How to Write a Leave of Absence Letter (With Example)

Updated November 21, 2022

There may be times throughout your employment that you need to take additional time off above what a company offers. The flexibility of your leave time depends on several factors that are unique to every organization, but there are typically processes in place to accommodate these requests. Understanding how to request a leave of absence is an important skill and can ensure you receive the support you need.

In this article, we discuss the definition of a leave of absence, explain how to make a proper request, explore the steps to writing an effective leave of absence letter, and provide an example to help guide you in writing your own.

What is a leave of absence?

A leave of absence allows an employee to request extended time off from work without worrying about losing their job. A leave of absence is a more extended period beyond your personal time off allowance. It's important to note that a leave of absence may fall under the provincial guidelines for job-protected leave events. Usually, a leave of absence is unpaid, but healthcare insurance or employment insurance benefits may subsidize the employee's wage depending on the circumstance.

Read more: What Is a Leave of Absence? (With Definitions and Types)

What is a job-protected leave of absence?

Each province and territory must adhere to the national Canada Labour Code while providing additional definitions and standards to support employers and employees. Throughout each region, specific job-protected leaves of absence allow employees to take unpaid time off with notice without fear of losing their job. These circumstances may include:

  • Jury duty

  • Bereavement

  • COVID-19 illness

  • Personal or family responsibility

  • Domestic or sexual violence

  • Citizenship ceremony

  • Critical illness

  • Compassionate care

  • Military reservist practice or deployment

  • Maternity, paternity, or adoption of a child

  • Death or disappearance of a child

Each of the above job-protected leave reasons has different criteria and length of time, based on the individual province or territory. So while the above list is an example of protected leave situations, many companies offer a leave of absence for other reasons with notice and planning.

Related: What is Bereavement Leave (With Tips)

Other reasons to request a leave of absence

While there are specific circumstances covered under job-protected leave for each province and territory, there are also additional reasons you may request an extended leave of absence. Other reasons to request a leave of absence include:

  • Extended vacation time

  • Taking a sabbatical

  • Extended bereavement

  • Personal reasons

  • Ongoing education or training

  • Short-term disability

  • Long-term disability

Related: Everything You Should Know About Taking a Sabbatical

How to prepare a leave of absence letter

When planning on requesting a leave of absence from your employer, here are six steps to follow:

1. Become familiar with your company's leave of absence policy

While there are certain conditions under which you have protection from losing your job, you must become familiar with your employer's specific leave of absence policy. Each company creates their policies and procedures for employment protocol, including asking for extended time off and leaves of absence. You can often find this information in your company's employee handbook, or you can contact the human resources department for further clarification.

2. Determine an approximate time frame for your leave of absence

Before formally requesting a leave of absence, you'll need to determine how much time you need away from work. You'll want to figure out when you need to leave and an approximate time to return. Providing an estimated time away allows your employer to find others who can cover your responsibilities while away.

3. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor

Once you know approximately how much time you need to take away from work, the next step is to schedule a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor or manager. By giving them notice of your request, they have time to plan for your absence. This may include hiring a temporary employee or contractor or reassigning your duties and responsibilities to other team members. During this meeting, your supervisor may ask for more details regarding your request.

Related: How to Schedule a Meeting by Email: Templates and Samples

4. Put your request in writing

After informing your direct supervisor or manager of your desire to take a leave of absence, it is now time to put your request in writing and submit it to the proper person or department. Depending on your company's policies, there may be a specific leave of absence form that you need to complete, or they may accept a formal letter. Regardless of the documentation, put your request in writing.

Carefully compose your letter, offering as much detail and information as needed. In addition, be aware of any additional documentation the company may require, such as a doctor's note or completed medical insurance papers.

Related: How To Write a Letter: Format and Example

5. Explore alternative solutions

Most often, a leave of absence is unpaid, so exploring alternative solutions may be an option. Depending on your reason for taking a leave of absence, your employer may be open to you working temporary part-time hours, working from home, or working more flexible hours. Having a conversation with your employer about these options may allow you to make an income still while dealing with your situation. It also benefits the company, as they may not need to reassign your duties to others or hire and train additional temporary staff.

Related: What Is Remote Work?

6. Communicate your leave of absence

After the company has approved your leave of absence, it is time to coordinate with your supervisor or manager how and when to tell the rest of the time of your leave. The company may have a specific protocol for communicating these changes, so it's best to find out ahead of time. Depending on the company, they may announce a leave of absence to the entire organization or may only inform those who work closely with you. Follow their instructions on communicating your absence to maintain an open and honest relationship with your employer.

Related: How to Write a Vacation Request Email (With Example)

What to include in a leave of absence letter

When writing a formal request for a leave of absence, these are the five things you need to include:

1. Date of the request

As with all formal business letters, begin by including the current date of the letter. This is useful for having a record of the date you made your request. It is best to write out the date, such as "September 30, 2020," instead of using numbers that people can easily confuse, like "07/08/20."

2. Recipient name and address

Directly under the date, write out your employer's name, company, and address. This formality of business letters allows the recipient to know the letter is for them. Then begin your letter with an appropriate greeting to your supervisor or manager.

3. Your request for a leave of absence

During the first paragraph of your letter, state your request for a leave of absence. This is where you include the start date of your absence and the approximate return date. You can include your reason for a leave of absence with as much detail as you feel comfortable with. You can reference any medical documentation or other information your employer needs, such as a letter of request for jury duty or military reserve activities.

4. Statement of gratitude and next steps

After you've made your request, you'll want to write a statement of gratitude to your employer for hopefully allowing you this requested time off. You can also include any next steps you plan to take, such as taking part in the training of your temporary replacement or formally passing over your duties to other team members. This shows your employer that you are thinking of the company's needs and your coworkers' and want the transition to be smooth and seamless.

5. Sign off with your name

To complete your letter for a leave of absence, sign off with your full name. Optionally, you can also include any contact details you wish to share. Once you complete the letter, print it off and proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors. Printing it off and reading it out loud catches mistakes and ensures that the sentences flow and make sense to the reader.

Once you are happy, print off the letter and sign your name in pen. It is now time to deliver the letter for approval to your supervisor, manager, or human resources representative, depending on your organization's procedures.

Related: How to End a Letter

Example of a leave of absence letter

Below is an example of a leave of absence letter. You can use this letter as a reference point to create your own, based on your unique circumstances:

August 30, 2021

Bob Singh
Bright Futures Inc.
123 - 6 Street St. W
Toronto, Ontario M1M 2M2

Dear Mr. Singh,

I am writing to request a one-month medical leave of absence effective September 1, 2021, with an expected return date of October 15, 2021. I am scheduled for surgery, and my doctor has ordered a minimum of six weeks of recovery post-surgery. Attached, you'll find the surgeon's letter of recommendation for your records.

I am happy to assist in any way before my surgery date to prepare for my absence, including training colleagues on my duties and contacting my customers with their new temporary contact while I'm away. I appreciate your understanding.

Jane Wong

The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.


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