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How to Request a Leave Without Pay in Letter Format

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Leave without pay is a decision that is made by either the employer or the employee in situations in which the employee needs to be away from his work and will not be compensated. Leave without pay is often requested for personal reasons such as an illness in the family. Certain leaves without pay, such as maternity leave, are governed by law; however, other types of leaves are at the employer's discretion.

Review your employer’s policy and procedure on leave without pay. Employee handbooks often contain information about the types of situations in which leave without pay is granted. Some employers also require forms to be completed in lieu of a letter. If there are no forms or official policies the request for leave should be put in letter format.

Identify yourself and the current position you hold. In large companies, it is important to give a brief description of your employment because the person reviewing your request may not know you. Include information such as when you started with the company and what your rate of pay is.

Explain why you are requesting the leave without pay. The employer needs to know exactly why you believe you are unable to function in your position for a period of time. If the reason is extremely personal you can tell the employer that you do not feel comfortable explaining the details, but that you have an extremely sensitive and personal matter to attend to. If your request is based on a medical condition, you have medical privacy rights that prohibit the employer from requesting detailed information about your condition.

Write the exact duration of time you are requesting unpaid leave. If you are not positive about your return date, you should still request a specific duration and then note that you will reexamine your ability to work at that time.


Draft the letter in a respectful and courteous tone. In many instances your employer is not required to grant you leave without pay so it is important to ask in a professional and humble manner.


If the leave without pay is requested for a medical reason or due to illness in the family, employers are required to grant leave without pay due to the Family Medical Leave Act. However, it is important to check with an attorney or the U.S. Department of Labor prior to the request because some employers are exempt from the regulations.