How to Ask for Sick Leave

Sick leave can be unexpected, and when someone is feeling poorly, informing their line manager of their sickness and absence can be a daunting task.

On this page, you will find a sample script, putting you in the middle of a conversation between an employee and their line manager. The employee has a stomach bug and hasn’t slept all night. She calls her manager at the appropriate time to let him know she won’t make it to work today.

You will see as you read through the script that we pause to analyse the conversation, consider the language used, and offer some alternatives to help you build your vocabulary.



Employee: I have a 24-hour stomach bug which came on during the night, and I don’t think I’m fit for work today.

Manager: Oh. Jeez, I’m not sure what I’ll do now. We might be a little understaffed.

Employee: Well, I’m sorry boss, but it’s not a good idea if I come in. I could pass it on to someone else.

Manager: That’s true. Give me a call in anything changes, please.

Employee: Boss, I really can’t see this letting up, not today, at least. So, I won’t be in.

Manager: Okay. Thanks for the call.

Employee: No problem. Chat tomorrow.



  • The employee stays professional throughout the conversation, regardless of how they are feeling.

  • Keeping it brief and to the point - these conversations are usually very ‘straight to the point.

  • The employee explains when the symptoms of their sickness occurred and makes it clear how long they expect to be absent from work.

Remember - company policy is different in different companies, so it’s important to be fully aware of what your company’s policies and procedures are on absenteeism when you’re in a situation like this.


“…don’t think I’m fit for work…”

Suggested Alternatives


  • I’m not sure I’m okay to work today.

  • I’m too unwell to work.

  • I’m unable to attend work today.

  • I’m not feeling well enough to come in today.

  • I’ll keep you posted on how I'm feeling throughout the day.


“…it’s not a good idea if I come in.”

Suggested Alternatives


  • I can’t come in…

  • I don’t feel it’s a good idea to put anyone else at risk…

  • I couldn’t live with myself if anyone else fell ill because of me.

  • …everybody could get sick.

Related Links