What Exactly Do You Need To Say When Requesting Sick Leave At Work?

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Let’s face it—falling sick on a workday can be stress-inducing! You may find yourself panicking over an important client meeting that you need to attend or an inflexible deadline that you have to meet that very day. Worst of all, you may be worried about letting your manager down and burdening your team members with extra work. As much as you feel the urge to swallow a Panadol, wear a mask, and solider on to work, you must stay home, consult a doctor, and take good care of yourself—for both your sake and the sake of your colleagues.

As a matter of fact, Hong Kong’s Labour Department safeguards employees’ health by requiring employers to grant paid sick leave to all full-time staff when they fall ill. So if you are feeling under the weather, you have the right to inform your employer and take the day off or as long as your doctor suggests.

When Is It Acceptable To Call In Sick?

Deciding whether or not you should call in sick can be a difficult choice to make. However, if you have one or more of the following symptoms, you should stay home and—depending on the severity of your symptoms—consult a doctor.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Body ache

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that you isolate yourself if you experience any of the above symptoms, immediately get tested for the highly-contagious coronavirus, and follow the next steps as instructed by the Health Authority.

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How To Write A Sick Leave Notice?

Telling your manager that you will not be able to come into work can be a little daunting. You do not want them to think that you are slacking off and making excuses to not do your job but, at the same time, you do not want to give away too much information and make the conversation awkward.

If you want to write a succinct yet thoughtful sick leave notice, here is what you should include in your message:

State the reason(s) for your absence.

When applying for sick leave, you need to support your message with medical reasons that are preventing you from coming to work. In your notice, describe your illness and/or the symptoms you are experiencing without going into too much detail. This will help your manager better understand your situation.

State the length of your absence.

It is also important to mention in your sick leave notice the expected length of your absence. Minor illnesses—such as flu and the common cold—require only a couple days of leave. However, more serious conditions may entail longer recovery periods. It is best to have a word with your doctor and let your manager know how long you are advised to stay home and rest. Doing so will give your manager a realistic outlook of your situation and help them decide the best way to cover for you.

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Clarify whether you will be able to work.

If you think you will be able to work remotely during your absence, that is great! Show your manager how committed you are to your job. However, if you are not in the right state to work, be upfront with your manager about it so they know what to expect and what not to.

Elaborate on your “next steps”.

If you have an important deadline to meet, see if a team member can help you out and keep your manager in the loop. If you have a meeting scheduled with a client, let your manager know if you are planning to reschedule it or have a colleague attend it for you. Your manager will be thankful you are taking matters into your own hands despite feeling unwell. 

Address your availability to communicate.

In your sick leave notice, be sure to clarify if you will be reachable via email. You can also let your manager know that they can reach you on your mobile phone for urgent matters. However, if you are too sick to respond to emails and attend work-related calls, be honest about it with your manager.

Sick Leave Notice Samples

If you still need more pointers and ideas on how to write a great sick leave notice, here are a few samples you can take inspiration from.

Sample 1

Scenario: Jack sends a formal sick leave notice to his manager via email.

Hi Mr. Wong,

I would like to request ten days of sick leave starting 31st August.

I injured my leg over the weekend and tore a ligament on my knee. I was advised by the doctor to stay home for a minimum of two weeks as my daily commute would put a strain on my leg and worsen my condition. I have attached the medical certificate below for your reference.

I would like to let you know that I plan on working remotely for the next two weeks and attend all scheduled team meetings over Zoom. I have a client meeting this Wednesday, which Sarah has agreed to take over as she is up-to-date on the project. We have decided to schedule a quick call after the meeting so she can bring me up to speed.

I will be available to answer emails. For urgent matters, feel free to give me a call on +852 1234 5678.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your understanding!


Jack Chan

Sample 2

Scenario: Fion sends an informal sick leave notice to her manager and team members on a WhatsApp group chat.

Hey guys!

I came down with a fever early this morning and plan on taking a sick leave today to rest up and get better. I’ll check my emails periodically and will be available on WhatsApp if you need me for urgent matters.

I hope to be back in the office in full swing tomorrow. See you soon!


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