Everybody gets sick - handle it well at work

So you have to call in sick to work, but how do you do it? When you're under the weather, it's likely the last thing you want to contemplate ‒ but there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. Read on as we dissect how best to notify your employer of ill health and that you should stay home.  

Don't be afraid to make the call

First and foremost, it's important to understand that you mustn't feel guilty about not feeling well and taking a sick day; we all get sick now and again, regardless of rank or role. If you know that your ability to work will be hampered by illness, or that you might pass something on to colleagues and co-workers, have no hesitation in calling in sick. 

Contact the correct person

Every company operates differently when it comes to sick days, so making sure you get in touch with the correct person as soon as possible is critical. If you aren't familiar with your employer's protocols, reference the employee handbook or ask a colleague for advice. If they aren't too sure either, your best bet is your immediate superior, whether that's a shift leader, supervisor, or line manager.

Use the right communication method

Once you've decided who you'll contact, your next question is how to do so. You've got three real options ‒ phone, email, and text ‒ and each one has pros and cons. 

A phone call, the traditional method, adds a personal touch and a sense of sincerity, so it's a good option if there's a trust gap that needs to be bridged. There is a risk, however, of getting sucked into a lengthier conversation than you bargained for, which isn't ideal when your main priority should be rest.

Given that, a text message might seem appealing. It's certainly an easier option than picking up the phone, but it could be construed as overly personal and unprofessional. Unless you're on particularly good terms with your boss, it's probably best to rule it out. 

That leaves email. This is the safest choice for sick day correspondence. You can send it in at any time, keep it concise as you like, and have no fear of being seen as unprofessional.    

What should you say when you call in sick?

When it comes to calling in sick, brevity is the name of the game. In no more than one or two sentences, let them know that you're too unwell to come to work, touching only briefly on what illness or condition you're suffering from.

Avoid overdramatised language at all costs, as it'll only cast doubt on the authenticity of what you're saying. Instead, if you feel the message is a little too terse, add a line thanking your boss for their understanding and express an eagerness to get back to work as soon as you're fit and well. 

Taking time off for your mental health

Mental illnesses like stress, anxiety, and depression are on a par with physical ailments, which means you have as much of a right to take time off and get out of work if you develop symptoms. 

Calling in sick in these cases can pose more of a personal dilemma, as speaking about a mental health condition can seem challenging. Therefore, it's more important than ever to keep your message concise; simply state that you need to take a little time for your mental health, or that you've been suffering from stress and need some rest. 

What to say if you need to care for a sick person

In the UK, you have a right to take time off work to care for an unwell dependent ‒ this is widely known as "compassionate leave." Your employer isn't obligated to offer any pay during this period though. 

Notifying your boss as soon as possible that you need time off to look after sick family members is much the same as doing so for yourself: a brief, informative note that lays out the facts without going into too much detail.

Trying to pull a sickie?

Whether it's an interview for a new job or a social engagement you couldn't get out of, sometimes you find yourself needing to free up a bit of time with a less-than-truthful sick day call. This is generally not recommended, but employees have been known to do it nonetheless.

If this is the case for you and you are not actually sick, fight the urge to spin your boss or employer an elaborate yarn, as you'll only find yourself tripping over the details at a later date. Instead, go with something simple and tricky to disprove, such as a stomach bug or bad cold. And a word of warning: don't be posting upbeat pictures on social media, as those can expose you quickly!

Call in sick at work example email:

To: manager@email.co.uk

From: employee@email.co.uk

Subject: Unwell Today

Dear Sarah,

I have woken up with a high fever and cough this morning, so I'll have to take a sick day. 

I will keep you posted on my recovery. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

All the best,


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