How to request a leave of absence from work

There are times when circumstances in your life require you to step back from your job. However, if you have a job that you love and you only need to leave temporarily, you might not want to put in your two weeks’ notice just yet.

This is a situation where a leave of absence from work might provide you with the time away you need while still ensuring that you have a job to return to afterward. Knowing when to ask for a leave of absence from work can help you navigate the unexpected circumstances that life throws your way. In this guide, you can learn more about what a leave of absence is, how to ask for one, and an example of a leave of absence letter.

What is a leave of absence?

A leave of absence is an approved period of time during which you will take a break from your work. With an approved leave of absence, you have the assurance that your job will be waiting for you when you get back.

A leave of absence differs from vacation time or sick leave. Often, you will only have a short period of time each year that you can take paid time off of work. A leave of absence helps to bridge the gap when you need more time off than your current paid time off policy allows.

For example, if you find out that a family member is ill and you need to help take care of them, you might start by requesting time off. However, if you realize that your family member will need your help for longer than your paid time off policy allows, you might be faced with a difficult situation. Do you quit your job?

A leave of absence allows you to ask for an extended period of time away from your job to attend to situations like this. With formal approval for a leave of absence, you can attend to your personal circumstances, and return to your job afterward.

How to request a leave of absence from work

Requesting a leave of absence from work will look different depending on where you work. In an informal organization, you might simply need to sit down with your boss and ask for time away. In a larger organization, your HR department might have a formal process for requesting a leave of absence. In some cases, you might need to submit paperwork requesting your leave.

Either way, the first step in requesting a leave of absence from work is to speak with your supervisor or boss. Explain your situation and your request, making sure that you follow any requested procedures.

Additionally, you’ll want to submit a formal leave of absence letter with your request. You can use the following example as a starting point for your own letter.

Leave of absence letter example – email

Subject: Jay Styles – Leave of Absence Request

Dear Lorelai,

As we discussed this morning, I would like to request a leave of absence from my role as a Sales Consultant to attend to a family emergency. I plan to be away from January 21, 2023, to March 1, 2023.

I will be happy to assist with transitioning my current clients to another consultant for the time being. I plan to work with you over the upcoming weeks to make the transition smooth.

If you have any further questions please let me know.



Tips for asking for a leave of absence

If you need to request a leave of absence, it is important to approach the situation professionally. In many cases, your employer is not required to approve your request. To help make the request as successful as possible, follow these tips:

  • Know your rights: While there are many situations in which an employer can deny your request for a leave of absence, there are certain scenarios in which they are legally obligated to provide you with time off. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers must provide you with a leave of absence for the birth or adoption of a child, for serious family and personal medical emergencies, and in the case of an active duty deployment. Before requesting a leave of absence, ask a local legal resource whether or not your situation falls under this act.
  • Speak with your boss one-on-one: Prior to handing in a formal letter requesting a leave of absence, take the time to sit down with your boss one-on-one. Request a meeting with your supervisor and explain your situation. Many bosses are amicable about a leave of absence, especially when you are in good standing with the company. Be sure to express how much you enjoy your role and that you want to return to the organization.
  • Be honest: Never lie when you are asking for a leave of absence. It is important to be honest about your reason for needing time away.
  • Work With Your Company: Stepping away from your role, whether for a few weeks or a few months can put a strain on the rest of your team. Make sure you take the time to help transition existing projects and workloads before you head out.
  • Document your request: Always document your request and ask for approval in formal writing. This will help ensure that there is no confusion about your request and your date of return.

Other leave of absence options

In some cases, your employer might not be able to accommodate your leave of absence request. Additionally, you might find that taking off an extended period of time without pay puts too large of a strain on you financially.

In this case, it can be worth considering other options, such as the following:

  • Ask for Part-time Leave: Rather than stepping away from your role completely, consider requesting a part-time leave of absence. Talk to your boss about working 15-20 hours while you deal with your life circumstances. This will allow you to still earn an income and will help keep projects on track.
  • Consider Remote Work: If your company is amenable to the suggestion, consider working from home temporarily. This can be a good fit if you need to take care of a family member but can do so while still completing your daily work.
  • Recognize the Signs of Burnout: If your desire to take a leave of absence is due to feeling overwhelmed by your current job, it might be worth considering whether or not you actually wish to return. In some cases, you might be in a job that isn’t a good fit for you or is a toxic work environment. In this case, leaving the job might be a better idea than taking time away only to return.

For more career advice, including guides on submitting other formal requests in the workplace, be sure to visit our Career Advice resource center.