Can You Afford A Full Day Off Work?

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

For most people, taking an unpaid day off from work means a full day’s loss of income, which can cause a problem for any monthly budget.

That can be tough for any budget, but there are times when it must be done.

Can you afford a full day off from work?
Can you afford a full day off from work?

Paying The Bills Takes Money

Unless your employer has provided you with stellar benefits or a contract that states your days off are paid sick days, you might be shaking your head; no, you can’t afford to take a full day off.

You may say, yes, you can afford to take a full day off because you have money saved up if you need to take a day off, and it won’t affect your budget too much.

That’s great.

Some employees are lucky to carry over their sick days, bank them, or get paid out for them.

However, you must read the provisions of your contract with your employer to know what is covered.

Contact your human resources department or your benefits company for a more in-depth explanation if unsure.

It’s better to know rather than to guess.

Taking A Full Day Off From Work

Not everyone can afford to take a full day off, especially if they are single-income earners.

It might not be as crushing to lose a full day’s pay if you have two income earners in the house.

However, when you are the only person bringing home the bacon, it’s tough to pick up that phone and dial the numbers to say, I can’t make it in today.

I have never called in sick or taken a full day off from work that wasn’t a vacation day or my employer told me to take a day off.

I’m unsure if I could make that call unless I knew beyond a doubt that I would not be able to work that day.

Some people are born workaholics, and although I’m only a partial workaholic (does that exist? Lol),

I’ve just never needed to take a full day off that wasn’t a vacation day, lucky maybe.

Why People Take A Full Day Off From Work

There are many other acceptable reasons why someone would call in to take the full day off.

  • Death in the family
  • Broken Down Vehicle
  • No babysitter
  • Illness
  • Mental health
  • Injury
  • Sick child
  • This an urgent matter that needs dealing with.

Many people cringe when other employees come to work sick, but when you have mouths to feed, they may not have the options that others do.

Then again, some employees cringe when their co-workers take the fullday off, and they are stuck to pick up the workload. You can never win.

Of course, some employees are allergic to coming in to work every other Friday.

However, if they get that doctor’s note, there’s not much they can do until after the ten days of unpaid leave are used up.

We can’t judge someone because we don’t know what happens when they leave work, and it’s none of our business.

If the illness spreads and is contagious, it becomes a health matter that must be dealt with promptly.

Although the common cold can spread, many people still rise and shine and make their way to work because staying home won’t pay the bills.

How often have you gone to work sick or blown your nose but didn’t want to call in because you knew taking the full day off wouldn’t make a difference?

A friend of ours had posted on Facebook how ill she was, and of course, the comments poured in.

It’s winter, and so many of us are prone to getting ill at some point unless we are lucky.

What Do You Do On Your Full Day Off?

Her friends had some great ideas for her but nothing she could accept.

“Take the full day off, put your feet up, and rest,” said one friend.

“Make sure you drink lots of fluids and take care of yourself,” “Don’t go in to work, stay home,” said many of the comments.

Sure, she was thinking of staying home and taking the day off.

However, there was no way she could because she was a single mother and was already in debt.

Losing a full day of income means she can’t pay a bill or would have to cut back on groceries.

Debt is nothing to be proud of, but for some people, the credit card is their lifesaver for various reasons.

However, I would never suggest using a credit card to get by daily.

That is a reality for many people because they have nowhere to turn.

They get locked into that debt system, and for many, they never get out; for others, it takes them years to break free.

Try not to look back at how much you paid for that time when it was rough.

For those trying to get by, that might not cross their minds too often.

Putting food on the table and a roof over their heads is the priority while keeping the bills paid.

Life must be rigid, so telling someone to take the full day off or getting upset with someone because they don’t take it is incorrect.

We don’t know what they are going through.

Accommodating Employers Are Rare

If someone were to come in sick, our employer would try to accommodate them, although not all employers do this.

Do you want someone who is ill at work? They probably should be at home or perhaps can work from home instead.

We have a great team where I am, so we work together when one of us has to take an entire day off for one reason or another.

Questioning them is none of our business. Our business ensures we do what we are paid to do, and that’s to work.

Getting nasty with your co-workers doesn’t solve problems either.

Just because you can afford to stay home doesn’t mean everyone can and should follow how you can live.

Trust me, if someone had a personal emergency and could afford to stay home, they would pick up the phone and make the call.

Personal Emergency Leave

In Ontario, if you work for an employer who regularly employs more than 50 employees, you have the right to 10 unpaid job-protected days off each year, no matter when you start with an employer.

Although, some jobs are not covered even though there are more than 50 employees.

Instead, they are covered under special rules. To see the complete career list, visit the link below.

The ten days are personal emergency leave under the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which has provisions for the employer and employee.

The employer, for one, must not fire or threaten any employee for taking a personal emergency leave or plans to take one.

Getting A Doctors Note

An employer can ask you for a doctor’s note if you call in, so be prepared to make that appointment if needed.

You may also have to consider paying for that doctor’s note about $10 from most doctors’ offices.

Some work benefits may also cover that doctor’s note, so don’t be shy to ask.


If you work for an employer covered under a contract or collective agreement and the provisions are less than the Employment Standards Act, you still get ten unpaid personal emergency leave days.

Before personal emergency leave came into effect, many of you were scared to call in to take the whole day off too often because you didn’t know how your employer would react.

Even today, you don’t know what they can or will do if they don’t want you around, even though you are protected.

It’s become much more manageable for stuck people such as the babysitter can’t make it, and now you have no one to watch your kids.

That would be a personal emergency where you could call to take the whole day off.

However, having a second backup babysitter would be cheaper than losing a full day’s income.

I Can’t Afford To Take The Day Off

My wife’s friend seemed hesitant to respond to the call to take the full day off and relax, as you could tell in her response, but she opened up and said, “I can’t afford to take the day off.”

No more responses came in after that because it was clear that she had to go in no matter what anyone said unless she was getting wheeled off to the hospital.

The hard part is she has been through so many rough times with her jobs and education that have gotten her nowhere.

Like many who earn a higher education, they are forced to work minimum wage jobs because they struggle to find work immediately, if ever.

Even though the minimum wage is slated to go up to $11, that is far from enough to keep someone afloat, especially if they are a single parent with no child support.

Plan In Advance

Are there ways to prepare so you can take the day off?

If I could sit with her, I would love to go over her budget if she has one.

I’d certainly work with her if she allowed me to see where all her money goes to help her get back on track.

Cut Back On Expenses

So, my first tip is to have a budget so you know exactly where your money is going.

I know for a fact that she smokes over a pack of cigarettes every day.

We all know what smoking does to our health and finances, but sometimes, we need a bit of motivation to quit.

I’ve been smoke-free for over two years and have smoked for many years.

I also know that you can’t force or manipulate someone into quitting.

However, once they do and look back, they will wonder what took them so long to do it.

The smoking habit costs and it costs smokers big time.

That would be her choice but would undoubtedly free up money for her.

Prepare Meals At Home

She eats out regularly and is a well-known customer at Tim Hortons, where she doesn’t hesitate to scrape up enough change every day to buy a few coffees.

You can easily see where some of the money is draining without knowing much about her income and debt.

If someone complains of being broke all of the time, simply by watching someone’s habits, you will see where the money goes.

Target The Small Stuff

My second tip is to combat all the small expenses in your budget.

If you could find all those little expenses you blow every day and find a cheaper alternative, like making your coffee and bringing a lunch, you could use that money for a rainy day.

Just because you might have lots of debt or are on a low income doesn’t mean you still can’t have an emergency savings fund. Of course, it’s possible.

The hard part for many is waiting to see the emergency money pot grow, or they spend it because of some excuse or another that is not an emergency.

Paying down your debt and not incurring any more debt is another way to lessen the burden of wondering if you can afford a day off.

Although living pay to pay is strict, you don’t have to continue down that route if you find ways to cut back and put that money saved to work for you.

Don’t Spend The Money You Save

The worst thing you could do is cut back and blow that extra money.

You will never get ahead.

Think before you spend your hard-earned money.

Consider why you would rather have money in the bank that grows rather than eat out or buy stuff you don’t need.

Business Owners Are Different

Some people don’t have any options, especially if they are a contractor or run their businesses inside or outside the home.

Finding a work-life balance might be challenging, especially if you are the only captain of your ship. If you don’t attend work, the job will not get done.

Most people on contract have no work benefits or vacation days, so taking the day off is a tough call to make.

Taking The Day Off From Work Is Not For Everyone

We all have to make ends meet, so deciding whether you can afford to take a full day off may be stressful.

The good news is that the ten unpaid days are available,

If you need to use them and your day off falls under the acceptable provisions, you don’t have to worry about losing your job, just your income for the full day.

Discussion: What are some ways you prepare for unpaid days off financially?

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  1. Even though workplaces aren’t supposed to mine faults us for sick time. I’m 31 years old, on medication permanently for rheumatoid arthritis and the meds lower my immune system. That combined with a 1 & 3 year old in daycare I take a sick day once every other month, although I’m truly sick it seems once every 2nd or 3rd week. I’ve been warned that my sick time affects my performance. My supervisor and HR had a meeting with me to sign a letter I won’t be paid for sick time. They said they usually pay the first two sick but after that they do not pay you. It’s just odd they made me sign a letter acknowledging this. I feel discriminated but nothing an employee can really do as they never actually said anything negative about my illness.

  2. This makes me so grateful for paid sick days! I still find there’s a stigma about taking days off though. A few weeks ago my boss was out one day and it was just me and our intern in the office for the day. I felt pretty fine when I came into work but by lunch the full out flu had taken over my body – everything hurt, I could barely stay away and I felt miserable – but I still felt like I couldn’t leave. It was pretty terrible.

    All the years I worked on the cruise ship, you had to be quarantined to have the day off – and if I was quarantined, it meant it was likely there wouldn’t be a show in the theater that night – I got really used to working while I was sick as a dog. And then it would always spread through my whole department.

    1. That’s true that’s what they are for. Some people struggle though even though they can take the day off and have the money but they don’t want to lose money either. It can be bittersweet.

  3. I have a pretty crappy immune system, so I definitely use my sick days. That is, until my current job. We run lean so there’s no one to cover for me, so I’ve never taken a sick day here – only worked from home instead.

    My partner used to be off work a lot due to injury (most of it wound up unpaid) – it was tough but manageable. He was just off for a full week unpaid, actually.

    1. It sounds to me like you were able to make it through ok. It’s tough when it’s ongoing and there is no coverage for some people. How do you like working from home?

  4. This blog would connect with our daughter as she is a single Mom raising our grandson on her own. She works in a daycare herself so she gets exposed to a lot of stuff that the kids bring in. She gets sick and still has to go to work. Most of the other staff do as well. Chances are they got what ever from the kids in the first place.
    Currently the daycare is under an outbreak and the local board of health has a say in when that will be lifted. Last Thursday/ Friday they had two kids and a staff sent home for the same reason. They now have to replace a carpet in the toddler room….for the same reason as the kids and staff were sent home. Staff are disinfecting the place from one end to the other. Parents are not supposed to bring their kids if the child is running a temperature. But they do all the time and staff know it. The parents give the child Tylenol and take them in to the daycare, The give away is that the child suddenly runs a fever about 4 hours after they have been dropped off. A dose of Tylenol lasts about 4 hours…..
    She usually banks her overtime from staff meetings and such. The daycare she is at also offers overnight/respite care, especially on weekends. She will work those shifts for the extra money and banked hours on the condition she can take the little mr with her. Management are fine with that. She has used those banked hours if she gets sick or little mr is sick. A number of weekends she has been on call for those shifts. If she gets called in she gets paid. If not she gets a GC from Walmart for having to be around to come in if needed.

    1. It’s not easy but that is the reality you are right. Staying home won’t pay the bills even though she wants to.

  5. I am off on a sick day today and I never take a sick day. I will be paid for this day.

    Perhaps employers should be required to offer paid sick days. I have been fighting a bad cold that turned in to a chest infection. I should have gone to the doctor earlier and taken time off to rest and recover earlier but if I wasn’t paid for today I might have dragged my sad, germy self in to work and performed at a terribly low level and just made myself sicker. Paid sick days may be abused by some but most of us only use it when we need it.

    1. That is true, some do abuse sick days but it would be great to have although I’m pretty sure that won’t become law any time soon. It makes sense though. Why would you want an employee at work who is sick and under performing but the reality is most places would rather have someone than no one show up for shift. Cheers mate

    1. Well, there you go even more reason to think about how much that day off will cost. Thanks for letting us know how much your doc charges wow!

  6. I would be prepared now, but when I was in college just missing one day would have killed us. I worked full-time as a manager at a store for over 5 years, and was never offered sick days, vacation time, benefits or anything, even though I was the best worker. I always had to go in when I was sick and it was horrible!

    I’m so glad that I’m in a much better place in my life now.

    1. Now that you work from home you are in a different position but even so when you are sick you are sick but at least you can still hoover over to the computer or keep it in bed with you if you must. You are right many people don’t have any benefits and it can be difficult for them.

  7. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a day off unpaid that was not a holiday. But if my worked had offered me to work less for less money and more holidays, I would probably have taken them up on the offer. A few of my friends with kids work 4 days a week and it is quite convenient. I would want to do full days though, not 4 hour days as you still have to commute and spend on gas.

    1. Same here Pauline. I’ve always went into to work unless it as a holiday. My new job will eventually offer me paid sick days so I look forward to that. No more going in if I don’t have to because I’m ill. Sometimes it’s tough though if it’s only one person paying the bills. Cheers mate

    2. Same here Pauline. I’ve always went into to work unless it as a holiday. My new job will eventually offer me paid sick days so I look forward to that. No more going in if I don’t have to because I’m ill. Sometimes it’s tough though if it’s only one person paying the bills. Cheers mate

  8. My health challenges in recent years have made sick days unavoidable for me. When I was self employed this meant not only a loss of income but the expense of paying someone else to do the work I was unable to do myself. Eventually, it led to me stopping work altogether. I was out of work due to health problems for almost two years, ineligible for government assistance because I was self employed, and with no disability insurance of my own. It was a heavy blow. We are still struggling financially as a result of the debt we incurred during that time.

    I’m back at work now, and more grateful than I can tell you for an employer who, although aware of my health issues, has agreed to take me on, and who is extraordinarily flexible about my sick days. That doesn’t mean I get a free pass though. I respect my employer greatly and don’t want to abuse that flexibility so I weigh the decision to stay home very carefully.

    As far as the financial impact of taking sick days goes, you can reduce it somewhat by having a fall back plan. Stocking the pantry ahead of time with healthy, easy to prepare food you’ve bought on sale will help to reduce the impact of losing a day’s wages, as will having the things you’re most likely to need when you’re sick – kleenex, aspirin or some other pain reliever, pepto bismol, gravol, etc. – on hand. These too can be purchased when they’re on sale

    Hard experience has taught me that it’s better to do without things than to reach for the credit card when you’ve lost wages. I know debt is sometimes unavoidable when you lose wages due to illness but I will always choose to park the car and walk, eat rice and beans for a week or two, and cancel our cable TV before I opt to reach for my credit card.

    Sick days are no fun and they’re expensive, but sometimes they’re unavoidable too. Don’t go back to work if doing so is likely to make your illness last longer, and don’t go to work if your illness might be passed on to others. They won’t thank you for it. Instead, recognize both the benefits and costs of sick leave up front up front and then do what you need to do to get by.

    1. Many people who are self employed have to be ready for that potential reality and like you say Beth you are still trying to catch up. When we have no benefits it’s important to know if something happens no one is going to watch your back. I agree the fall back plan is essential. You are smart, do without rather than use the credit card and that’s a hard lesson for some to learn and some learn it the hard way I’m afraid. I’d rather sleep better at night myself. Thanks Beth.

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