How Many Hours Notice to Call in Sick to Work?

There’s no answer in legal terms about how many hours notice you should give to call in sick to work. Generally speaking you should ensure you can give as much notice as possible. It’s also important to follow the procedures in your contract for reporting sickness.

Sickness doesn’t happen on a schedule. Sometimes It’s difficult to give proper notice to call in sick.

Illness has a tendency to sneak up on us without warning which can’t be helped. In this situation, you would have to call in as soon as you knew you’d be unfit for work.

Employers are well aware that they will have to deal with staff illnesses as part of running a business. They are likely to understand if you can’t give very much notices on infrequent occasions. Problems can arise if absence becomes a regular occurrence. Similarly, if your employer notices a pattern emerging, such as you call in sick on Mondays.

We can’t give a firm answer on how many hours notice you should give when calling in sick. But here’s some suggestions to make sure you still make a good impression when you have to take time off!

Make Sure You Follow Company Sick Policy

Most businesses will have an sickness policy for their employees to read and agree to. These are in place so that everyone understands the correct protocols for calling in sick. The policy will usually include how you should report absences, and where possible, how much notice to provide.

Some employers may be happy with a text or an email notifying them of your illness. This can be easier to handle when you feel rotten. However, many employers ask for a a telephone call directly to them rather than passing a message through colleagues.

It’s best not to be tempted to communicate in a way not listed within the company policy. This won’t leave a very good impression. Before you make the call (if that is the preferred method of contact) then think about what you will say.

If You Have to Call in Sick at Short Notice

Illness isn’t usually polite enough to give advance warning. This means you can’t always give enough notice to your boss.

Working part time or in shift patterns may mean you can give a bit more notice. But for those in every day or struck down with something overnight, this just isn’t possible.

Most bosses understand this and will have contingency plans in place in case of a last-minute reported staff absence.

In most cases, they will be keen for you to keep the bug with you at home rather than spreading it around in the office resulting in more staff shortages.

Some places of work may even have strict policies in place which outline how long you should stay off for certain illnesses such as coronavirus and vomiting.

Should you start to feel unwell the night before work, you can always give your boss a heads up so that if you do call in in the morning it won’t be unexpected.

What to Say When Calling in Sick

It is easy to worry when you have to call in sick. Usually because you feel guilty even though you know you are no good to anyone.

It’s important to sound self-assured and keep things formal and it won’t hurt to sound apologetic either. If your illness prevents you from physically going in but you feel able to carry out some light work from home then offer this to your boss. Make sure anyone picking up your workload has everything they need for the day.

Keep the call short and to the point:

“Hi it’s xxxxxxx, I’m sorry to say that I am unable to come to work today as I’m xxxxxxxxxx. I hope to be back within a day or two but I will, of course, keep you informed of this. Anything you need me to send over please let me know”.

Our guide on how to call in sick to work and stay professional has many tips on what to say.

You don’t need to give huge amounts of detail, just a quick outline of the nature of illness and when you hope to be back.

It’s best to not promise to be back the next day unless you are sure it’s a 24-hour thing. It is always a good idea to say something along the lines of “I hope to be back very soon but I will have to see how I am later and keep you posted”.

This way, you are under no pressure to make sure you are fit for work the next day if your body needs more time to recover.

Can My Employer Refuse to Let Me Call in Sick?

Your employer can’t legally stop you from taking a sick day, despite how inconvenient it may be for them.

They will be aware that they will have to deal with staff illness. This is why they have a sickness policy or have a sick policy in the work contracts.

Whilst you calling in sick cannot be refused, you may be in breach of your contract if you do not follow the correct procedure for reporting your absences. Our guide on your rights when off work sick has lots of information on sickness and employment law.


It might be tempting to message your colleague and ask them to pass the message on but this won’t go down well and could lead to a disciplinary meeting.

Sickness is a part of life and it is expected in the workplace from time to time. As long as the correct method is used to report the sick leave, and your attendance is good then there won’t be any issues.

If your attendance is a little poor and there’s concerns about reliability then you may be asked to attend a meeting. When it comes to illness, it cannot be helped or controlled. It is important to rest up and return only when you feel able to.

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