You wake up
feeling terrible and you realize you can’t report to work today.
your boss that you can’t come to work is scary, even if your office has a lax
policy on absences. You don’t want your boss to think you’re slacking off, but
you also don’t want to divulge so much information that the conversation gets
tutorial covers everything you need to write a professional sick day email,
plus easy-to-edit templates. You’ll also find tips for writing a sick day email
for recurring or invisible illnesses.
1. Follow Company Protocol
protocol for absences in your employer’s handbook or go with your manager’s
preferred communication method. For some people, this means you’re required to
inform your manager at least two hours before your shift. Some companies may
require you to call in sick instead of sending an email or text. You may also need
to inform your colleagues and clients that you’re out of the office.
employers need a doctor’s note for leaves that will last longer than three days. But there
are also strict companies where you need to submit a doctor’s note even if you’ll
only be absent for one day. Ask your manager or check your employment contract if
you’re not sure where your employer stands on doctor’s notes.
2. Do it Early
Email in sick or
call ahead of time, as soon as you realize you can’t come in to work. Sudden
illness and trips to the emergency room can put work out of your mind. But it’s
still your responsibility to call your manager as soon as you’re able. You
don’t want to leave them clueless about your whereabouts.
3. What to Include in Your
Sick Day Email
email clear and concise. Below is a list of what you need to include when you
call or email in sick:
- Reason for your
absence. Keep this
part clear without going into too much detail. Write the specific illness and
the main symptoms that prevent you from coming to the office. You don’t have
to list everything.
- How long you’ll be
absent from work. This is predictable for many illnesses, such as flu or a cold, where the worst
is over in one or two days. If you’re not sure when you’ll be back, ask your
doctor how long it might take you to recover.
- Address your
availability to communicate. Inform your boss about whether you can answer questions via email. You may
also include an emergency phone number in case they need to reach you. If you’re too sick to respond to emails,
be honest and make it clear that you’ll be unreachable during your absence.
- Clarify whether you’ll work or not. This
applies to telecommute, remote, or senior-level employees expected to continue
working even while on leave. Your supervisor may allow you to telecommute if
you’re contagious, but not too ill for a full bed rest.
- Doctor’s note and
other documentation. Mention any doctor’s note, prescription, or medical certificate that you can
provide to back up your request for a sick leave.
- Name your point
person. Mention who
will take over your current projects and meetings, so your manager will know
who to approach for questions about your tasks. You can simply write, “Ben will take over my client meetings this
afternoon, and he’s also up to date on my projects with Client X.”
- Professional Closing. End your sick day email with a
simple closing and your name.
also email your team with an abridged version of this email that doesn’t
include details of your ailment and doctor’s note.
Sick Day Email Sample for Your Team
Sorry, but I can’t make it to work today. I’ve got a
(flu/cold/stomach ache, etc.), so
I’m going to take the day off. I’ll be available to (answer emails/work
It’s also a good
idea to set up an out-of-office email to keep everyone else you work with
4. Sick Leave Email Templates
Here are different
templates to show you how to email in sick, depending on your circumstances:
1. Simple Sick Day Email
Use this template when you’ll only
be absent for a day. It’s short and doesn’t include a lot of details because a
one-day absence doesn’t need five paragraphs to explain.
emailing to inform you that I can’t make it to work today,
(Date), as I’ve come
down with a
(your illness). I’ll be available to answer emails if you need
urgent help, but
(Co-worker’s Name)will handle my workload today to ensure all
deadlines are met.
you for understanding,
“urgent help” is there to suggest
that you won’t be checking and replying to emails the whole day. Think of it as
a subtle way of saying that you need time to rest, but you also honor your
obligations and will be available to step in if a situation arises that only you
could fix. Remove the phrase “urgent
help” if you plan to answer emails like you would on a normal day at the
2. Sick Day Email Sample with
Request to Use Paid Leave
template if you’ve got a doctor’s note and if you’ll be using your sick leave to cover the absence.
(Your Manager’s Name),
won’t be able to report to work today because I’m under the weather and have a
(symptoms you’re experiencing). I went to the emergency room last night and the
doctor confirmed that I’ve got (doctor’s diagnosis).
(X days off from work)as I
(need to rest, am contagious), so
(Co-worker’s Name)to take over my meeting with
afternoon. They’ll also handle my pending tasks while I’m away. I’ll be
available via email for your urgent needs.
also attached the doctor’s note to this email. I’d appreciate it if you would forward this email with the attachment to HR so they can process my sick leave.
Thank you for your help.
phrase about going to the emergency room if you didn’t, or just switch it to “visited the doctor” if you went to
the doctor after coming home from work.
Note that U.S. Federal law doesn’t require companies to offer a paid sick
leave according to the Department of Labor. Other countries may have their own labor laws regarding sick leave. Check your employment contract before using this template.
Human Resources (HR) isn’t
always responsible for approving sick leaves. Sometimes your manager has the
final say, so you may want to tweak that part of the template according to your
3. Out Sick Email Template
for Indefinite Leave
Use this template if you’re not sure when you can report back to work.
writing this to let you know that I can’t come to the office today. I’ve been
(sick, light headed, etc.)since (last night, yesterday, etc.), and
only saw a doctor yesterday.
They diagnosed me with
(your illness)and prescribed medication that will last for
(X days). I feel a bit better now that the first dose of medication has taken
effect, but I was advised to stay home because it will take time for me to
do my best to inform you if I can’t make it to work tomorrow, so that we can
make some temporary arrangements for my workload. In the meantime,
(Colleague’shas agreed to look after my tasks for the day.”
For more general information on how to write professional emails, refer to the following tutorial:
5. Arrange for Someone to Cover
Have you noticed that all the email samples above include a hand-off of your
tasks to a trusted colleague? You should already have a predetermined
arrangement with that colleague way before you need to be absent, so you can
just call on that favor when you need it.
Your colleague’s lack of consideration isn’t the only reason for a
predetermined arrangement. Your colleague needs to know how to do your work,
where to look for certain files in your computer, and who your contacts are
with clients or vendors. Otherwise they’ll look clueless while filling in for
You don’t need to prepare a textbook’s worth of information about your
job. Just compile some notes on your tasks, such as:
- reports you write and when they’re
due, so your colleague can do them in case your sick leave coincides with a
- contacts at other departments and
companies you work with, including their names, emails and job titles
- running list of pending projects and
the people involved in each one
- instructions on how to handle tasks
only you can do, so that someone else can do it if you’re too ill to work from
- relevant sources, such as websites,
books, or people
6. Set Up an Out-of-Office
If you haven’t done it already, set up an out-of-office message to inform people
that you’re not at work and are unable to answer emails. You only need to activate
this message if you called in sick and also informed your boss that you won’t
be able to answer emails at home.
This isn’t like the sick day email you wrote for your boss and
co-workers though. You’re not required to inform people outside your team about
your illness, much less your symptoms. They probably also don’t want to hear the details.
Below is a simple out-of-office message you can set-up on your Gmail, Outlook, or other email provider.
be out of the office from
(phone number)for your urgent concerns.
Otherwise, I’ll attend to your emails upon my return. Thank you.”
7. Special Cases: Sick Day Emails for Recurring & Invisible Illnesses
A few years ago, I called the workforce hotline to call in sick, a
standard procedure for my job back then. After explaining why I couldn’t make it
to work, the person on the other line berated me because this was the third
time in six months that I called in sick for the same reason. My reason was an invisible illness–one of the many ailments
where the person seems fine unless you see all the prescription medicines they’re
Lots of invisible and recurring illnesses exist, some of which are
manageable enough it’s possible to have a job. Based on my research, it looks
like I’m not the only one who feels guilty and scared of awkward conversations when
calling in sick. This section is for people looking for advice on how to handle
this situation at work.
Julia Esteve Boyd, an Etiquette Consultant with an international background in corporate
“Recurring illnesses are
problematic, but most employers are understanding when they know all the
Disclosing your recurring or invisible illness
at work may trigger further scrutiny from your boss or HR. That’s why it’s in
your best interest to research your employer’s policies regarding absences
before you broach this topic. If there’s nothing in your contract or employee
manual about recurring absences, ask your coworkers if they know someone with a
similar situation within the company. Then talk to that person to see how they
handled previous sick leave requests, and how their boss and HR handled it.
Their experience will give you a clue on what you can expect.
Eva Doyle, a manager with more
than 20 years of experience, advises employees with recurring illness to talk
to their manager about their condition before they need to take a sick day. She
“Come prepared to discuss your plan to manage your condition and
its effect on your work.”
Doing this allows you to collaborate with your
boss in creating a contingency plan for your tasks, while minimizing bad
surprises, like if you email in sick multiple times in one month.
As for possible awkward conversations
regarding your illness and symptoms, Boyd and Doyle both agree that you only
disclose the important details of your condition. You can disclose what your
illness is and a general explanation of how it prevents you from working, such
as migraine, pain, or fever. Leave out the finer details about what you’re
going through. Your boss will be happier not knowing about them.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees of covered U.S. based employers up to 12
weeks of unpaid sick leave for specific medical conditions, which they can use
for themselves or a member of their immediate family. Check if your employer is
covered by the FMLA act, so you can use this benefit if you need a sick leave
even if your boss is reluctant to give you one.
Wrapping It Up: Email in Sick the Right Way
You many not remember everything on this
tutorial when the time comes that you need to email in sick. That’s okay. If you think you might need this information, bookmark this article so you can refer to it later.
One thing you
should remember though is to follow your company’s sick day policy. Following
instructions ensures your sick day doesn’t earn you a scolding the next day you
report to work.