What I wrote in my formal request to take a leave of absence

I submitted my formal written request to take an unpaid leave from work

Quick recap: Back in early December I asked my manager in person about the possibility of taking a 6-month unpaid leave of absence from work next winter.

Then it was radio silence for weeks, until I had my quarterly 1-on-1 with my manager a few days ago. At my quarterly, they said something to the effect of, “about your leave request… I spoke with [the director] and we’d like to see a formal written request giving the dates you’d be away and talking about what you’d be doing during that time”.

Initially I was slightly peeved I’m being asked to justify what I plan to do on my own unpaid time off, but I took this to be a positive sign overall. Clearly my director and manager had not dismissed my request out of hand. We were now progressing to the next step in the process.

My manager suggested I mention any skills development work I may do during the leave that would benefit our branch. Honestly I had not even considered doing anything related to my job but quickly went back to my desk to scour Coursera. I landed on a couple of courses that seemed legitimately interesting as well as work related. Then I set about drafting the following letter, which is what I printed out, signed and handed to my manager.

One small note is that I haven’t actually settled on spending my leave in Florida. Mexico and California are still on the table. But for the purposes of this letter, Florida would do. My manager knew I was down there at Christmas to see family, so the broader story checked out.

Dear [manager],

This letter is a formal request to take an unpaid leave of absence for 6 months next winter, from November X, 2019 to May X, 2020, inclusive.

I would return to work on May X, 2020.

This leave would allow me to spend an extended period of time with my family in Florida while actively developing my skillset in a way that would enrich my work at [employer]. For example, I’m considering taking (at my own cost) two online courses related to [work-related topic 1] and [topic 2].

In Florida I’ll also be seeking to understand why [observed phenomenon is occurring] in many parts of the U.S., and hope to bring new insights back with me.

To ensure seamless coverage on my files during my leave, I would be happy to train my replacement or write a detailed handbook of my work processes, and would remain available by email or phone for any questions arising during my leave.

Please let me know if I can provide additional information or answer any questions.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Millennial Snowbird