I've had a relatively mild concussion (outside of work). Ideally, I'd like two or three days to recover before jumping back into work, but I've already burned most of my sick days and would like to save my vacation.

It's been a day or two since the injury; I am at work, but I definitely feel like I shouldn't be here.

What's the best way to handle this?

Note: Company is 50 or more employees.

  • 18
    How is this even a question? You want random people on the internet to help you decide whether or not to use your PTO? Really?
    – Cypher
    Feb 20, 2020 at 1:00
  • 46
    I am at a loss here, do you have limited sick days in the US?
    – Czar
    Feb 20, 2020 at 10:40
  • 41
    @Czar: Yes they do. Sick days are basically vacation. If you're sick more than allowed you either don't get paid the remaining days or get fired straight away. US really is a 3th world country regarding labor laws.
    – Christian
    Feb 20, 2020 at 11:54
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    @Christian This is far too sweeping a generalization. Perhaps in retail or hospitality this may be true, but in the corporate world this statement is inaccurate. Feb 20, 2020 at 13:36
  • 7
    @David Christian said "[you] don't get paid the remaining days", you said "protected but unpaid leave", so his statement can't be "totally false" right? Also from a quick look around it seems FMLA only applies to companies with 50 or more employees. The OP didn't state the size of their company but perhaps it's 50 or more.
    – AJP
    Feb 20, 2020 at 21:26

6 Answers 6


but I definitely feel like I shouldn't be here.

Then don't be there, burn the rest of your sick days and vacations if needed. Anything else you decide to sacrifice your health for saving holidays/sick days/whatever, and that's just not a great idea.

  • 32
    Agreed. Even mild concussions are serious injuries. Also, concussions hamper you in almost every possible job. You should take days off to recover even if that costs you a nice vacation later on. It's too bad but you have to take concussions seriously.
    – ObscureOwl
    Feb 18, 2020 at 16:16
  • 29
    The other way around, also your company should take it seriously and actually send you home. Who knows what nonsense you do when you're still affected by being only half up to speed - and any further delay in full recovery also adds cost to the company (both depends a bit on the type of work you do though). Feb 18, 2020 at 18:07
  • 2
    @ChrisH They likely will allow it, but that doesn't mean that they will also pay for it.
    – Aida Paul
    Feb 19, 2020 at 13:26
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    @ChrisH Then sign a contract which allows it, op did not. We are not here to solve global world problems, just the one posed.
    – Aida Paul
    Feb 19, 2020 at 13:46
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    @TymoteuszPaul my original point was that if the OP may well be causing a risk (e.g. to colleagues, customers, or, following FrankHopkins' point the company's output). That should be taken into account, and may result in requiring the employee to stay away even if they wanted to go in. At that point they should be properly compensated. But I think we're never going to see things from even similar points of view, so I'll leave it at that
    – Chris H
    Feb 19, 2020 at 13:56

Ideally, I'd like two or three days to recover before jumping back into work

Unless you are a medic you are not in a position to determine the days off you should need to recover from a concussion (nor to determine it was a "mild" one)...

It would be better for your health to consult a Medic and let them determine the days you really need, and actually take them.

As other answers say, your health is paramount and sacrificing it for saving holidays is not a good idea.

  • 23
    ^ Consult someone and follow the appropriate timeline. As someone who's had a few diagnosed concussions, trying to "push" through them is never the answer and often leads to longer recovery times.
    – n_plum
    Feb 18, 2020 at 17:50
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    yes @n_plum one should give it the time it needs so it's done right and your present and future health is not compromised.
    – DarkCygnus
    Feb 18, 2020 at 17:52
  • This isn't meant to be medical advice, but I've had a few concussions. Unless there is an obvious injury that shows up in imaging, the doctors don't really know how serious the injury to the brain is or what the recovery time will be. They have always requested that I have a loved one around to keep an eye out for me in case I start doing something strange that would either do more harm or be indicative of brain damage. If none of that occurs than a couple days is fine, if there are negative signs then they need to be communicated to the doctor.
    – noslenkwah
    Feb 19, 2020 at 15:53
  • 6
    Also worth noting that with a head-injury, the thing you're using to make your decisions is the thing that's affected by the injury.
    – bobsburner
    Feb 19, 2020 at 17:09
  • I feel like this answer makes it sound like deciding you need any days off is only to be made by a medic. I have had mild (appropriately diagnosed) concussions, and being able to tell you're unfit to work is possible without a doctor. While you should obviously see a provider regarding a concussion, the advice you're likely to get is "when you feel better," you can go back to work. Feb 19, 2020 at 19:31

This is probably country specific but in the UK you should be able to take the time as sick leave for however long you need, provided you have a doctors note.

"Taking Sick Leave (.gov)"

The idea of having a limited number of sick days has always seemed ridiculous to me, but I'm guessing that's sick days you don't have a doctors note for so I would suggest you get a GP to sign you off from work. If you need more days for a different illness later in the year do it again. Assuming you're US:

In the US, there is no requirement that businesses offer paid sick leave to their employees. The only thing they must do (provided the business employees more than 50 employees) is to allow staff unpaid time off for medical leave, or to care for a family member. How does sick leave work in the US

Which would imply that your company can't stop you taking time off if you are unwell, you just may not be paid. How many days of paid sick leave is an American worker entitled to

Concussion can be really serious and if you are still experiencing the effects days later then I would suggest seeing a doctor in any case.

  • 40
    @DavidSchwartz Your restaurant example appears to me to be completely unrelated, but maybe I don't think "US" enough. In most other developed countries, companies have a "duty of care", meaning they have to take care of the health of their employees by giving time off when needed. After all, a healthy employee is a productive employee. Of course there are cases where it gets abused by individual employees, though that is fairly rare and there are remedies against that. Depending on the circumstances and country, the company might also be reimbursed by the (mandatory) health insurance company.
    – user90896
    Feb 19, 2020 at 7:39
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    @DavidSchwartz personally I want it matter to my company why I'm unavailable. This leads employers to look after staff health and try and preempt issues. Reducing pressure on staff, to reduce stress, to reduce time off is just better for everyone.
    – Tom Bowen
    Feb 19, 2020 at 8:19
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    I couldn't have said it better myself Morfildur but just to add @David "The idea of having a limited number of sick days has always seemed ridiculous to me" - Is an opinion about the state of it. Those people aren't choosing to just not go into work, they are ill. Companies should discourage people from coming in ill - it can spread illness or cause that person to become more poorly (like walking on a sprain) and cause more time off than the original injury would have. I guess I'm just lucky to work at the places I have, although I think it's more to do with UK law
    – Gamora
    Feb 19, 2020 at 11:48
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    I agree with all of you. But none of those things are reasons that company's should be legally required to in any particular way. Feb 19, 2020 at 17:19
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    @Morfildur: trying to think "more US", one may say that from the employer's perspective we have something like a limited number of sick days in Germany - in the sense that during the first n days of sick leave, the employer still pays the wages but if the illness is longer, the employer stops paying and the health insurance takes over. German n being 6 weeks per illness is still >> US sick days from what I've read. OTOH, we need (weekly) certificates for sick leave >= 1 - 3 days (up to the employer whether they ask for a certificate from day 1 or only from day 3)... Feb 19, 2020 at 23:31
  1. You should follow medical advice for recovery. The timeline may be more than a couple days, and it might involve not looking at screens or reading (including using Stack Exchange!).
  2. You should look into short term disability insurance. It might be included in your employment benefits. If not, consider buy accident/injury/disability insurance to protect yourself in the future.
  3. You should use whatever options are available for paid time off, including vacation. Your company may require that you exhaust all those options before taking unpaid time off. The separate of sick leave and vacation leave is inconsequential when you need time off for your health. At some companies, those two categories are combined anyway.
  4. You should probably not be reading and writing things on the computer when you have a concussion. This can hinder your brain's healing and make the situation much worse, for much longer. Restated from #1 because it's so important.
  • 2
    @Nav How do you happen to know what can cure it better than the doctors? Also probably depends a lot on individual doctor. Feb 19, 2020 at 10:34
  • 3
    @Nav i'm probably missing the core of your point, but myopia and eye strain are both things that you can easily get whilst following periodic rest, healthy sleeping and a balanced diet, so those clearly aren't a cure. In fact myopia a.k.a nearsightedness has no known cure, with only corrective lenses or surgery being the solution.
    – J.Doe
    Feb 19, 2020 at 12:06

I’ve been through this exact scenario in Canada - mild concussion. Don’t rush back, it’s probably worse than you think. I talked to my employer, they were nice enough to give me a week off full pay and then a week off half pay. The alternative is to apply for short term disability if your insurance has this. That’s kind of a pain, as you need a bunch of paper work and stuff that you really don’t want to have to think about when you have a concussion, but it will provide a portion of your pay while you recover. The extension of that would be long term disability - which if your insurance covers it would cover you if you were out for a few months. The uninsured option would be unpaid Ed leave.

Talk to your employer, they will likely be understanding and work with you to help you recover. Check your benefits plan, you might have options there. If not take unpaid leave and recover properly. Even mild concussions can have weird side effects and issues if not cared for properly. Don’t push it! Hope you feel better soon!


By 'outside of the workplace' do you mean you were walking into work from the parking lot, and got an injury? If that's the case that's a workplace related, depending on jurisdiction. It may be covered under your companies policies.

If however you mean you got a concussion at home, haven't seen a doctor, and need to know what to do, I think you've proven you need to go see a doctor because you're not thinking straight.

  • No. Like I was literally playing hockey on my free time and got a concussion Feb 20, 2020 at 17:53
  • @KolobCanyon No matter where, when and why you got a concussion, go to see a doctor, go for a sick leave - different from sick day - and return when your doctor says so.
    – Crowley
    Feb 20, 2020 at 23:58

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