Does the concept of “planned sick leave”, as in time off work planned in advance for medical reasons, exist out there? Or is it totally unheard of?

I found this question, which seems to imply that “planned sick leave” does exist, since the asker mentions that he had sick leave for a dentist appointment.


My manager informed me that I cannot take sick leave for an upcoming doctor’s appointment because “sick leave can't be planned”.

For routine medical appointments, this makes perfect sense. One could take an hour or two off work to go to the doctor and then continue working.

However, in my case, my doctor is located in another city. Therefore, it will take around 6 hours to go, have the appointment, and come back.

My manager expects me to adjust my shift accordingly in order to put in my hours of work, or take a paid vacation leave.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    May 12, 2020 at 13:01
  • 2
    And now you have learned not to have planned sick leave, but unplanned sick leave. Lesson learned.
    – paulj
    May 14, 2020 at 19:59
  • Do you have more than one kind of time off? As in, sick time and vacation time?
    – CGCampbell
    May 15, 2020 at 19:31
  • I fell sick on a holiday afternoon and immediately informed the boss that I would not be able to work next day as suggested by the doctor. I asked him for sick leave in advance and he approved it without any issue. Jan 28, 2022 at 13:12
  • Have you considered finding a doctor where you live?
    – RedSonja
    Jan 31, 2022 at 9:55

5 Answers 5


Note: since no location/culture/company policy is provided in the question, no guarantees can be made. However, your interpretation of what constitutes sick leave seems to diverge from the general interpretation, which is what this answer is responding to.

One could take an hour or two off work to go to the doctor and then continue working.

However, in my case, my doctor is located in another city. Therefore, it will take around 6 hours to go, have the appointment, and come back.

The length of time you are absent does not define whether it is sick leave or not. Sick leave is defined by the nature of the absence, not its length.

There seems to be a misunderstanding on your part on what sick leave constitutes. Sick leave is not "medical appointment leave". Sick leave is granted when unable to work due to illness. Illness often entails medical appointments, but medical appointments do not always entail illness.

When you are ill and take sick leave, you generally make an appointment with a medical professional, but that does not mean that every appointment with a medical professional therefore entails sick leave. A very clear cut example of this distinction would be elective plastic surgery.

That being said, "sick leave can't be planned" is also an oversimplification on your employer's part. This can range from dentist appointments (which even in urgent situations often need to be planned one or two days ahead) to treatment for illnesses which don't compromise your ability to work on a daily basis unless you miss regular treatment.

While I suspect that your employer may have overstated their case by stating that there's no such thing as planned sick leave, it's possible that their basis for rejecting your sick leave application is valid.

That being said, without specifying a location, no final conclusion can be made on the legalities of this situation.

I am not asking for any information regarding my specific country/company policy. I am just asking if "planned sick leave" is a thing.

You seem to think that the definition and workings of "sick leave" are universally defined. They are not. There is no legal definition that transcends national borders. The largest (currently existing) legislative scope is a country's legal system.

It's impossible to fully answer the question without knowing the country in question.

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    I'm confused. You correctly state that there is no universal definition of sick leave, but in the first part of your answer you make a number of blanket assertions about sick leave, for example that regularly scheduled medical appointments cannot be considered sick leave. They certainly could be at every job I've had. I'm certainly will to believe that's not a universal feature, but it's not non-existent either. May 13, 2020 at 4:06
  • @CharlesE.Grant: "you make [..] assertions [..] that regularly scheduled medical appointments cannot be considered sick leave" You seem to have misread my answer as I specifically point out regular treatments as an example of how sick leave can be planned sick leave. The first part of the answer mainly exists not to define "sick leave" but to differentiate it from from "leave taken for a medical appointment". There is overlap but not universally so, i.e. not every appointment with a medical professional is necessarily covered by sick leave (elective plastic surgery is the clearest example)
    – Flater
    May 13, 2020 at 7:23
  • @CharlesE.Grant: And just to be clear, I differentiated these because "sick leave" is commonly understood to be based on an inability to work that requires either time or medical intervention - elective surgery will generally not fit that bill as the person is fit to work and requires no intervention. That's not to say there can't exist a culture that does allow it, but specifics like these are impossible to judge without a location for the OP.
    – Flater
    May 13, 2020 at 7:34
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    'elective surgery will generally not fit that bill' At several of the places I've worked elective surgery, was indeed covered by sick leave. At other jobs, there was no sick leave at all. I'm really just suggesting that making your own generalizations about what is and is not covered by sick leave detracts from the correct part of your answer which says that the OP can't be answered in general. In fact, in many countries, the answer will depend on the specifics of the employment agreement and will vary wildly from employer to employer. May 13, 2020 at 16:47
  • @CharlesE.Grant: I've prepended a small note to the answer that more explicitly points out that no guarantees can be given without a location/culture/company policy. I hope this resolves the issue you've pointed out.
    – Flater
    May 15, 2020 at 9:36

The statement of your manager is obviously trivially wrong.

I have had planned sick leave way to many times for my liking. It's easy. You visit a doctor. The doctor makes a frowny face and sends you to a specialized surgeon. The surgeon makes a happy face, looks at their calendar and says "no problem, the procedure can be scheduled as soon as next Tuesday. You will not be able to work the rest of that week." And then you go to your manager and say "I will have planned sick days next week Tuesday till the end of that week, you will get the doctors note as soon as I have it and the painkillers have kicked in so I can operate my scanner."

Wherever you live, I guarantee that your medical system isn't a McDrive where you spontaneously get surgery with french fries, mayo and a two liter diet coke when you feel the need. That stuff has to be organized and planned.

So if your country has any notion of sick leave at all, yes, it can definitely be planned. Assuming otherwise is either stupid or over the top naive.

Now whether a non-emergency doctors visit counts as sick leave is another matter and up to your countries laws. In my country a doctors appointment only counts as sick leave if it cannot be scheduled outside working hours. For example a 20 minute non-emergency dentist appointment should be in your private time. A check, then x-ray, then talk with a specialist in the next city probably cannot. So whether your trip for medical reasons counts as sick leave depends on your laws and your company's regulations.

Maybe your specific requested sick leave does not qualify for "sick leave" where you work, you will have to figure that out, but sick leave can be planned there is no doubt about that.


This question is company specific, but I hope this answer isn’t.

Sick leave varies by jurisdiction and company. In some places it will be mandated and defined by law, in other places it will be a term defined by the company.

When defined by a company it can mean anything from “we certainly aren’t paying you, but we probably won’t fire you for missing work as long as it isn’t too much work and you have a doctors note” to “you get X hours of paid sick leave a year and as long as you don’t appear on the tube surfing and you don’t go over it, we are good” to “unlimited paid sick leave time as long as you can convince us it’s health related”.

Then there’s company without sick leave at all, which can be some variation of “don’t show up and you are fired”, “don’t show up, don’t get paid, don’t care why”, “you get X hours of paid leave a year (aka accrued PTO), don’t care how it is used, don’t use more” or even “unlimited PTO for whatever purpose you like”.

I have personally applied for sick leave to take my mother-in-law to a routine doctors appointment known well in advance, I have also worked where it didn’t exist. Whether scheduled sick leave is known or acceptable to your employer, is something only your employer can answer.

I don’t know what “sick leave” means in Cyprus or for your company. You’ll have to ask someone more informed about your personal situation.

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    Then there's the company who had sick leave and personal leave, and combined it into PTO (paid time off) and who no longer cares WHY you are not at work, as long as you have PTO to cover it.
    – CGCampbell
    May 14, 2020 at 21:18
  • @CGCampbell: I had that in there, but didn’t call it PTO, added an aka PTO.
    – jmoreno
    May 15, 2020 at 0:18
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    well, I guess when I read (don't show up, don't get paid/you're fired) and thought it wasn't PTO. In my company's case, we get PTO, and they have no real say in how/when/why we use it, other than ensuring schedules are compatible (so a whole team isn't off at once.) Doesn't matter whether it's emergency room, or doctor's office, or a week in Cancun. If I have PTO I can use it.
    – CGCampbell
    May 15, 2020 at 19:30
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    @CGCampbell:, yeah that was what I meant by “you get X hours of paid leave a year (aka PTO), don’t care how it is used, don’t use more” . I presume if you go over there may be an issue, but otherwise as you say it simply doesn't matter.
    – jmoreno
    May 15, 2020 at 20:00
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    And there are also countries where you call or tell your company that you are ill and they or their insurance covers your pay as long as you need it, with an upper level in years rather than days or weeks.
    – Willeke
    May 17, 2020 at 10:25

To show the absurdity of this: You need a life saving operation within the next 3 months. Your doctor says “let’s do it on the 12th of June, and you’ll be in hospital for a week”. You say “sorry, I can’t have planned sick leave. Just call me the night before”. June 11th you get a call and take a week unplanned sick leave.

Surely your boss would have preferred knowing ahead?

  • In some companies in some parts of the world, if you don’t show up for your shift you don’t have a job, knowing ahead of time is appreciated only insofar as it lets them hire someone else to replace you.
    – jmoreno
    Jan 28, 2022 at 2:34

Does the concept of "planned sick leave" as in time off work planned in advance for medical reasons exist out there?

Yes it is routine in every company I have worked for or heard off, e.g. you go to the Doctor for an appointment, he refers you to a consultant who examines you and then schedules an operation for a month's time and advises you you will be in hospital for 3 days and require a further 5 days recuperation.

Exactly how each of these is treated might vary slightly e.g. initial appointment in your lunch hour, consultant visit discretionary time off but the operation would be planned sick leave - you would be off from X until Y due to a medical procedure. Planned sick leave is a good thing as it allows the company to, you know, plan for your absence!

It may be that your company has a slightly different procedure for planned appointments in which case your manager should clarify "In ACME plc we don't have planned sick leave that's only for sudden emergencies, instead this will be treated as planned absence" (or non-discretionary leave or whatever).

Bottom line they might not call it planned sick leave but it will exist, consult with HR or read your company manual if you need to but there will be something.

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