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12 Valid Reasons to Call In Sick to Work (And How to Do It Right)

Calling in sick to work can feel stressful, especially if you actually aren't that sick. However, there are many valid reasons to take a sick day, even if you aren't vomiting or running a fever. As an employee, it's important to know when it's acceptable to call in sick. And as a manager, you want to cultivate an environment where your team feels comfortable taking time off when needed.

In this article, we'll cover the 12 most common valid reasons to call in sick to work. We'll also provide tips on how to professionally communicate your absence to your boss. With the right approach, you can take necessary sick days while maintaining positive relationships at the office.

When You're Actually Feeling Sick

This one is straightforward - if you are ill and unable to complete your work duties, it's reasonable to call in sick. This includes symptoms like:

  • Fatigue or body aches
  • Sore throat or cough
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fever or chills

You know your symptoms best. If you are genuinely too sick to work, don't force yourself to power through the day. Taking time to rest will help you recover faster.

Contagious Illnesses

Similarly, if you have a contagious illness like the flu, strep throat, or pinkeye, it's considerate to avoid the office. No one wants to risk getting sick! Calling in sick prevents the spread of illness among your team.

Be extra considerate if you work closely with others or in food service. You don't want to be patient zero for an outbreak of the stomach flu in the office!

Injuries or Illnesses Limiting Productivity

Not every sickness involves acute symptoms like vomiting or fever. You may have a chronic health condition or a nagging injury that impacts your productivity.

For example, if you have:

  • Chronic migraines
  • Back pain
  • Arthritis flare-ups
  • A sprained ankle

Don't force yourself to struggle through work when in severe discomfort. Take a day to rest and recover if your performance will be significantly impacted.

Medical Appointments

Do your best to schedule medical appointments outside work hours. However, for some types of appointments, taking time off may be unavoidable.

It's acceptable to take sick leave for medical reasons like:

  • Doctor or dentist visits
  • Lab tests or bloodwork
  • Physical therapy
  • Counseling or psychiatric services
  • Surgery or hospital stays

If possible, give your manager advance notice about scheduled appointments requiring time off. Provide official documentation as needed per company policy.

Caring for a Sick Family Member

Caring for a sick child or family member is a valid reason to call in sick. Most companies recognize that employees sometimes need to take care of loved ones.

You may need to take time off for reasons like:

  • Caring for a sick child
  • Taking a family member to the doctor
  • Providing transportation to medical appointments
  • Assisting bedridden or elderly relatives

Be honest with your boss about your caregiving responsibilities if you need to call in sick. Most will be understanding about family coming first.

Bereavement Leave

Losing a close loved one is incredibly difficult. In the aftermath of a death in the family, taking bereavement leave is reasonable. Most companies provide paid time off specifically for grieving and funeral arrangements.

If you need more time for grieving beyond the bereavement leave policy, additional sick days may be warranted. Don't feel rushed back to work before you are emotionally ready.

Mental Health Days

Calling in sick due to mental health issues is becoming more widely accepted. While companies don't have to provide unlimited mental health days, taking the occasional day off for self-care can be beneficial.

Valid reasons to take a mental health day include:

  • Recharging after a period of burnout
  • Coping with depression or anxiety
  • Recovering from a panic attack or traumatic event
  • Attending therapy or counseling

If you need a break for your mental wellbeing, don't feel guilty about taking time off. Just be honest with your manager that you are taking a sick day for mental health reasons.

Family Emergencies

Family emergencies are understandable reasons to call in sick on short notice. Sudden injury, illness, or death in the family may require you to take time off unexpectedly.

Examples of family emergencies warranting sick leave include:

  • Rushing an injured or ill relative to the hospital
  • Providing urgent elder care
  • Traveling for a family funeral
  • Meeting with police or legal counsel

Weather Conditions

Hazardous weather may necessitate calling in sick, especially if the conditions impact travel or safety. For example:

  • Snow or ice making roads dangerous
  • Flooding blocking access to work
  • Extreme cold or heat posing health risks

Use discretion based on local weather and road conditions where you live. Your safety should take priority over getting to the office.

Transportation Issues

Problems with your vehicle or public transit may prevent you from physically getting to work. Car troubles, accidents, and public transit delays can happen unexpectedly.

Valid reasons related to transportation include:

  • Your car not starting or breaking down
  • Flat tire with no spare
  • Public transit shut down due to mechanical issues
  • Traffic accident or road closure blocking access

Try to arrange alternate transportation or work remotely if possible. If not, call in sick and deal with the transportation problems so you can get to work safely the following day.

Jury Duty

Receiving a jury duty summons is not optional - it's a civic obligation. Most companies will pay your regular wages while you are serving jury duty.

However, if your employer does not offer paid jury duty leave, taking sick/personal days to serve is reasonable. Jury duty is not a voluntary absence, so don't feel guilty about putting civic responsibility first.

Now that we've covered valid reasons to take sick leave, let's discuss how to communicate your absence professionally.

Choosing the Right Communication Method

  • Call: For a same or next day absence, call your manager directly. Don't just text or email at the last minute.

  • Email: For a planned, multi-day absence, email may be preferred so your boss has written documentation.

  • Company portal: Some companies have an online absence reporting system. Follow your workplace guidelines.

Being Honest Yet Brief

Don't fake elaborate excuses. A simple "I'm not feeling well and need to take today off to recover" will suffice in most cases. Avoid oversharing gory details about your symptoms.

For scheduled appointments or multi-day absences, provide key details upfront about expected duration and impact on work projects.

Offering Availability

Let your boss know if you can be available by phone or email if urgent issues arise. Making yourself accessible shows responsibility and care for your team.

If you are totally incapacitated, be clear about that so your manager can reassign duties accordingly. Don't promise availability if you truly need a full day off to rest and recover.

Apologizing for Inconvenience

Acknowledge that your absence may impact coworkers or cause delays on projects. The courteous thing is to sincerely apologize for inconveniencing your team and company.

Offer to help cover or catch up on missed work when you return. Follow through on this commitment.

Following Company Policies

Review your employee handbook and make sure to follow all protocols around sick leave. Some companies require a doctor's note after a certain number of days. Use any required reporting systems.

Adhere to attendance policies so your absences don't count against you. Keep required documentation like doctor's notes on file.

Providing Necessary Details

Give your boss the key information needed to plan for your absence. This includes:

  • The specific date(s) you'll be out
  • Brief reason for sick leave
  • Expected duration
  • Whether you can be available if needed
  • Apology and offer to help catch up

The more notice, the better. Don't wait until the last minute to inform your manager if possible.

Maintaining Professionalism

Even if you feel crummy, communicate politely and professionally. Don't take out your misery on your boss or team.

Show consideration for coworkers who will cover for you and acknowledge the inconvenience. Being respectful goes a long way.

Calling in sick done right establishes trust and preserves your reputation as a conscientious employee. Use good judgment, show accountability, and take sick leave only when truly needed.

With the right approach, you can take necessary sick days while maintaining positive relationships at the office. Here's an example call-in sick message:

"Hi Jane,

I'm calling because I woke up with a terrible cold and won't be able to come into work today. I'm really sorry for the short notice and any inconvenience this causes you and the team. I'm hopeful that after resting today I'll be feeling better and able to return to work tomorrow. Please let me know if there are any urgent matters that require my attention today. I'll do my best to assist from home if needed.

Thank you for understanding. I appreciate it and will touch base with you tomorrow.

Regards, Alex"

In summary, there are many valid reasons to take sick leave beyond just contagious illnesses. With proper communication, accountability, and genuineness, you can take time off work without damaging your reputation.

Now that you know how to call in sick like a pro, the last thing to do is take care of yourself and get the rest you need! The office will still be there when you return healthy and ready to resume working at your best.

How Managers Can Support Employees Calling In Sick (And Spot Abuse)

As a manager, your team's health and wellbeing should be a top priority. You want your employees to feel comfortable taking time off when legitimately ill or unable to work. However, you also need to ensure that workplace policies around sick leave aren't being abused.

In this article, we'll discuss how managers can cultivate a supportive environment for employees needing sick time. You'll also learn how to spot potential abuse of attendance policies and address it constructively.

Have Clear Policies

Make sure your team understands the company's policies around paid time off (PTO) and sick leave usage. Some key things to communicate:

  • Number of permissible sick days per year
  • Whether sick days require a doctor's note
  • Protocols for requesting time off
  • Whether sick days roll over or accumulate

Clarify upfront that dishonesty about sickness may result in disciplinary action per company policy.

Lead with Empathy

When an employee calls in sick, assume positive intent. Express empathy and offer any support you can.

Unless there is clear evidence of dishonesty, take the employee at their word. Say something like:

"Thanks for letting me know. I hope you feel better soon - let me know if you need anything!"

If the issue seems serious, follow up to check on the employee's wellbeing. Your care and concern will be appreciated.

Plan Work Coverage

Be prepared to cover your team member's duties or reassign tasks if they call in sick. Having contingency plans prevents work delays and resentment from coworkers.

Identify cross-trained employees who can fill in when needed. Make sure important projects have multiple team members familiar with the work.

Track Attendance Trends

Note any patterns in employee absences - especially repeated last minute call-outs or suspicious timing. For example:

  • Frequent Monday/Friday absences
  • Call-outs around holidays or busy periods
  • Calling in sick without prior medical appointments

Track dates and reasons given each time an employee calls in sick. Evidence of patterns can help identify potential abuse.

Require Documentation

If an employee exceeds a certain number of absences per year, consider requiring a doctor's note to validate any future sick days. Most companies have attendance policies allowing this.

Inform the employee of this requirement privately. Explain it is due to their pattern of absences, and that a note will protect them from unfair assumptions.

Address Suspected Dishonesty

If you have strong reason to believe an employee lied about being sick, have a frank conversation in private. Keep it professional and stick to the facts.

Explain the attendance policy and remind the employee that dishonesty could result in disciplinary action. Allow them a chance to explain their perspective. Make it clear exaggerating or faking illness is unacceptable.

Provide Support

An employee with excessive absences may have an underlying issue requiring support. Before accusing them, show concern for their health and wellbeing.

Ask if they are struggling with illness, mental health problems, family demands, or other issues. Discuss accommodations or employee assistance programs that could help.

With the right balance of policies, support, and accountability, you can enable a culture where employees take sick time responsibly. 

Your team will be healthier, happier, and more productive when their need for occasional sick leave is respected.

Here are some final tips for managing sick days effectively:

  • Don't penalize employees for legitimate reasons to take time off
  • Make sure workloads are manageable so unexpected absences don't derail projects
  • Cross train employees and document processes so projects aren't dependent on one person
  • Offer remote work options when employees can work from home while ill
  • Express care and concern for employees frequently out sick
  • Consult HR if you suspect sick leave abuse and need guidance
  • Be flexible and adapt attendance policies as needed - one size doesn't fit all

With empathy, clarity, and accountability, you can support your team while also upholding attendance standards. Employees will feel safe being honest with you about needing time off.

The key is open communication. Make it clear you want to help employees be healthy and productive at work. Set expectations upfront so dishonesty around sick leave is unacceptable.

No one wins when employees feel forced to come to work sick or lie about needing time off. Do your part to make the office somewhere employees can be candid about self-care needs.

Empower your team to take ownership of their health. They will repay your understanding with stronger job performance and company loyalty.

That covers the must-knows on managing sick leave effectively as a manager. Now you can foster a supportive environment where employees are comfortable taking time off when legitimately needed.

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