Last week my intern informed me that his grandmother was ill and likely to pass. I gave him my condolences, told him to take as much time as he needed, and asked him to let me know when he would be back.

It has been a week and I have not heard from him. I am concerned about him but also want to know when he will return. The time off is unpaid since he does not have benefits as an intern, but this is turning into a sizable amount of his overall internship.

What is an appropriate way to reach out? Or should I wait until he contacts me? I have his personal email and phone number, as he is unlikely to check his work email.

  • Since the position is unpaid anyway, is there a problem with simply extending it at the end? That would take the urgency out of the situation. Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 18:16
  • @SimonRichter It's a paid position but any time out of the office is unpaid. He is unable to move the end date due to other commitments.
    – taffy
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


Intern or not, it's completely reasonable to send a gentle follow up message to ask how things are going, and if he has an idea when he'll be back.

Hi Bob, just wanted to send a brief message to say that we're all thinking of you, and hope that you and the family are coping as well as you can with the situation at hand. Please do take some more time if you need it, but we'd really appreciate if you could let us know when you're planning on returning so we can schedule things this end accordingly.

Without wishing to sound callous (older relatives passing is of course a very sad occasion), it's a situation that happens to us all at some point, and it shouldn't be so shocking that it renders him unable to send a quick email after a week.

  • I'd ask them how they're doing before raising the subject of returning to work. If they're still knee deep in grief, or just paperwork because deaths generate a lot of bureaucracy, you might decide to leave it another week. Try to make a check-in calls a regular arrangement though. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 0:21
  • 1
    @MatthewBarber Of course - there's many ways to phrase that message, and such a question wouldn't do any harm. I'd have thought paperwork is likely to be less of an issue though since it's a grandparent rather than a parent (exceptional circumstances aside of course.)
    – berry120
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 16:03

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