How to Write a Letter to Request Time Off From Work

by Grace Ferguson

Some companies require that employees complete a standard form to request time off from work. In other businesses, employees must write a letter from scratch. Depending on company policy or the situation, your supervisor might need to discuss your request with her superior before approving or rejecting it. Regardless of the outcome, if it’s a non-medical request, a copy of the letter goes in your personnel file. If it’s medically related, the document must be kept separate from your personnel file.

Before Writing the Letter

Verify your available leave balance with your supervisor or human resources department before requesting paid time off. Do not rely on your pay stub for this information, as the data might not be current. In addition, talk to your supervisor before you actually write the letter. Try to give at least two weeks’ notice to avoid disrupting the flow and production of your department.

Leave Type and Reason

In the first paragraph of the letter, state the type of leave you are requesting and the days you need. For example: “I would like to request paid vacation leave of five working days, from Monday, November 18, 2013 through Friday, November 22, 2013.” State your current available leave balance. If your company requests a reason, you could say that you want time off to spend with your family or to travel. If you need time off because of personal or medical reasons, state this without over-explaining. For unpaid extended personal leave, such as one month off to devote to volunteer or religious missions, state the reason for the leave, the dates you are requesting off and when you expect to return to work.

Job-Related Information

Create another paragraph to bring your supervisor up to speed on your work. Explain how you plan to make the transition go smoothly and invite him to contact you while you are on leave, if necessary. You might write: “Before leaving, I plan to finish all my regular duties and the 'new accounts' project which you assigned to me two days ago. As discussed, I intend to train the temporary worker who will replace me while I am on leave. Though I will be traveling, you are free to contact me at the cell phone number or email address you have on file for me if you have questions about my work.” Then thank your supervisor for considering your request. If you are planning to take a vacation, include your cell phone number in the letter, but tell your supervisor to call you only if it's an emergency.

FMLA Request

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to care for their own or immediate family member’s serious health condition, during certain military deployments, or for the birth or adoption of their child. You must give your employer at least 30 days’ notice if you know you will need to take the leave, or as soon as possible once you are aware of it. You do not have to put your medical diagnosis in your letter, but you should give your employer enough data so it can verify that your condition is protected by the FMLA. You could say that your doctor put you on medication and told you not to work for the next two months. Your employer might ask you to provide medical certification, which you can obtain from your health care provider and attach to your leave request.

About the Author

Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.

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