Eligibility: Before you ask for a leave, check with your manager or human resources department on what time off you may be eligible to take.
Be Specific: If you know how much leave you need, specify the dates you will leave and return in your request. It will be easier for the company to say "yes" if they have the details.
Put the Request in Writing: Request leave from work in writing, so you have documentation of your request.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.