You woke up with a sore throat and a fuzzy head, and you are pretty sure that going into work is a bad idea — not just for you but for coworkers, customers and anyone else who could catch your cold. Or maybe you feel overworked, burnt out and stressed, and a mental health day is something you desperately need. Regardless the reason, you want to call out sick — and here’s how to do it without getting in trouble.


The sooner you notify your employer that you won’t be coming in due to illness, the better. As much as you might not want to miss work due to a minor symptom, like a scratchy throat or a low fever, hesitating about making the call will only make your absence more difficult for your manager and coworkers. When you wake up feeling off, you should call into work to use your sick leave rather than risk infecting the rest of your workplace.

Your first call should be to your direct supervisor, who will be responsible for notifying HR. Though a call is most courteous, because it ensures that your boss receives the message that you won’t be coming in, you might also consider writing an email or sending a text message. Getting your sick leave request in writing could be useful if your employer isn’t known for being compassionate or fair.

Next, you should notify the rest of your team about your absence. Especially if you are involved in ongoing projects or your responsibilities require some explaining, letting your coworkers know you will be gone for a day (or more) is considerate of their time and needs. You don’t need to call each team member individually; an email blast should suffice. In the email, you should include relevant information about your duties and projects, such as where to find important files or how to handle tricky customers. To finish the email, you should express your gratitude to your team for picking up your slack.

Try Not to Lie

Most employers are immediately suspicious of employees who call out sick — primarily because there are a few workers who abuse their paid sick days. If you want your employer to trust and respect employees like you, you should avoid lying about your illness when you call out sick. You don’t want to exaggerate your symptoms to make taking leave seem more appropriate, as doing so will likely have the opposite effect and cause your supervisor to doubt your claims. Instead, you should stick to the facts regarding your experience to build your boss’s confidence.

Don’t Offer Details

While you don’t want to lie, you don’t need to give your employer too many details about your condition, either. In fact, it should suffice to say that you don’t feel well. Supplying too many details without provocation will, again, raise suspicions at work, but if your boss or coworkers probe for information, you should try to be vague, even if you are suffering some serious symptoms. The last thing you want to do is give too much information about your bodily functions and taint your peers’ impression of you forever.

If your supervisor is adamant about knowing what kind of disease is keeping you from your responsibilities, you can offer a doctor’s note for work. Thanks to telehealth solutions, it doesn’t take much time or effort for you to get the requisite forms to prove your illness and secure your sick leave. Again, you should feel confident getting a doctor’s note even if you are taking a mental health day because your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Telehealth providers will recognize this and vouch for your need to take a break.

Anticipate Extra Days off

Rarely does an illness come and go in 24 hours. You should give yourself at least two days off from work to better understand what kind of disease is putting you out; if your immediate symptoms are remarkably intense, you might anticipate using even more of your leave. During that first phone call, you should set expectations for when you will be back on your feet and in the office, but you should try to check in every day afterwards to confirm that you still aren’t healthy enough to come back to work.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t against the law to use your sick leave. In fact, in this post-COVID world, your coworkers might thank you for keeping your potential contagion at home. However, how you call out sick matters, for your job security, your workplace morale and more, so you should follow these tips the next time you get sick.




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