Every workday, you show up and do your best. But sometimes, your work-life balance feels unmanageable, and your best starts to fall below your regular. It’s hard to perform at 100% all the time.
Eventually, things may begin to feel truly overwhelming, and you’ll find you’re losing focus and control.
When you’re really struggling, you may need to take time away from work to recover. And that’s OK. If that’s relatable — or sounds like it will be soon — it’s important to learn how to write a letter explaining your personal reason for leave to your boss. It’s best to be prepared. Your mental and physical health may depend on it later.
Writing a leave application letter can be a source of stress in itself. It’s a personal letter, but how formal should it be? Do you have to go into lots of detail, or can you maintain your privacy?
Don’t let these unknowns stop you from putting in a leave request. In 2021, 3,200 American full-time workers took a leave of absence from work. It’s perfectly common, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of this option. And remember that it’s not a failure: taking steps to care for yourself is always a victory.
Don’t worry — if you’ve never written a leave of absence letter, you’re in good hands. We’ll guide you through writing the perfect leave of absence letter so you don’t have to struggle and stress when you’re not feeling your best. Grab a pen and paper, and let’s dive in.
What is a leave of absence?
A leave of absence is when you take time off to handle a personal matter. Sometimes these matters are unexpected, like a sudden illness. Other times, you see them coming, like needing time to move a parent into a retirement home.
These absences span a period of time — sometimes fixed, sometimes not — when you’re away from your work responsibilities to dedicate more focus to your personal life. Think of it like a sabbatical where you spend time away from work to care for yourself.
Depending on the matter, you might only need a week to feel better or resolve a situation. Your employer might be able to offer you sick days or PTO to cover this break.
But if the matter you need to attend to will take longer than a few days, you’ll need a true personal leave. A leave of absence grants you more time off than a string of sick days without leaving your job. You’ll return to work eventually, but you need more time than the standard employment agreement offers.
Personal leave of absence reasons include:
- Experiencing a medical condition that makes you chronically ill or in pain
- Having a baby and taking maternity leave
- Address mental health issues or mental illness
- Supporting a loved one or family member in need
- Undergoing major life changes like moving cities or getting married
When you submit your leave request, make sure you document everything. If you had a conversation with your HR manager and worked out all the details, remember to follow up with an email so you have a written record of the conversation. It’s uncomfortable to ask, but having your request in words is handy should you need to reference it down the road.
When should I take personal leave?
It’s normal to be worried your personal circumstances won’t be enough to convince your employer to grant you a leave of absence. Not to worry — that’s why the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) exists.
The FMLA is a law that provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. During that time, your health benefits are maintained and you can take time off without fear of losing your job.
Here are the situations in which you can take an FMLA leave of absence:
- The birth of your child and caring for them
- Adopting or fostering a child
- Taking care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition
- Taking medical leave to address your own health condition
For example, if you have a spouse dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, the FMLA would support your decision to care for them from home. If your child is experiencing burnout from work that has resulted in an intense episode of mental illness, the FMLA grants you a period of time to care for your child while they need you.
Sometimes, your leave of absence letter for personal reasons won’t meet the FMLA guidelines. These circumstances require a voluntary leave of absence, which means your job and benefits aren’t protected.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t request the leave — in many cases, your boss will be compassionate about your needs. They might offer to protect your position, even though the law doesn’t require it.
Here are a few examples of voluntary leave:
- Continuing your education
- Taking a break to travel
- Relocating to a new home
- Mourning the loss of a loved one
How to write a personal leave letter
A leave request letter goes to your HR manager or boss, so it should be formal and professional. Because your letter describes personal circumstances, strive to be clear and concise.
Give enough details to justify your request, but only disclose what’s comfortable and necessary. For example, if you’re undergoing cancer treatment and don’t want to bring that part of your life to work, you can simply say you’re undergoing medical treatment that requires you to stay home.
Another thing to keep in mind is timing. Ideally, your letter should be sent in advance of when you’d like to have your time off. Sending your letter with two days’ notice isn’t always enough time for your employer to cover your responsibilities and make an effective plan for your time away.
Giving ample heads-up means you’re being courteous to your team. But emergencies happen, so try to cooperate while navigating the terms of your leave.
Here are five things to include in your leave application letter:
1. How much time you require off
This seems like a no-brainer, but you shouldn’t forget this key piece of information: how much time you need. Perhaps you only need to request six weeks off, or maybe you’d like to take the full 12. That’s a big difference.
Explaining how much time you’d like off will better prepare your workplace for your absence. It also gives your boss some perspective on how the rest of the workplace will be impacted.
2. The start and end date of your leave
Besides how long you’d like your leave to be, you need to give exact dates and times. A concrete start date acknowledges when your time away will begin. An end date will also let your employer know when they can expect your return, so they know when to start scheduling work for you.
Setting a timeline also holds you accountable. You’ll know when you should push work from your mind and when it’s time to get back into the zone.
3. The reason you’re requesting leave
Personal circumstances are exactly that: personal. But your boss will need to know, in general terms, why you’re writing a leave application. If it’s difficult to talk about, know that you can describe your reason for requesting terms within your boundaries.
Keep in mind that this letter is private — the rest of your coworkers won’t be taking a peek. So try to describe your circumstance succinctly, but don’t feel pressured to describe every little detail.
4. Contact information and a plan
You’re going to be missing some work. Do you have any solutions planned so your workplace doesn’t fall behind? Provide some suggestions about how someone could manage your work while you’re away and highlight any resources the team might need for a smooth transition.
If you have the capacity to answer messages while you’re away, share your contact information with your manager (if they don’t already have it). Provide an emergency contact, like a family member or friend, too.
If you’re not up for helping out, no problem. During your leave of absence, you’re entitled to your rest. Any emails you answer are a favor, not an obligation.
5. A thank you
Save room for a thank you to close out your absence letter. Politely thanking your employer for considering your letter and taking the time to find a solution shows you’re grateful for their support.
You’re ready to ask for time off, but how do you start your letter? Sometimes you need a little inspiration to start your writing. That’s where templates come in.
Every letter of request looks different, so copy-pasting a template will only get you so far. But using a template as a jumping-off point and making the words your own is a straightforward way to pen a letter with confidence.
Here are two sample leave letters for personal reasons:
[Your supervisor’s name]
Dear [name of your supervisor],
I would like to request a leave of absence. My spouse is on sick leave, and they require my care while they regain their strength. If possible, I’d like my absence start date to be March 1 and my end date to be June 1.
If my request is approved, I’ll be reachable via email or Slack if you need me. I was talking with [coworker’s name], and they think they’ll be able to take on some of my responsibilities while I’m away. I’d be happy to chat more about how to make this temporary transition as smooth as possible.
Thank you for considering my leave of absence request. As you know, family is very important to me, and I’d be grateful for the time to support my spouse.
All the best,
[Your supervisor’s name]
Dear [name of your supervisor],
I would like to formally request a six-week leave of absence. I’m requesting medical leave after an operation. I’d like my absence start date to be July 1, making August 12 the end date. My doctor has asked that I take it easy so my body can heal properly, requiring me to spend a few weeks on bed rest.
If my request is approved, I won’t be able to come into the office. However, I’ll be reachable via email, Slack, and video call if necessary. I’m very willing to chat about how we can work this out with minimal inconvenience to you and my coworkers. If you’d like to discuss this more, my phone number is [your number].
Thank you for considering my leave application.
When it’s a personal reason, leave requests can be overwhelming. Taking the initiative to learn how to write a strong leave of absence letter will help you in the long run.
Your leave request letter could make a big difference in your life. Research has found that having flexibility at work is something workers value the most. Flexibility at work helps with job engagement, job satisfaction, and overall happiness. If taking a leave of absence will make your life a run bit smoother, resulting in less stress and leaving you with fewer regrets, why not take it?
Life isn’t all about work. Don’t forget to make time for yourself and your health.