How Much Do You Need to Tell Your Boss When Asking For Time Off?

No matter how much you love your job, there will be days when you need to ask for time off. Whether it’s a family vacation, the death of a loved one, an illness or just a day of needed rest, asking for time off can get a little tricky.

Do you explain why you want to take time off or should you be as vague as possible? Employers can ask you whatever questions they want: No one is going to stop them. However, there are some things that you feel comfortable sharing and some things that are better left unsaid.

When You Should Explain Your Time Off

1. Pregnancy or the arrival of a new baby. Generally, employers like to be informed about the new addition to your family. Perhaps your office throws baby showers or likes to give a gift to the new parents. Most likely, your employer cares about you and your family and a new addition is great news!

Keep in mind that employers like to be prepared for changes in staff. If you are planning on taking maternal or paternal leave for several weeks, notify your employer months ahead of time. Start getting your affairs in order so that you have people covering for you while you’re gone.

If you are having terrible morning sickness and it’s just too early to share the news, it’s OK to just call in and say you aren’t feeling well. You can share the good news another day!

2. Bereavement. Often, employers offer paid time off if you need to mourn the death of a family member. Touch base with your human resources department to double check. If that’s the case, then of course you should share that a loved one passed away and you need to take care of some things. You’ll get the appropriate time off and your employer will be understanding.

If your position does not include paid time off for bereavement, still feel free to share with your employer your reason for taking time off. Again, your boss probably cares about you and wants to allow you the appropriate amount of time at home to grieve.

3. Jury duty. There is no law saying that an employer has to pay for an employee to serve on a jury. However, 87 percent of employers offer paid time off for jury duty. In order to get paid for serving on a jury, you need to let your employer know why you are taking time off. Be prepared to show proof of your jury duty summons.

When You Don’t Have to Explain Your Time Off

1. If you’re going to rehab. It’s really up to you whether or not you decide to tell your boss you are going away to a treatment facility for a recovery program. It’s understandable if you don’t want to talk about it, but you may also be surprised how much an employer wants to look out for you. You’ll need to let your employer know that you will be away for several weeks for medical reasons.

You won’t have to worry about your job while you’re gone. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects you from being laid off in the event you need to go to a treatment facility. Regardless, you don’t have to explain yourself if you feel it’s too difficult to do so.

2. If you just need a mental health day. It’s healthy to take a mental break every now and then. Life can become overwhelming. If you find yourself drowning in business, unable to think at work because of life’s distractions or even apathetic about your job, then you might need to take a day to recoup.

Unfortunately, it’s not commonplace to take mental health days. About seven out of 10 bosses think that stress or anxiety is not a good excuse to take a day off. However, if you feel you would benefit from it, you should definitely take a “sick day.” Be truthful and tell your boss that you just aren’t feeling well enough to come into work that day.

3. If you’re sick, say so—but spare the details. It’s okay to ask for a day off for medical reasons or to say you’re having tests done or that there are family issues going on. All of these things are valid reasons to take off work. You don’t have to go into detail explaining exactly what procedure or the family drama that’s taking place in your house. Your boss probably doesn’t want to know.

If your employer asks a couple questions, know that he’s probably just being polite. Tell him your general excuse and present the proper documentation if necessary!

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum