There are many reasons why people are not at work. It could be due to problems with health, or problems with the family or simply because someone is on holiday.

In this online exercise, we will look at business English vocabulary to describe the different types of absence from work. In addition, we will look vocabulary that describes the possible consequences. The English vocabulary in this exercise can be used by both people in human resources and in business in general.


Exercise: Absence from work

Read the following conversation between a team leader (Tony) and a manager (Sally) about employees not being at work.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Tony:'Sally, can I have a word?'

Sally:'Sure, what is it?'

Tony:'I've just spoken to Sam on the phone. She's not going to be coming in for the next couple of days.'

Sally:'Oh, what's happened?'

Tony: 'She had a car crash last night. She hurt her back and has been at A and E at the hospital until 4 this morning.'

Sally:'It's nothing serious, is it?'

Tony:'She told me it's not very serious. She's in pain, the doctor gave her some painkillers. And he gave her a sick note for a week and advised her to stay at home and rest. She has an appointment to see a specialist on Friday.'

Sally:'I bet she's glad she's got private health insurance, otherwise she would be waiting for months to see a specialist.'

Tony:'So, she's going to be on sick leave for at least a week.'

Sally:'That's all we need. We're already short-staffed as it is. You know that Eric is on compassionate leave because his mother died and he has to organise things up in Glasgow. Plus, with Sue being on maternity leave after the birth of her daughter. I think we need somebody to cover Sam's work whilst she's not here. I'll try to move somebody over from another team. Is that OK?'

Tony:'I may be able to cover her work, but I would suggest getting some of my team to work later. We should offer them overtime, I'm sure a couple of them would work later for the extra money.'

Sally:'A good idea.'

Tony:'Also, Rick has asked me if he can have a day off on Friday, he wants to have a long weekend. He wants to take advantage of the bank holiday next Monday to have a four-day weekend.'

Sally:'It's a bit short notice to ask for a holiday for this Friday! I'll have to check if anybody else is taking a day off then. But, because we're short-staffed, I think we're going to have to turn it down. Oh Tony, not long until you take your sabbatical. Are ready to see the world? You must be excited?'

Tony:'I'm looking forward to seeing all the different countries. But I'm only going for 6 months. I'll be back working here before Christmas.'




Quiz: Absence from work vocabulary

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...) and a Spanish translation. In the second, , is where you can listen to the word/phrase and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).


1.

When a person or company pays each month for health care, they have

         

Private health insurance:
(noun). Also known as 'private health cover'. When you have 'private health insurance', it means that you receive health treatment quicker than in the public health system. In the English speaking world, it is very common for companies to pay for this for their staff. In Spanish: "seguro médico privado".

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Private health insurance:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2.

Another way to say 'do somebody's work' when they're not there, is

         

Cover:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to cover'. In this context it means to temporarily do somebody's work when they're on holiday or sick etc..., e.g. 'We need to cover his position while he's on holiday'. In Spanish: "sustituir".

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Cover:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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3.

Another way to say 'refuse a request', is

         

Turn it down:
(phrasal verb) A very common phrasal verb. In this context it means 'to refuse' or 'to reject' something, but sounds less hard than both. It is a transitive phrasal verb (it has an object) and can be separable, e.g. 'They turned the offer down'. In Spanish: "rechazar".

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Turn it down:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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4.

When you are paid extra money to work more hours than normal, you do

         

Overtime:
(noun) Not everybody who works extra hours at work receives overtime. In general, managers don't. With overtime, you can be paid 'time' your normal hourly rate, 'time and a half' your normal hourly rate plus a half more or 'double time' two times your normal hourly rate. In Spanish: "horas extras".

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Overtime:

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5.

When you don't go to work because of a family death or injury, you are on

         

Compassionate leave:
(noun) This is the name of the absence from work when something bad has happened in your personal or family life. You always use the verb 'to be' and 'on' in front of the noun, e.g. 'he's on compassionate leave this week' In Spanish: "permiso por motivos familiares".

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Compassionate leave:

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6.

The piece of paper from a doctor that says you can't work, is called a

         

Sick note:
(noun) This is sometimes called a 'medical note' and is generally a requirement from companies when you are absent from work because of illness. In Spanish: "justificante por enfermedad".

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Sick note:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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7.

When you make a request to do something, just before you want to do it, is

         

Short notice:
(adjective) It is a very common expression and means that there's little time to prepare or arrange something, e.g. 'She wants to borrow the car this afternoon? It's very short notice, she should have told me before!'. In Spanish: "poca antelación".

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Short notice:

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8.

The place in a hospital you go to if you have had an accident, is

         

A and E:
(noun) 'A and E' are the initials for 'Accident and Emergency'. But it is more common to call it A and E. In America it is called 'ER', which are the initials for 'Emergency Room'. In Spanish: "urgencias".

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A and E:

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9.

When you want to see a doctor or lawyer, you have to make an

         

Appointment:
(noun) An appointment is the time and date to meet or see a professional about something. It is used with dentists, accountants etc... It is not used for social or romantic meetings. In Spanish: "cita".

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Appointment:

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10.

When you don't go to work because you are pregnant or have a young baby, you are on

         

Maternity leave:
(noun) This is only for women. Men can have time off work after the birth of a child, but for them it is called 'paternity leave'. You always you use the verb 'to be' and 'on' in front of both nouns, e.g. 'He's on paternity leave at moment'. In Spanish: "baja por maternidad".

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Maternity leave:

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11.

When you take a long period of time off work, it is called a

         

Sabbatical:
(noun) This is also called a 'career break'. In effect it's like having a long unpaid holiday, where you agree to return to your job at the end. Normally, a sabbatical lasts between 3 months to a year. Often people go travelling. In Spanish: "sabático".

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Sabbatical:

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12.

A day which is a public holiday for the whole country, is called a

         

Bank holiday:
(noun) It is a special day when the majority of companies and schools are closed, e.g. Christmas day or May day. In Spanish: "fiesta".

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Bank holiday:

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13.

When a company doesn't have enough workers to do the work, it is

         

Short-staffed:
(adjective) A common business term. The opposite, where there are too many workers and too little work, is 'over-staffed'. In Spanish: "falto de personal".

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Short-staffed:

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14.

When you don't go to work because you are ill, you are on

         

Sick leave:
(noun) This is the name of the absence from work when you are ill or recovering from an operation. You always you use the verb 'to be' and 'on' in front of the noun, e.g. 'he's on sick leave at the moment'. In Spanish: "baja por enfermedad".

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Sick leave:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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Practice

Now that you understand the absence from work vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences in English with the new words/phrases.