How to take a sick day

by Nov 5, 2021

When you are feeling unwell, taking a day off early into your career can be a worrying time. Here are some tips to ensure you look after yourself and your responsibilities too.

  • Before you need to take sick leave, it’s helpful to know in advance some basics about your leave entitlements and the organisations procedures:
    • Are you entitled to paid sick leave?
    • Does your organisation have a procedure to follow for sick leave?
    • Is a medical certificate needed? If so, after how much time away?


  • Ask your manager (if you can) or a colleague about local practices. For example, does your boss appreciate messages outside of typical working hours to personal contact details? Or do they prefer an email an hour before you are due at work? I’d recommend giving as much notice as you can. Depending on your manager an SMS might be a great or a terrible idea so good to check in advance.


  • Notify your manager you’ll be away covering these things:
    • An update on any key projects/work and a summary of any work/meetings that needs to be completed in your absence
    • A realistic estimate of when you think you’ll be back
    • If you’ve made arrangements with colleagues in your absence
    • If you’ll be available during the time or not (again a good one to check in advance about local arrangement)
    • Depending on the organisation and local procedures it’s typically unnecessary to go into the details about your illness and it’s sufficient to say you are unwell.


  • If you have a company email address, set up an out of office message on your email so people know you are away and update your calendar. Your out of office can be as simple as:
    • “I am away from my inbox, I will reply to your message when I return (date if known). In my absence, if your message is urgent please contact ______”
    • An out of office message helps manage expectations with people contacting you and ensures if something urgent comes up, others can deal with it in your absence.


  • When you return to work
    • Confirm with your manager that you are back
    • Remove your out of office message
    • If you can, try and keep your first working hour free to catch up on emails/what’s happened in your absence
    • Submit a leave request (again this varies from organisation).


If the reason you were unwell is likely to be an ongoing issue, chat with your boss when you meet with them. It might be uncomfortable sharing health information and you only need to share what you are comfortable with.

However, if you need additional time out for specialist appointments/tests etc. it is good for your manager to be aware so they can support you during this time. Your employer might have an Employee Assistance Program which is impartial support service to help you discuss such situations.


Things not to do:

  • Ask a family member or friend to inform your employer – unless you are in hospital and unable to make contact yourself.
  • Inform a work colleague you won’t be in and ask them to tell your manager. It’s best to communicate directly with your manager to ensure the message has been received.
  • Update your social media frequently – I recommend you keep a low profile away unwell.
  • Procrastinate and leave it late to notify your employer, at the latest you should inform your manager an hour before you are expected to start work.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels

By Julieanne Cutrupi

By Julieanne Cutrupi

UTS Careers Manager