Career Development

How to Request a Leave of Absence From Work

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At some point during your professional career, you may need to take an extended period of time off work. This period of time is known as a leave of absence and may be necessary to care for your own medical condition, the condition of a loved one, or to pursue another passion. Depending on where you work, you may need to request the time off in a specific format. Following these steps to request a leave of absence from work in a professional way.

What is a leave of absence request?

A leave of absence request is the letter or document you’ll use to ask your employer to allow you to take an extended period of time away from work. A request for a leave of absence is different from a standard request for time off, such as a PTO request, because it will usually be for a longer period of time. In some cases, a leave of absence is for a month or two, while others may be up to a year off. 

If an employer has 50 or more employees, the company provides job-protected and unpaid leave for eligible employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the United States, which is up to 12 weeks of time off during a 12-month period. The 12 weeks do not have to be consecutive, nor does an employee have to take the full 12 weeks for the leave of absence to qualify under FMLA. When the employee who is taking leave is ready to return and has been medically cleared to do so, if needed, the employer must provide the same job or another comparable position with equal benefits and pay.

However, not all leave of absence requests are covered under the FMLA. If you are requesting time off to travel, pursue a passion or hobby or to manage the stress associated with any lifestyle factors, your employer doesn’t have to grant you this time off. Additionally, an employer doesn’t have to legally hold your job for you while you are away.  

How to request a leave of absence

You can follow these steps to request a leave of absence:

1. First, review your employee handbook for the company policy on temporary leave of absence

Start by reviewing your employee handbook to see what it says about requesting a leave of absence.

2. Second, find out if your workplace has a set procedure for submitting a request for a leave of absence

In workplaces with formal HR departments and a larger number of employees, you may need to follow a set process. The way you request a leave of absence will likely depend on the atmosphere within your workplace. If you work for a company with a smaller number of employees, you may be able to simply ask your supervisor for time away from work. 

3. Then, if possible, consider the best time to take your absence

In some cases, flexibility really isn’t an option when it comes to a leave of absence. Medical situations are beyond your control, as are situations where you’re called to serve as a juror or you’ve been called into active military duty. However, if your request is for time away to travel or pursue another passion, it can be helpful to your employer if you’re willing to be flexible about the timing. For example, leaving at the end of a fiscal year at an accounting firm could create a very difficult situation for your co-workers. Consider how you can take some of the stress away from your team by requesting time off when the workload is lighter.

4. Next, give your notice as soon as possible

In some cases, such as a medical or family emergency, you won’t be able to provide much notice to your manager. However, if you’re expecting a child or planning a medical procedure in the future, it’s helpful to ask for the leave of absence as early as possible to give your employer time to plan for coverage while you’re out.

5. Then, create your request in writing

In the written request, include as much information as possible, including the reasons you are requesting time off, anything you are willing to do to ensure a smooth transition and when you plan to return.

6. Last, talk to your Human Resources representative

Although your leave of absence will impact your supervisor and team directly, you also need to work with your HR representative to make sure you’ve completed all the necessary steps. Your HR representative can also answer any questions you might have about the process, as well as provide clarification on policies for taking time off. 

As you prepare to ask for a leave of absence, consider how you can make it easier for your employer to approve the request. By providing as much information as you can, as well as looking for opportunities to be flexible, you can increase your chances of having a leave of absence request approved.

Leave of absence request example

Your employer may have a form you need to fill out. If you’re asking for a leave of absence that doesn’t have a specific form to complete, you can use this example to formulate your own request:

Subject: Leave of Absence Request

Dear Joe,

I would like to formally request a leave of absence from my position. I would like to request this leave from July 1 through Oct. 31, 2019. I plan to return to work on Nov. 1, 2019. The reason for this request is to undergo a medical treatment plan that was recommended by my physician to help me manage stress more effectively. 

Prior to taking a leave of absence from my position, I am willing to train employees in my tasks so they can assist while I am out. I am also willing to answer any questions that may arise before my leave of absence begins. During the leave, I will be unreachable for at least the first few weeks.

Please let me know if I can provide any further information or if you have questions about my request. I appreciate your consideration in providing me the opportunity to take personal time away from my position.