You want to ask for some time off work, but you’re unsure how to say family emergency professionally. Fret not! This article is here to help.
Below, we’ll discuss if and when it’s appropriate to use the phrase family emergency at work. In addition, we’ll look at what to say instead of family emergency in your professional emails to your boss, colleagues, and clients.
Is a Family Emergency an Excused Absence from Work?
In many states, workplaces are required to offer paid family and medical leave due to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Therefore, a family emergency can often lead to an excused absence from work.
When asking for leave in an email, it is standard and suitably professional to call the problem you are facing a family emergency.
However, there are a number of ways to be more specific (if you feel that this is required) or less specific (if you value your privacy).
Nonetheless, we’ve drafted two email samples below illustrating how you can use the phrase family emergency in a work email:
I’m afraid I will be unable to attend the meeting this afternoon, as I will be out of the office dealing with a family emergency.
Thank you for your understanding at this time.
Dear Ms. Horris,
I am writing to inform you that I will be taking an unexpected leave of absence due to a family emergency.
Although it is perfectly correct to use the phrase family emergency in a professional email, this phrase is rather standardized.
Therefore, you can use one of the alternative phrases from our list to best suit the nature of your workplace and the emergency you are dealing with.
9 Alternative Ways to Say “Family Emergency”
Below, we’ve compiled 9 alternative examples of how to say family emergency in an email:
- Urgent family matter
- Personal emergency
- My [family member] was in an accident
- My [family member] is ill
- Household issue
- Personal matter
- Family troubles
- Personal circumstances
- Personal reasons
1. Urgent Family Matter
Another way to say family emergency is urgent family matter.
This phrase is very effective for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it makes clear that the reason for your taking leave is serious.
Secondly, it is appropriately vague, as you are entitled to some privacy when you are facing complicated family matters.
Therefore, you can use the phrase urgent family matter in an email to your boss when you are asking for time off from work.
See the email example below:
Unfortunately, I will be unable to come to work today due to an urgent family matter.
I appreciate your understanding.
2. Personal Emergency
If you work as a freelancer, you will need to keep an open line of communication with your clientele and let them know when your ability to carry out projects is interrupted.
However, if you tend to have many short-term clients rather than lasting work relationships with just a few, you probably don’t want to share the specific nature of your family emergency.
Therefore, you can use the phrase personal emergency to make it clear that you will need to halt your ongoing projects immediately.
Moreover, you can do so without oversharing about what is undoubtedly a very private matter.
Dear Mr. Ibrahim,
I’m afraid I will have to extend the deadline for your commission, as I must take a few days off to deal with a personal emergency.
I apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause, and thank you for your understanding.
3. My [Family Member] Was in an Accident
If you work in a smaller office or have a good rapport with your employer, you can be more specific about what urgent event has taken place in your personal life.
For instance, if a family member has been in an accident of some kind, it can be helpful to let your boss know about it.
After all, this will ensure that there is no doubt as to the seriousness of your reason for taking off work.
In addition, your employer may need to know this information so that they can offer appropriate support.
Have a look at the following sample email:
Unfortunately, my stepson was in an accident.
He’s okay, but I will be taking the rest of the day off to be with him at the hospital.
4. My [Family Member] Is Ill
You can use the phrase my [family member] is ill to let your boss know that you will be taking some time off to care for this person or take them to the doctor.
This phrase is suitably formal for a professional email and suitably specific about the nature of your emergency. However, it leaves enough to imagination so as not to be overly personal.
Therefore, let’s see it in an email sample:
I’m afraid I will be out of the office for the remainder of the afternoon.
My daughter is ill and will need to be taken to the doctor.
5. Household Issue
Household issue is a vaguer synonym. Therefore, it’s a risky choice when you’re speaking to your employer.
After all, in English, a household issue could mean anything from a family emergency to a leaky pipe in your house!
Therefore, your boss will probably want further information if they are going to excuse you from work.
However, this phrase is perfectly suitable if you are speaking to a coworker and want to let them know why you won’t be in the office that day. As they have no say in your leave, you don’t need to tell them the nature of your emergency.
Thus, if you’ve already spoken to your boss, you can simply inform your colleague that you are dealing with a household issue to be courteous, especially if you two are working together on a task.
Sorry, I won’t be able to help today; I am away from work dealing with a household issue.
Best of luck.
6. Personal Matter
You can let a client know that you will be away from your desk and unable to assist them using the phrase personal matter.
You probably don’t want a client to know why you are away from work, and they probably don’t want to know either.
Therefore, the phrase personal matter is a great choice because it is clear without being too honest about the nature of your issue.
See the email sample below:
Dear Miss Colgan,
I will be out of the office today dealing with a personal matter, but I have supplied the details of my coworker should you need any further assistance.
7. Family Troubles
If the issue you are dealing with is highly personal and isn’t an accident or illness like the standard family emergency, you can simply describe it as family troubles.
Your employer will probably understand from this phrasing that something fairly urgent and unfortunate has occurred.
Moreover, as it clearly has to do with your family, they will likely accept the personal nature of the issue immediately and won’t pry.
Check out how we’ve used this phrase in an email example:
Dear Mr. Trove,
I am currently facing some family troubles and will need to take next week off.
Thank you for your flexibility in this regard.
8. Personal Circumstances
You can use the phrase personal circumstances in a formal email to your boss to let them know that you will be taking some time away.
This phrase is suitably vague to maintain your privacy. However, it makes it clear that the nature of your issue relates to your personal life, which should hopefully prevent any probing questions from your employer.
Let’s see an example that includes this phrase:
Dear Ms. Nkosi,
I will be unable to attend the conference this weekend due to some pressing personal circumstances.
Thank you for your understanding.
9. Personal Reasons
Personal reasons is another ambiguous phrase that you can use in a message to a coworker.
This phrase will help you explain why you won’t be at work or able to assist them without delving too deeply into the private emergency you are facing.
After all, a colleague doesn’t have control over your leave and, thus, doesn’t need any further information about your emergency.
Therefore, let’s see this phrase in our final email example:
I’m afraid I will be taking next week off for personal reasons, but I would be happy to assist you with this when I return.
All the best,