What is a leave of absence?

A leave of absence is a form of time off work usually used for atypical circumstances. In addition to sick days or vacation days, leaves of absence are for purposes such as childbirth, caring for a family member, or serving in the military. 

People are entitled to some types of leaves of absence by federal or state law. Additionally, employers may choose to grant other forms of leave in order to offer more flexibility. 

Types of leaves of absence

There are many types of leaves of absence ranging from standard to more unusual. Below, we’ll review some of the types of work leave.


In the United States, state law entitles people to a certain amount of time off per year. Beyond that, it is up to individual employers to determine an annual leave policy. The US standard for annual vacation leave is 10 days or two work weeks.

Sick leave

Sick leave is time used to recover from illness. In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more staff members to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to people caring for their own health or a family member’s health.

Personal time off

Personal leave is a general category used to handle private matters such as traveling for weddings or dealing with a divorce. 

Unpaid leave

Unpaid leave is a form of time off that people are not paid for. It is common for employers to be more likely to grant various types of non-vacation leave as unpaid rather than paid.

Parental leave

Parental leave is time taken by parents to care for a newborn baby. According to the FMLA, mothers may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Only eight US states offer parental leave to fathers.


A sabbatical is a type of leave originating in academia used to engage in personal endeavors such as studying or research. Traditionally, organizations that offer sabbaticals give people one year of leave for every seven years worked.

Bereavement leave

Also known as compassionate leave, bereavement leave is time taken to grieve lost loved ones or to deal with a loved one’s life-threatening condition. It is often considered one of the most essential leaves of absence in people-oriented organizations.

Time off in lieu (TOIL)

Time off in lieu is the use of time off as an alternative to pay for overtime hours. 

Disability leave

Disability leave is used as an accommodation for people with an illness, injury, or impairment that inhibits essential life activities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the FMLA require employers to offer accommodation for disabled team members, which may include leave.

Public holidays

There are eleven federal holidays in the US during which all government agencies and banks must be closed. It has become standard for employers to give paid time off during these public holidays, too. 

These holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Presidents’ Day (George Washington’s Birthday)
  • Memorial Day
  • Juneteenth 
  • Independence Day (Fourth of July)
  • Labor Day
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day (also known as Columbus Day)
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Day

Leave of religious observance

People use leaves of religious observance to fulfill their religious duties, such as celebrating a holy day, fasting, or going to a place of worship. These types of leaves from work may be paid or unpaid.

Tracking employees’ leave of absence with HR tech 

With so many different types of leave, it can be challenging to track everything properly. Thankfully, modern time and attendance management software makes it easy by offering an easy-to-use, user-friendly interface in which HR professionals and managers can track and approve requests for various types of leaves of absence from work. This way, people can enjoy all the different types of leaves they’re entitled to without hassle to them or the HR team. 

<<Explore how Bob simplifies and streamlines time-off management.>>

Leave it, just leave it

As an employer, offering a flexible leave of absence policy is a critical way to build a strong employer brand, showing candidates that you care for your people and are willing to give them the time they need to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Whether they’re using their leave to go to weddings and care for babies or to handle more challenging situations, a generous and flexible leave policy demonstrates your support, creating a positive employee experience.

Tali Sachs

From Tali Sachs

Tali is a content marketing manager at HiBob. She's been writing stories since before she knew what to do with a pen and paper. When she's not writing, she's reading sci-fi, snuggling with her cats, or singing at an open mic.