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  1. Blog
  2. Culture & Professionalism
  3. July 3, 2024

How to Communicate a Family Emergency at Work: Clear Steps and Examples

Email templates for your manager and team

two people standing in front of a building in black and white
Photo courtesy of Ivy Son

Life happens. Whether it's a child's sudden illness, a parent's health crisis, or any unexpected family situation, emergencies can arise at any time. 

During unexpected, challenging times, having a supportive and understanding employer can make a world of difference. Working for a company that values flexibility and practices empathy means you can navigate personal emergencies without added stress, knowing your workplace respects your needs. If you experience a family emergency, here’s how to communicate with your manager and team, ensuring your needs are understood and respected.

Read more: 10 Out-of-Office Message Examples for Every Scenario

5 common examples of family emergencies

Family emergencies can take many forms, and understanding them can help you communicate more effectively when they arise. Some common examples include:

  • Medical emergencies: If a family member experiences a severe health issue, such as a heart attack, stroke, fall, or other injury, you might need to accompany them to the hospital or stay home to provide care.

  • Accidents and natural disasters: A car accident, fire at home, or a significant weather event may require your immediate attention and presence. You may need to leave work immediately to provide support, handle logistics, or offer care.

  • Bereavement: The loss of a parent, sibling, child, or other relative or friend often necessitates taking time off to grieve, make funeral arrangements, and support other family members.

  • Childcare issues: Unexpected school closures, babysitter cancellations, or sudden illnesses can require you to stay home from work.

  • Elder care: Elderly parents or relatives might face sudden health issues, such as falls, severe illness, or worsening chronic conditions that require immediate attention and care.

Read more: 25 Companies That Offer Child Care Reimbursements & Stipends

Tips for communicating a family emergency to your team

Family emergencies are an inevitable part of life, and it's essential to work for an employer that recognizes this reality with empathy and flexibility. When a family emergency arises, clear and concise communication is essential so you can navigate the situation with the support you need. Here's how to approach it.

Determine how much information is appropriate to share

It's important to balance transparency with privacy. Share enough information to convey the urgency and nature of the situation but avoid oversharing personal details. For example, if one of your parents gets injured, you can say, "My mother has had a serious fall and is in the hospital. I need to be there to assist her and handle medical discussions.” Even in stressful situations, it’s important to maintain a professional tone in all communications. You don’t have to share specific medical diagnoses or detailed personal health information unless it's absolutely necessary.

Find the best point of contact to notify

Typically, your immediate supervisor or manager should be your first point of contact. If they’re unavailable, contact HR, someone you work closely with on your team, or another designated emergency contact person. You can send a quick message to your manager saying, “Hi [Manager's name], I’m facing a family emergency today and will need to take immediate time off. Please let me know if there’s anything urgent that requires my attention before I leave.” If you have some notice, you can try to see if any of your colleagues are able to cover your responsibilities in your absence. 

Inform your employer as soon as possible

Sometimes a family emergency is a true emergency, and other times, you might know that your parent’s health is declining and expect to take time away from work. Either way, letting your team know as soon as possible is critical so they can help manage your workload and deadlines in your absence. 

If you aren’t able to notify them immediately, follow up as soon as possible with: "Hi [Manager’s name], I apologize for not informing you earlier, but I had a family emergency that required my immediate attention. I’m currently handling the situation and will update you on my availability soon." Keep your employer informed about your status and expected return date, if possible.

Familiarize yourself with your company’s leave policies

Know your rights and take time to read through your company’s policies on family emergencies, paid and unpaid time off, and whether you’re covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This can help you understand what you’re entitled to and ensure your request aligns with company procedures. To your manager, you can say, "According to the company’s emergency leave policy, I am entitled to [specific leave details]. I will be utilizing this time to address my family situation. Thank you for your support."

Read more: What You Need to Know About Gender-Based Violence Paid & Protective Leave

4 example email templates for communicating a family emergency

Work may be the last thing on your mind when you have a family emergency, but it’s courteous to give a heads up if you’re able to. If it’s a true emergency, prioritize you and your family’s health and safety, and let your employer know what’s going on as soon as you can.

1. When you have a few days notice of your family emergency

Hi [Manager’s name],

I’m writing to let you know I’m facing a family emergency and will need to take leave starting Wednesday. My father has been hospitalized due to a serious illness, and I need to be with him during this critical time.

I have coordinated with [colleague’s name] to cover my responsibilities while I am away. [Colleague’s name] will handle [specific tasks/projects], and I have briefed them on the current status and next steps to ensure a smooth transition.

Please let me know if there is anything specific you need from me before I leave. I’ll let you know when I expect to be back as soon as I have a better understanding of the situation.

Thank you for your support,

[Your name]

2. When your family emergency is immediately urgent

Hi [Manager’s name],

I need to take immediate leave due to an urgent family emergency. My child was involved in a car accident and is currently in the hospital. 

I have informed [colleague’s name] about the situation, and they have agreed to take over my immediate tasks. I will update you as soon as possible on my status and expected return date.

Thank you for your understanding during this time.


[Your name]

3. When you need to notify your whole team of your family emergency

Hi team,

I wanted to inform you all that I am currently facing a family emergency and will be out of the office starting today. My partner was in an accident and is in the hospital. Please reach out to [Colleague’s name] for any urgent matters related to my work.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. 

Thank you,

[Your name]

4. When you’re notifying your manager of your family emergency on the go

Hi [Manager’s name],

I have an urgent family emergency and am on my way to the hospital now. I’ll update you as soon as I can.

Thanks for understanding,

[Your name]

Read more: Your Guide to Thoughtfully Discussing Grief with Direct Reports

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