How long can you take a leave of absence from work?

In this guide, we will discuss “how long can you take a leave of absence from work” and some important considerations when requesting time off.

How long can you take a leave of absence from work?

How long you can take a leave of absence from work will actually depend on how many days you have requested, the agreement you made with your employer (if you need to compensate those hours, the personal circumstances around the absence, your company’s policies regarding paid and unpaid leave of absence and when you can take each.

We all know sometimes and due to unusual circumstances happening in our lives, we feel the need to request a leave of absence.

This is used when we need time off from work and it is not covered under your existing benefits such as sick leave, annual leave or paid time off.

According to Susan Heathfield from ‘The Balance Careers’, “Application for an unpaid leave of absence often occurs when an employee has used up his or her existing paid time off.

The unpaid leave of absence does not extend the employee’s pay during the leave of absence but it ensures other continuity that is critical for employees.

For example, an unpaid leave of absence allows an employee to continue coverage by certain employer-provided benefits.”

Unpaid Leave of absence (reasons why)

It is important to remember that even though you decide to ask for an unpaid leave of absence your employment status continues to be the same.

If you are a parent then you understand how emergencies around kids tend to happen all the time so you could request for parental leave.

Here we have aq list of other good reasons why you would consider requesting a leave of absence:

Public duties: “If the employee is a local councilor or school governor, for example. As an employer, you must give a reasonable amount of unpaid leave.”

Jury service/duty: “You must allow time off for jury service. Failure to do so could result in a fine for contempt of court. If jury service has come at a particularly bad time, the employee can postpone their service, but they will have to do it eventually.”

Emergencies: they are also known as “dependant leave” and employees do have an entitlement to take time off to deal with unexpected problems related to family members or dependants.

Your employer won’t pay for the time off and there is no fixed amount of time, but 1-2 days is considered reasonable (depending on the situation and personal circumstances). 

Doctor/dentist appointments: your employer is not legally obliged to give you time off to visit your doctor or dentist, and they most likely will suggest you make those appointments outside your working hours or make the time up later on.

However, there are some exceptions such as being pregnant (who can actually take paid time off work or a leave of absence for antenatal care).

In addition, if you have a disability and you require time off for reasons related to your disability but your employer refuses then you may be discriminated against (Equality Act 2010). 

Unpaid parental leave: this is not the same as maternity, paternity or shared parental leave.

This type of leave refers to when an employee needs some time off to take care of their child or make arrangements for them.

According to Amanda Beattie from ‘Croner’, “The dependant is a child up until their 18th birthday. Employees can take up to 18 weeks in total until the child reaches that age.”

However, you must meet some requirements such as being in the company for at least a year and you should take the leave in 1-week blocks.

Your employer won’t let you take time off?

Always consider having an informal discussion first with your employer and let them know why you need the time off (hopefully for a valid reason).

In addition, you could get help to make your case from a trade union rep if you have one.

If it still doesn’t work or your employer is still refusing to give you time off, you should raise a grievance with your employer. 

You can raise a grievance if you have a problem or complaint at work.

You might want to raise a grievance about things you are being asked to do as part of your job, the terms and conditions of your employment contract (e.g. your pay), the way you are being treated (e.g. unfair treatment, harassment, etc.), bullying or being discriminated at work (e.g. celebrating Ramadan).

 How do I request a leave of absence from work?

As discussed, at some point we all need some time off to attend some personal matters but the procedure and the time you are allowed to take a leave of absence from work may be different from one company to the other.

Ask around, talk to your boss or your HR team about how you formally proceed to request a leave of absence. 

Without really considering the reason why you would like to request a leave of absence, it is important to approach your request properly to reduce the probability of having it rejected. 

If you work on a ‘casual workplace’ requesting and gaining approval to your request will be as simple as saying to your boss directly “I need a leave of absence and I was wondering if it is possible to take the leave from work for 2 to 3 weeks?”

On the other hand, if you work at a ‘formal workplace’ you may need to follow company policies to make your request.

Your company may have certain guidelines about who is eligible for a leave of absence, under which circumstances and how often you can take it.

So here is a summary of the basic steps on how to request a leave of absence:

  • Check your eligibility with your employer before you submit the request. 
  • Before you request a leave of absence, consider how flexible you can be if they were to reject your request. For instance, working from home or reducing your hours.
  • Have a plan before you submit your request. If your employer definitely says no, would you decide to leave them permanently or how would you like to proceed here?
  • Plan your finances prior to sending your request.
  • Ask for leave from work to your line manager or HR team.
  • Outline your request in writing and make sure to include briefly the reasons why you are requesting the leave and important dates (start and end). 
  • Remember to submit your request in advance so your employer has time to accept or reject your request.

Sample of a Letter for a leave of absence request

“George Jenkins

1245 James Avenue

Pocatello, ID 83201

(000) 123-1234

April 6, 2020

Ms. Janice Smith


ABC Company

9876 Industry Avenue

Pocatello, ID 83201

Dear Ms. Smith:

I would like to request a thirty-day leave of absence for personal reasons. If possible, I would like to leave work on May 1 and return on June 1.

If approved, I will be traveling during this time period, but I would be glad to assist with any questions via email or phone.

Thank you very much for your consideration.


George Jenkins (signature on hard copy letter)

George Jenkins”

Why is this blog about ‘how long can you take a leave of absence from work’ important?

As we have discussed, the answer to the question ‘How long can you take a leave of absence from work?’ does not have a simple and straight answer.

How long will actually depend on the agreement you have with your employer, company policies and employee benefits you may be entitled to.

This is why it is important to talk either with your boss or your HR manager about the options you may have available. 

Remember to be flexible and consider setting up a plan before making the request after evaluating all your options and in the case, your employer may reject the request for having time off.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how long can you take a leave of absence from work

How do you take a leave of absence from work?

If you want to take a leave of absence fro work here is how:
– Understand your legal rights (time off and pay)

– Make the request in person and in writing preferably.

– Consider requesting the leave of absence giving enough advance notice.

– Work with your boss to develop a plan in your absence.

– Keep track of any relevant documents or paperwork.

Can I get fired for taking a leave of absence?

Just for taking a leave of absence, you won’t get fired.

However, if you have a long-term illness and there is no certainty when you will be back or you have a disability and you are not able to perform your duties anymore, your employer can think about initiating action for your dismissal but there are certain steps they need to consider first before proceeding. 

What is a good reason for the leave of absence?

There are many good reasons to request a leave of absence, we all have personal matters to attend to or emergency situations that require some time off to concentrate on them, even needing to get some relief from excessive job stress or a desire to travel.

Most of the reasons we can think of can be good but our employer may not find all of them good or valid.

Can you take a leave of absence from work due to stress?

Yes, you can take a leave of absence from work due to stress.

If stress is becoming too overwhelming, be honest with your boss and ask for some time off.

However, if you need more time or they refuse, set up an appointment with your GP for further assessment.

Your GP can give you a fit note or a sick note so you can be off work to recover and get better.

How do you write a leave of absence letter for personal reasons?

If you want to write a letter requesting a leave of absence for personal reasons make sure to include a brief explanation of why you are requesting the time off and if possible, make sure to offer your assistance and provide the best contact information where you can be reached during your time off.

Thank your employer for considering your request and wait for their response.


Heathfield, S. (2020, Apr.) Leave of Absence: What Is a Leave and How Does an Employee Apply?. Retrieved from 

Doyle, A. (2020, Apr.) How to request a Leave of Absence From Work. Retrieved from “Employment law in the UK”

Beattie, A. (2019, Aug.) “Are employees Entitled to Unpaid Leave?”