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How to Call in Sick: A Guide for Employees With Examples

Worried freelance worker wearing protective face mask while reading problematic email computer working home during virus epidemic.

Calling in sick is a necessary part of workplace culture, ensuring that employees can take the time they need to recover from illness without compromising their work or the health of their colleagues. However, the process can sometimes be stressful or confusing. This article provides a straightforward guide on how to call in sick, emphasizing professionalism and consideration.

What to Do When Calling in Sick?

When calling in sick, it’s important to communicate effectively and professionally. Here are the key elements to include in your sick call:

  • Immediate Notification: Contact your supervisor or HR department as soon as you realize you want a day off and you cannot attend work. Timeliness is crucial to avoid any disruptions in the workplace.
  • Clarity and Conciseness: Be clear and concise about your situation. You don’t need to provide detailed medical information, but you should communicate the general nature of your illness and its impact on your ability to work.
  • Professional Tone: Maintain a professional tone throughout the call. Even if you have a casual relationship with your supervisor, it’s important to handle sick calls with professionalism.
  • Expected Duration of Absence: If possible, give an estimate of how long you expect to be absent. If you’re unsure, it’s okay to say so, but provide an update as soon as you have more information.
  • Work Handover Plan: Briefly mention any urgent work or projects that might need attention during your absence. If you’ve arranged for a colleague to cover certain tasks, inform your supervisor.
  • Availability for Follow-Up: Let your supervisor know if you’ll be completely unavailable or if you can be reached for urgent matters. However, prioritize your recovery – do not feel pressured to work while sick.
  • Thankfulness for Understanding: Express your appreciation for your supervisor’s understanding. A simple “thank you” goes a long way in maintaining good relationships.
  • Compliance with Company Policy: If there are specific protocols or forms required by your company’s sick leave policy, acknowledge them and commit to complying with these requirements.

Call in Sick Examples:

Example 1: Email Notification

Dear [Manager’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. Unfortunately, I woke up feeling quite unwell this morning with a high fever and a persistent cough. After consulting with my doctor, I’ve been advised to rest and recover at home to prevent the spread of illness and to facilitate a quicker recovery. Given these circumstances, I am unable to come into the office today, [Date]. I have reviewed my schedule and do not have any pressing deadlines today. However, I have informed [Colleague’s Name] about my current projects, and they have kindly agreed to monitor any urgent matters in my absence. I will keep you updated on my health and plan to return to work as soon as I am able. Please let me know if there is any additional information I need to provide. Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

Example 2: Text Message to Supervisor

Hi [Supervisor’s Name], I wanted to inform you that I am feeling quite ill this morning with flu-like symptoms. Following the company’s sick leave policy, I will not be coming into work today to recover and to avoid spreading illness. I have emailed the team to reschedule today’s meetings and will keep you updated on my status. Thank you for your understanding. Best, [Your Name]

Example 3: Email for Extended Sick Leave

Dear [Manager’s Name],

I regret to inform you that due to a recent medical diagnosis, I am required to take an extended period of sick leave. Per my doctor’s advice, I will need to be absent from work starting [Start Date] until [End Date]. I understand this may cause inconvenience, and I apologize for any disruption this may cause to our team’s workflow. I am prepared to assist with a handover of my current projects. I’ve compiled detailed notes and have coordinated with [Colleague’s Name] to take over my responsibilities during my absence. I will remain in contact and provide any necessary updates regarding my health and expected return date. Please let me know if there are any forms or additional information I need to submit for this extended leave. Thank you for your understanding and support during this time.

[Your Name]

Example 4: Voicemail Script

You: “Hi [Manager’s Name], this is [Your Name]. I’m sorry I missed you. I wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to make it to work today. I’ve been experiencing some pains since last night and need to seek medical attention. I will send an email with details about my current projects and their status. I will also ensure to update you on my condition and expected return to work. Thank you for your understanding.”

In these examples, the key elements are timely and clear communication, respect for workplace policies, and a plan to manage work responsibilities during the absence. These examples provide a template for various situations, including sudden illness, mental health days, and extended leave. Remember, the aim is to inform and reassure your employer about your absence while taking care of your health.

Legal and Rights Perspective on Employee Rights

Brief Overview of Employee Rights Regarding Sick Leave

Employees across different countries are entitled to various rights concerning sick leave, with laws and protections designed to ensure workers can recover from illness without the fear of losing their jobs or income. In the United States, a pivotal piece of legislation is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, with the continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible reasons include personal or family illness, pregnancy, adoption, and foster care placement, among others. FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period under these conditions.

Other countries have their own equivalents, often with more generous provisions. For instance, many European countries offer paid sick leave from the first day of illness, with the cost covered by either the employer or through social security systems. The specifics, such as the duration of paid leave and the percentage of income compensated, vary by country but generally prioritize maintaining the employee’s income and job position during periods of short-term illness.

Company-Specific Policies vs. Legal Minimums

While legal frameworks set the minimum standards for sick leave, companies can—and often do—offer more generous terms as part of their employment policies. These enhanced benefits can include higher rates of pay during sick leave, longer durations of leave, or more flexible conditions for taking leave. For example, some companies might provide paid sick leave from the first day of illness, surpassing legal requirements that might only offer unpaid leave or paid leave after a certain period of employment.

Company-specific policies can serve multiple purposes: they can be a reflection of a company’s commitment to employee welfare, a strategy to attract and retain talent, or a response to employee expectations and norms within an industry. However, these policies vary widely between companies and can even differ within different parts of the same organization, depending on local laws and customs.

Encouragement for Employees

It’s crucial for employees to familiarize themselves with both the legal rights and the specific policies of their employer regarding sick leave. Understanding these can help employees effectively navigate their rights and obligations when ill, ensuring they make the most of the protections and benefits available to them. Employees should review their employee handbooks, company policy documents, and any relevant laws in their jurisdiction to fully understand their rights and benefits. Additionally, engaging in dialogue with HR departments or seeking advice from labor rights organizations can provide clarity and assistance in navigating complex situations.

By being informed about both legal entitlements and company policies, employees can ensure they are adequately supported during periods of illness, allowing for a focus on recovery and health.

FAQ Section: Common Concerns About Calling in Sick

Q1: What if I feel guilty for taking a sick day?
A1: Feeling guilty is common, but remember, prioritizing your health benefits both you and your workplace in the long run. It’s better to recover fully before returning to work than to risk worsening your condition or spreading illness to colleagues.

Q2: How should I handle fear of repercussions for calling in sick?
A2: Familiarize yourself with your company’s sick leave policy and your legal rights. Employers generally understand that sickness is a part of life. If you fear repercussions, document your illness (e.g., a doctor’s note) and communicate openly with HR if necessary.

Q3: What can I do if my manager is unsympathetic about me calling in sick?
A3: It’s important to remain professional and adhere to your company’s sick leave policy. If you encounter issues, consider discussing the situation with HR to find a resolution. Remember, your health should always come first.

Q4: Should I work from home if I’m only slightly ill?
A4: This depends on your capacity to work and your company’s policy on remote work. If you’re contagious or the quality of your work will be significantly impacted, it’s best to take the day off. If you’re able, discuss the possibility of working from home with your manager.

Q5: How can I make calling in sick less stressful?
A5: Prepare in advance by knowing your company’s sick leave policy and having a plan for urgent tasks. Communicating clearly and professionally can also ease the process. Over time, building a positive track record and a supportive relationship with your team and manager can reduce stress around taking sick leave.

Q6: What if I’m not physically ill, but mentally unwell?
A6: Mental health is just as important as physical health. If you need a day off for mental health reasons, follow the same protocol as for physical illness. You don’t have to disclose the specifics of your health condition, just communicate your need for a sick day.

Q7: How often is too often to call in sick?
A7: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as it depends on individual health circumstances and company policies. However, if you find yourself needing to call in sick frequently, it might be worth discussing your health with a professional to address any underlying issues.

Q8: Can I be fired for calling in sick?
A8: In many places, laws protect employees from being fired for taking legitimate sick leave. However, abuse of sick leave policies can lead to disciplinary action. If you’re concerned about your job security, review your rights and consider speaking with HR for clarity.

Q9: What documentation might I need to provide for taking a sick day?
A9: This varies by company. Some may require a doctor’s note for a certain number of consecutive days off, while others may not require any documentation for short absences. Check your company’s policy for specifics.

Q10: How do I call in sick for mental health reasons without revealing too much personal information?
A10: You can maintain privacy by simply stating that you are taking a sick day for health reasons. Most companies do not require you to specify whether your illness is physical or mental, respecting your privacy while ensuring you get the rest you need.


Call in sick is a part of maintaining a healthy work environment. It’s important to handle this process professionally and responsibly, respecting both company policies and personal health needs. Remember, your well-being is paramount, and a responsible employer will understand the importance of taking sick leave when necessary.