8 Acceptable Reasons To Miss Work

woman thinking about reasons to miss work

Employers are often understanding when their employees miss time at work due to an unexpected emergency or accident occurs. On the other hand, they might not be so sympathetic when staff members start taking random time off, especially if it occurs on a routine basis.

As an employee of a New York employer, it’s a good idea to know what your employer’s policies are regarding paid, or unpaid, time off. This way, you know how to present your reasoning when requesting to take days (or weeks) off from work.

Updated: Excuses to Call Out of Work during COVID-19

Good Excuses To Miss Work

The following excuses are generally legitimate reasons employers typically accept as short or long-term absences.

1. Car (or Other) Accident

Accidents are unexpected events and usually qualify as legitimate requests for sudden leave, especially if serious injuries are involved. In most instances, bosses will allow time for you to attend to the well-being of your spouse, child or other dependent loved one, along with time to deal with any details associated with the aftermath of an accident.

2. Death of a Loved One

Most employers are sympathetic when it comes to needing time off when a loved one passes away. They understand you’ll need to take time off from work to attend and/or plan the funeral. When a death occurs, it’s important to let your boss know immediately so they can arrange coverage in your absence. Check your employer’s official policy to see how much time off is allowed for bereavement.

3. Personal Illness

Personal illness, especially contagious types, are almost always a valid excuse to take off time off from work. Employers don’t want to find themselves with an epidemic of illness spreading through the workplace because this seriously affects operations and productivity. If more than a couple of days are needed to recover, be prepared, as some employers require a doctor’s note. Employers usually have a set policy as to how many sick days are used before a doctor’s note is requested.

The novel Coronavirus first declared a pandemic in the United States in March 2020, certainly qualifies as a contagious disease. With so much about the respiratory illness not yet known, government and health officials have required anyone with symptoms or who has had exposure to someone with symptoms to self-quarantine for 14 days. Although this requirement is necessary for public safety, we at Terry Katz & Associates understand that two weeks is a long time to miss work. We want to assure you that you have legal rights surrounding COVID-19 at both the federal and state levels.

Excuses to Call Out of Work during COVID-19

A dry cough, fatigue, and fever are the earliest and most common symptoms of COVID-19. While these typically remain mild and go away independently without treatment, they are also highly contagious. It would be best if you planned to stay home from work until your symptoms pass. Keep in mind that your employer has the legal right to require you to submit to coronavirus testing and have a negative result before you can return to work.

Here are some less common and more severe symptoms of COVID-19 that qualify as legitimate reasons to call off work during COVID-19:

  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Discoloration of toes or fingers
  • Loss of voluntary movement or speech
  • Loss of sense of taste, smell, or both
  • Shortness of breath

Your Legal Rights if You Test Positive or Have Exposure to COVID-19

Under the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with a disability. Although federal law does not yet consider coronavirus as a disability, its highly contagious and unknown nature requires flexibility and understanding from the nation’s employers. Unfortunately, some employers have had no choice but to furlough or terminate employees due to the enormous financial implications that COVID-19 has had on businesses.

Assuming you retain your position throughout the pandemic, your employer may offer one or more options as a reasonable accommodation:

  • Give you permission to work from home until you’re healthy enough to return to the office.
  • Provide you with personal protective equipment to ensure your safety if you directly serve the public in any capacity.
  • Offer you the opportunity to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), use short-term disability if offered or use your accrued vacation and/or sick time leave to cover the time you miss.

You also have legal protection under New York’s whistleblower laws if your employer attempts to retaliate against you if you report the company for violating coronavirus restrictions.

4. Child’s Illness

Many bosses are parents and understand the urgency of needing to be there for a child. If you have to take time off from work to attend to your child’s illness many employers allow it. However, there are some bosses that aren’t so sympathetic and will only allow a certain amount of time of PTO (paid time off) per year for employees to use in these types of situations. How you choose to use it is up to you. Other employers may designate sick or personal leave that can be used in certain types of illness situations for children.

5. Emergency

What you deem an emergency may not be defined the same way by your boss. Generally speaking, a family emergency is an unexpected event that occurs, affecting the health or safety of your family. It could be a sudden illness, injury from an accident, or another devastating event. In some circumstances, you could be eligible for extended leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid and job-protected leave per year to allow them to take care of an immediate family member (defined as a spouse, child, or parent) who has a serious health condition. FMLA also protects employees so they can take leave if they themselves have a serious health condition. The law also requires employee health benefits to be maintained during the leave.

6. Car Problems

One unfortunate and common problem people can run into during New York commutes are related to car problems or other issues with transportation. A flat tire, dead battery, accident on the road, or a late train can force you to miss work. If it happens once or twice, an employer might overlook it, especially if you are apologetic and go beyond to make up work or find alternate transportation to get to work (even if a bit late). However, if you habitually are late or absent because of transportation, your boss will likely start raising eyebrows and wonder if you’re being truthful.

7. Medical Appointments

In New York, it can be hard to get medical appointments. Bosses usually understand many doctors only are open during regular business hours. Sick time is often an acceptable use of time for medical appointments, however, it’s a good idea to ask your boss if it’s preferable you schedule your appointment for a morning and come in late or for an afternoon and leave early. A little courtesy can go a long way when it comes to scheduling doctor appointments during the workday.

8. Miscellaneous Absences

Some absences don’t fall into any of the above categories but can still be considered as acceptable reasons to miss days (or weeks) from work, depending upon the situation.

  • Mental health day if you’re beginning to feel burned out at work
  • Special occasions, such as a child’s performance, family reunion, or another special event
  • Military obligations, including annual training or monthly drills (there are specific laws regarding this kind of absence)
  • House emergency, such as burst pipes or a heating/cooling system issue, occurs

Whatever your reason is for requesting leave, either short-term or for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to be upfront and honest about your situation. Try to estimate how much time you need and be sure to update your supervisor if things change.

Remember, you always want to save any verification you need in the event you need to justify any short or long-term absences due to legitimate excuses. Employers may be suspicious because unfortunately, some employees tend to abuse leave time. You may be requested to provide documentation in some situations to justify your reasons to miss work.

If your employer terminates you for being injured on the job for any justifiable reasons, the experienced attorneys at Terry Katz & Associates can evaluate your situation and determine if you have a case. If you’d like to learn more about New York workers' compensation or would like a free consultation, please contact our office today

I would HIGHLY recommend Terry Katz Law Firm to anyone who is looking for a legal representation.

After an injury at work, Jesse was recommended to me by a coworker. Having little to no experience working with lawyers, I was pretty impressed with the degree of professionalism Jesse and his team showed. Jesse and Donna were very knowledgeable professionals who made themselves available to answer all my questions and concerns, even while handling other cases. They were not only professional but also compassionate.

I was extremely satisfied with the award that I received which didn’t come close to what I expected. This firm definitely gets results!! I would HIGHLY recommend Jesse and his firm to all my friends and family.

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Career Sidekick

12 Best Excuses to Miss Work (Last Minute/Short Notice)

By Biron Clark

Published: November 1, 2023

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

If you need to miss work, including on short notice, this article will give you the 12  best excuses to do it. Calling out of work doesn’t need to be difficult, but if you give the wrong reason, it could leave your boss doubting you and could even get you fired in some states. So keep reading for 12 believable excuses for missing work, even at the last minute.

12 Good Excuses to Call Out of Work

1. you’re sick.

Saying that you feel ill is one of the best excuses for missing work. A company/boss will not want you in the office if you’re sick and possibly contagious.  Not only that, but since it takes at least a day or two to recover from the typical illness, it’s a surefire way to get out of work for at least one full day (whereas, if you say you have a dentist appointment, your boss is likely to ask, “What time is the appointment, and can you come in after?”) Telling your boss you’re feeling sick is one of the simplest and best ways to miss work on short notice because of the factors above.

Use these sick-day email templates to request the day off hassle-free.

Just be aware if you call in sick that some particularly strict/old-fashioned employers may want a doctor’s note as proof of illness when you return.And if you’ve got a terrible boss or company, they may still pressure you to come in. If you have that concern, or you’ve tried this excuse for missing work in the past and had trouble, keep reading for more ideas…

2. You’re caring for a sick child or family member

Along with calling in sick, there’s another equally good excuse for taking a day or more off: caring for a sick child or family member. These are both valid reasons to miss a day of work and qualify as an emergency that most employers will understand. Saying you need to care for a sick child is one of the best excuses to use at the last minute, including the same day of your work shift. You can simply call and say, “I’m sorry but my child is feeling ill and there’s nobody else who can care for them on such short notice. I’ll need to take a day to handle this emergency and I’ll return to work tomorrow.” Family emergencies happen and most employers will understand and be sympathetic when you call in sick for a medical reason. If you’re not comfortable using health as your reason for calling out of work, then keep reading for more ideas and excuses…

Watch: 12 Good Excuses to Call Out of Work

3. you have a family emergency.

A family emergency is one of the best reasons to call out of work because you usually won’t face many follow-up questions and won’t have to go into too much detail. The typical boss will quickly accept this excuse to miss work without much questioning or doubt. They may not even ask when you’ll be able to return and instead say, “Just let me know if you’re able to come in tomorrow.” However, one downside of using this excuse to miss work is that you’ll almost certainly be asked if the situation has improved once you return to work. Just don’t forget about what you said when you called in sick, so that you’re not caught off-guard when your boss later asks, “How did the family emergency turn out? Is everything okay now?” Otherwise, this is a good, reliable excuse that you can tell your boss to miss work, even on short notice.

4. You have food poisoning

Usually, you don’t want to be too specific when saying you’re sick as an excuse to miss work. You don’t need to fake coughing sounds, be dramatic, or give too many details. However, one extra detail you can provide is to say you think you have food poisoning. This is one of the most legitimate and believable excuses to miss work, especially the day of your shift, since most people understand how serious and unexpected food poisoning can be.  So if you need to miss work on short notice and don’t want to face pressure from your boss to come in, this is a good reason that’s almost guaranteed to get you out of work for one day. However, they’ll likely expect you to come in the next day, or at maximum, two days later. So this isn’t a good excuse to use if you’ll need to be missing work for more than two days, but it’s a good reason to miss work for a day.

5. You have a migraine

A migraine is another good excuse for missing a full day of work with only a small chance you’ll be questioned about it, since most managers know how severe migraines can be. And unlike making up another medical issue or saying you have a doctor’s appointment, you won’t have to tell your boss an elaborate story or follow up with lies upon your return to the office. Migraines usually go away eventually, with or without treatment, so you can simply go into work the next day and say, “I’m feeling much better, thank you,” if anyone asks. For the reasons above, a migraine is a good excuse to miss work, especially on short notice. If your boss questions or doubts you at all, just say that you can barely look into the light and that you’re lying down in the dark right now as you make this phone call. If you can barely get up or look at light, employers will know you can’t perform your job. So they’ll likely accept this excuse and simply tell you to return to work as soon as possible.

6. You need to care for a sick pet

Pets also make good reasons to miss work, but this isn’t an excuse you should use regularly. Still, if used only once, it can make a good reason for missing work. To use this excuse, simply let your employer know that your pet isn’t feeling well and that you’re going to need to go to an emergency vet appointment or stay with them while you give them medication.

7. You have a last-minute dentist or doctor’s appointment

Next on our list of excuses to miss work is the doctor or dentist visit. While these reasons will get you out of work on short notice, they might leave your boss asking why you didn’t tell them sooner, and possibly asking for a doctor’s note or other proof of appointment. This depends on your specific employer. Still, the emergency dental or medical issue does come up, and sometimes you notice something that you’re anxious about and want to get checked as soon as possible. So you should be fine saying:

“There’s something I want to get looked at urgently and my doctor/dentist had a last-minute cancellation and offered me an appointment today.”

I’ve had employers in the past where I knew they trusted me completely, and this would be an easy way to get out of work, just like all of the excuses above. However, if you have a less trusting employer and you think they’d ask follow-up questions, then you may be better off using other excuses to call out of work instead of this one.

8. You’re having car trouble

If you rely on your car to get to work, you can say that you’re having car trouble and are waiting for someone to come look at it. However, you may face follow-up questions like, “Can you take a bus? We really need you here today.” This is best if there’s no other way for you to get into the workplace, and if you only need to miss work for one day. After a day, your boss may start pressuring you about finding alternative transportation. Of course, if you have an easy-going boss and a job that can be done from home, they may let you work from home the whole week while your car is getting fixed. It all depends on your boss and specific job, so you’ll need to use your best judgement when deciding whether to use this excuse or another when you call out of work.

9. You have a household problem

You can also say that there’s a house-related issue that requires you to remain home. For example, you could say that you have a leaky water pipe and you need to stay on-hand until the repair person finishes. Or you could say you’re expecting an important delivery and the delivery company said you need to sign for the package in-person today. These are all good reasons why you can’t go to work without you having to bring up health or other personal excuses. So if you’re more comfortable with this route, it’s another acceptable excuse to get out of working. However, one thing to keep in mind here: Your manager may ask you to explain why you didn’t tell them sooner about this. You could say that you let them know as soon as you found out, but just think about if that’s realistic before using this reason to stay home.

10. You have Military Obligations

Serving in the U.S. military is prestigious, even for those in the reserve forces. Employers know that military obligations aren’t simply applicable to active service members and that even those in the reserves, or army veterans, could be called in for duties, such as drilling weekends. This is considered one of the most acceptable reasons to take a day off. In fact, there are even laws in place to deal with this kind of absence.

So in case you need the day off due to these obligations, consider sending in this message:

“I’m sorry I will not be able to make it to work today. I am in the military reserves and have been called in to take part in a drill on short notice. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I hope you understand that I cannot refuse.”

11. You Have a Religious Holiday/Event

Most organizations list diversity as a priority. So if your employers don’t recognize your particular religious holiday, don’t shy away from bringing it up. Your employers will understand. And if they don’t, they’re probably bound by HR policies to respect and accommodate a person’s religious beliefs.

When asking for the day off, try wording it like this:

“Tomorrow is a big day for followers of my religion. To celebrate, there is an event that I’ve just been told I must attend. I know this is very short notice, but I hope you appreciate that my presence is important for my family and me.”

12. You Have House Maintenance Issues

While some house maintenance work, such as cleaning behind the wardrobe, can be left for the weekend, unexpected issues, such as a sudden gas leak or a pipe burst, require more immediate attention. No employer would want to risk putting you or your family in danger by demanding you come in.

An acceptable excuse would sound something like this: 

“I can’t make it to work today because I’ve been dealing with a mini-calamity at home. A pipe just burst, flooding half my living room. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I should stay in today and ensure it’s fixed soon.”

Can You Say You’re Feeling Tired as an Excuse to Miss Work?

While more and more companies are accepting the idea of a mental health day without a specific reason or emergency, this excuse is best if requested one or two days in advance. General tiredness isn’t one of the best reasons for missing work on the day of your shift, since it’ll leave your boss wondering why you didn’t plan ahead and communicate better. I’ve had horrible jobs myself, and I understand having a feeling of panic in the morning when you’re simply overwhelmed and want to call out. However, I recommend using one of the excuses above if you’re going to call out of work last minute. It’s better to take a sick day than a mental health day if giving short notice. Save the personal day or mental health day for when you’re able to request it at least one or two days in advance.

Is it a Bad Sign When You Make Excuses to Miss Work?

Everyone misses work from time to time and it’s not necessarily a bad sign that you need to take an unexpected day off. However, if you fail to inform your employer early enough and cause difficulties such as scheduling issues, then it could leave your boss upset. You shouldn’t feel bad about telling your employer you need a day off with any of the reasons above, but give them as much notice as possible and don’t call out as a common occurrence.

Can You Get Fired for Calling in Sick?

In many states, work is considered to be done “at-will,” which means an employer can technically fire you for calling in sick. Each state provides different rights to employees, though. No matter where you live, it’s unlikely that an employer will fire you for taking one sick day or calling out of work occasionally.

Bad Excuses and Mistakes: What Not to Say When You Call in Sick

If you read everything above, you now have multiple good excuses to miss work. To wrap up, here are a couple of mistakes to avoid and bad reasons for calling out of work. First, you never want to say anything that suggests you failed to plan ahead or that you didn’t let them know promptly. Don’t give a reason that sounds like it’s something you would have known about days before. Always think to yourself about how the excuse sounds before you call in on short notice. Ask yourself, “Does this sound realistic that I’d only be finding out at the last minute?” If not, pick a different excuse to stay home.

The other big mistake to avoid is overexplaining. You don’t need to share every detail when you explain why you can’t come into your job for one day. If you say you have a sick child, you don’t need to share every symptom as proof that they’re not feeling well. If you’re going to say that you’re sick, you don’t need to try to cough on the phone or sound miserable. Just be clear and direct, give the general excuse/reason that you’re going to use to miss work, and then stop talking and see how your boss responds. When you call out of work, it’s often better to say less. Chose one of the reasons from the list above to call out, explain it briefly, and then just stop. Even the best excuses can be ruined by talking too much or continuing to “sell” your story after your boss is probably already okay with it. So stop talking and let them respond once you’ve explained the basics.

Being Hungover

An employer isn’t going to sympathize with you if you tell them that you have a splitting headache because you had an extra few drinks the night before. Let’s face it: You knew you had work the following day and decided to go out anyway. Maybe, in this case, it’s better just to call in sick or pop a pill and hope for the best.

Bad Planning

Poor planning is not a quality any boss wants to see in their employee. Of course, some emergencies are understandable, but reasons like missing the bus or forgetting to set the alarm aren’t likely to go down well, especially when it happens too often.

Forgot You Had A Shift

Everyone makes mistakes. But forgetting that you had to go to work or had a shift to attend points, once again, to bad planning. Your best bet, in this case, would be to come up with another excuse or apologize profusely.

Work Conflicts

Conflicts with coworkers can be hard to deal with. But your employer will likely have little patience for you missing work over an interpersonal conflict. Talking things through with your employer or coworker might be a better solution.

Conclusion: Valid Excuses to Miss Work

We all need to get out of work at the last minute sometimes. If you use one of the excuses above and tell your manager briefly and directly that you’re not going to be able to come into work that day, you’ll give yourself the best chance at getting the day off without any suspicion or consequences. To make the process go smoother, call or email your employer as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute if you can help it. And remember to be ready for any follow-up questions when you return to work and see your manager. A follow-up question or two doesn’t mean that your boss is suspicious; it simply means they care enough to check that your situation is better now.

Biron Clark

About the Author

Read more articles by Biron Clark

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11 Good Excuses To Miss Work on Short Notice

  • Excuses To Miss Work
  • Excuse Letter For Absent
  • Leave Of Absence Letter
  • Long Term Disability Insurance
  • What Is A Sabbatical At Work?
  • How To Take A Personal Day
  • Sick Leave Email
  • Day Off Request Email
  • Excuses To Leave Work Early
  • Doctors Note For Work
Despite your best efforts, there will be days when you have to miss work with little to no notice. Illnesses, accidents, or family emergencies are always legitimate reasons for missing work at the last minute. Just make sure you contact your boss as soon as you can, and don’t overuse these excuses.

Needing an excuse to miss work on short notice happens sometimes. While missing work on short notice can be common, there are good and bad reasons for doing it.

In this article, we’ll cover which excuses for missing work won’t raise any eyebrows, and which are likely to make a bad impression. We’ll also cover how to handle situations when you need to come into work late or leave early, as well as tips for delivering all these messages.

Key Takeaways

Good short notice excuses include accidents, health issues, and major and minor emergencies.

Contact your boss to let them know you won’t be coming in as quickly as you can.

When possible, try to leave work early or come in late instead of missing the whole day.

good excuses to miss work on short notice/last minute

11 Good excuses for missing work on short notice

Good excuses for missing work at any time, worst excuses for missing work, good reasons to come in late or leave early, tips for giving an excuse, missing work at the last minute faq, final thoughts.

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Any excuse is usually fine for missing work, as long as you’ve given your supervisor plenty of time to plan for your absence. But when you need a good excuse to miss work last minute, some reasons just won’t cut it.

If you find yourself in a last-minute call out of work situation, here are just the excuses to get out of work:

Accidents. Accidents are the ultimate excuse for getting out of work on short notice because they are, by definition, unpredictable. An accident doesn’t necessarily have to involve you directly, either. A spouse, child, or dependent that needs your help taking care of an accident are all valid excuses for missing work.

Food poisoning. This is an effective excuse because almost everyone can relate to an experience of food poisoning. It’s embarassing, unpleasant, and not the sort of thing that gareners a lot of follow-up questions.

Menstrual cramps. Speaking of excuses that don’t generate a lot of follow-up questions, menstrual cramps are a very good reason for missing work on short notice.

Sick child/spouse/dependent. While everyone thinks about personal illness as their go-to excuse for missing work, an illness in the family is just as good of an excuse. Anyone who’s had to care for a sick child knows that it’s a full-time job.

Injured back. Back pain can come on pretty suddenly, making this a good last-minute excuse for missing work. Whether it’s something brought on by age or an injury from the gym, people can relate to the debilitating pain of a back injury.

You need a mental health day. Depending on your boss, your calendar, and your habits, it can be totally fine to take a mental health day on short notice. People generally understand that everyone just needs a day off once in a while.

Migraine. Migraine headaches can come on suddenly and be debilitating, and they’re a very legitimate reason for calling in sick to work last minute.

Dental emergency. Chipped teeth and cracked crowns are no joke, and they need to be fixed as quickly as possible. Because of this, it’s perfectly acceptable to miss work for a dental emergency.

House maintenance issue. Unexpected household issues such as a burst pipe or a gas leak is a good excuse for missing work. Not only do you need to be home to mitigate any damage, but you also often have to be around to let in the repair person.

Death of a loved one. Finding out a friend or family member has passed away (or is going to soon) is always a good excuse for missing work at the last minute. In fact, many companies have bereavement policies that give you paid days off specifically for these circumstances.

Unexpected circumstances. Whether you got a flat tire or your child’s school flooded and now you need to stay home to watch them, unexpected circumstances are legitimate reasons for missing work at the last minute.

There are a few good reasons for missing work that are always acceptable, whether these things happen as you’re walking out the door or are scheduled ahead of time.

Below are five good excuses for missing work at any time:

Personal illness. If you’re too sick to get out of bed and do your job, or if you have an especially contagious illness, call out. A day away from the office isn’t just for your sake, but for your coworkers’ health and safety as well.

Even if you work remotely, powering through your tasks while sick will slow down your recovery and leave you less effective for a longer period of time.

Unexpected sickness affects everyone, and good managers will include some wiggle room in the schedule to accommodate this.

You may need to schedule a doctor ’s appointment to get a note for your employer that “verifies” you were, in fact, sick. Most employers will only require this sort of thing if you’re out for an extended period of time — not just a day or two.

Keep your employer updated periodically and let them know at the end of the day whether you will be returning or if you need more recovery time at the end of the day.

Family or home emergency. An emergency is, by its very nature, unexpected and urgent. A family emergency can include your child getting sick, a car accident, an elderly family member’s injury, an unexpected surgery, the death of a loved one, or any other urgent family matter.

A home emergency could include a burst pipe, a fire, a broken car, or any other home matter that must be tended to immediately or prevents you from going in. In the case of a family emergency or a home emergency, let your employer know as soon as possible that you’ll need to miss work.

The emergency situations listed above all have varying degrees of seriousness and may require different amounts of time off. For instance, if you are dealing with the death of a loved one, you will need more time off than if you are dealing with a burst water pipe. Whatever you do, don’t make up a fake emergency.

Unexpected circumstances out of your control. Unexpected circumstances includes anything that prevents you from going to work that you couldn’t have known you would need to plan around. Maybe your flight was delayed, the bus broke down, your babysitter never showed up, or any other random occurrence.

Situations where you could have planned around this circumstance – such as your car running out of gas on the highway or your alarm malfunctioning – should be used with extreme caution. It’s understandable if this happens once, but it will reflect poorly on your preparedness if it happens multiple times.

Keep in mind that you may need to work from home in these situations or arrange for some other way of completing your day’s work. Don’t use the “unexpected circumstances” excuse more than a couple of times, as these occurrences are typically quite rare.

Working hard and earning it. After working hard and earning some time may be the only situation where missing work is a positive situation for you and your employer, and it requires a bit of planning and dedication. If you spend extra time working in your week (by coming in early or staying late), you may be able to arrange a day off for yourself .

More important than the time commitment is the result of your efforts. Asking for a random day off after completing a big project that’s the result of a lot of hard work is an acceptable part of most work cultures.

Scheduled appointment. Medical appointments can be difficult to secure and may need to be scheduled during work hours. Professional appointments, such as a meeting with a prospective client, may also need to be scheduled during regular work hours. Both are perfectly legitimate reasons to miss work.

As soon as you schedule your doctor’s or dentist appointment, let your employer know through the appropriate channels that you will need to either leave early or come in late (you won’t be able to miss an entire day for one appointment, typically) on that day.

Similarly, let your employer know once you schedule an outing with a client or other work-related matters (just make sure it’s part of your job, of course). Just be sure whatever you say you’re doing, you are actually planning on doing it. Otherwise, you will be quickly called out.

Bad excuses to miss work can generally considered unprofessional and could even get you fired. Below are some of the worst excuses for missing work to help you avoid using them next time you call out.

Feeling tired. If you are feeling tired due to a sickness or an emergency situation, you should explain these circumstances to your boss as that’s obviously a bit different. However, if you simply got to bed late or are feeling groggy, that’s not a valid or professional reason for missing work.

Hungover. Never tell your boss you’re too hungover to go into work, no matter how “cool” they seem. You knew you had work the next day, and you took the gamble. And you lost that gamble, unfortunately, but you still have to go to work. If you’re really incapacitated, call in with a stomach flu , and maybe make some different choices next time.

Lack of planning. Emergencies and mistakes are understandable, and they happen to everyone. However, if you always find yourself having alarm clock, car, or babysitter emergencies, your employer will see you as an unreliable worker.

“Don’t feel like it.” It’s not likely that you’ll be bold enough to call in and say you don’t feel like coming into work today, but any reason that ultimately amounts to “I don’t feel like it” is questionable. If you are unhappy with your job, it may be time to consider finding a new one or discussing changing your workload.

Forgot. Not coming into work (and, naturally, not calling) because you forgot you were scheduled is going to get you fired unless you’re just starting out and has been hired at your very first part-time job . Keep track of your schedule and always call in if you are going to miss work.

When it comes to coming in late or leaving early, it’s preferable to your employer that you work at least part of your work day rather than none of it, so offering to work a partial day looks better for your professional standing than taking the whole day off.

Below are some good reasons for coming in late or leaving early:

Small emergency. If you are in a small-time emergency (e.g., home repair, car troubles), offer to come into work as soon as the issue is resolved. The situation may not be fixed in time for you to go in, but even making the offer makes you seem more dedicated to the job.

Sickness. If you are a bit ill (but definitely not if you are contagious), offer to come in late or leave early, depending on what you think you can manage. This will likely be received much more warmly by your employer and show that you are willing to push through. Just don’t push yourself too hard or unnecessarily expose your coworkers to your illness.

Appointments. Some circumstances (i.e., appointments) only necessitate missing a half-day of work, so scheduling an appointment strategically could make it so you can come in late or leave early according to your preference. Just make sure you communicate this with your boss as far in advance as possible.

Use the following tips to maintain your professional standing and to make it easier on those you work with when calling out:

Contact your employer as soon as you know you’ll be missing work. The sooner your boss knows you’ll be missing work, the more time they have to plan for your absence . Let them know as soon as possible, and be sure to follow the proper protocol in your workplace for calling off.

Follow company policy. Whatever absence policy your supervisor prefers, adhere to it. Some bosses like to be called, some are fine with an email, and others will require you to inform multiple people, including HR.

Most big companies will have an online portal to request days off, as well as a place to formally document the request and its acceptance.

Don’t lie. It can be tempting, but try to be honest when calling off from work. If you invent an emergency now, you may not have leeway for an actual crisis in the future.

Give necessary details, but not too much. Don’t be too vague, but don’t be too explicit. Simply saying you have a “personal emergency” is likely to be questioned by your employer, but saying you have explosive diarrhea is definitely not necessary. Accurately explain the situation as far as you feel comfortable.

In the case of an ongoing event, provide updates as appropriate. For example, if you come down with the flu, check in each day on your status; if there’s a home emergency, call to let your boss know when the professional arrives and you’re on your way.

Plan for covering your workload. Most importantly, when missing work, you’re going to want to make a plan for how the work you missed will get done. Whether you have a coworker cover your shift or come in early next week, let your boss know you are taking your workload seriously.

How do I tell work I can’t come in?

You tell work you can’t come in by contacting your boss as soon as you know you won’t make it. Ideally, this will be at least a few days in advance, but this isn’t always feasible.

If you wake up too sick to get out of bed, for example, the first thing you should do is call, text, or email your boss (whatever they prefer) to let them know.

How can I miss work without getting fired?

You can miss work without getting fired by having a legitimate (and true) excuse and giving as much notice as possible. If you realize you can’t make it to work because you’re sick, have to take care of a family member, or some other unavoidable reason, contact your boss as soon as you can.

You don’t have to go into detail about what’s going on, but communication is key to staying in your boss’s good graces when you miss work.

In addition, if you can make every effort to help your team cover your responsibilities by coming in late or fielding phone calls and emails from home, that also goes a long way.

How do I stop feeling guilty for taking a sick day?

You can stop feeling guilty for taking a sick day by getting a doctor’s note or reminding yourself that rest is vital to doing your job well. If you’re struggling with strong feelings of guilt over taking a sick day, having a doctor put in writing that you need rest can quickly quell that.

However, this isn’t always practical, so try reminding yourself that you’re helping your team by staying home and getting better. A day or two without you is far better than weeks without you if you get sicker, or weeks of everyone getting sick because you exposed them all.

Do you apologize for calling in sick?

Yes, you should apologize for calling in sick. This doesn’t mean that you should apologize for being sick and taking a day to rest — it means apologizing for any inconvenience your absence may cause.

While you shouldn’t feel bad for taking a sick day, acknowledging that your boss and coworkers will have to cover for you is a courteous and professional thing to do.

If you can, ask if there’s anything you can do to help from home and invite your team to contact you with any questions they may have.

Everyone needs to take an unexpected day off work at some point in their lives. Most supervisors like to get a bit of notice when you’ll be out, but good managers understand that some circumstances don’t allow for advance notice.

Some no-notice reasons are perfectly acceptable, as long as they’re used sparingly. Other excuses might make you look unprepared and unprofessional.

FindLaw – Can My Job Force Me To Work While Sick?

Terry Katz and Associates, P.C. – 8 Acceptable Reasons To Miss Work

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Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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20 Good Excuses to Miss Work on Short Notice

Last Updated: August 28, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Elaine Lou Cartas and by wikiHow staff writer, Dan Hickey . Elaine Lou Cartas is an award-winning Business & Executive Career Coach and the CEO of Elaine Lou Coaching, based in Los Angeles, California. With over 10+ years of professional experience, Elaine guides women of color, and allies, who’ve established themselves in leadership and executive roles to create a holistic life so they can lead without sacrificing their well-being. She was awarded #1 Thought Leader by LA Weekly + Top 5 Business Coaches by Apple News for 2023. Her career advice has also been featured in Fobes, Business Insider, Money Magazine, and LinkedIn News. Elaine is also the host of the Color Your Dreams Podcast (https://elainelou.com/coloryourdreams/). Elaine received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of California, Irvine; and her Master's in Leadership and Management at the University of La Verne. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 590,043 times.

We all feel the need to skip work some days, but what are good excuses to miss work on short notice? If you don’t think you can get away with your usual excuse again, don’t worry—there are a ton of other believable reasons to call off work last minute or leave work early. We’ve put together a handy list of 20 bulletproof excuses to get out of work that will make your boss sympathetic and get you a much-needed day off. If you’re ready for a mid-week day at home, keep scrolling!

Things You Should Know

  • Keep it short and sweet by saying you don't feel well. If pressed, say you have a migraine, the flu, food poisoning, or you threw out your back.
  • Tell your boss that you have an emergency appointment. This could be for you, or it could be for a "sick" child, spouse, or pet.
  • To avoid health-related excuses, say that you're locked out of your car or you have a flat tire.

Email Template and Text Examples to Miss Work

best excuse for missing work and not calling in

You’re not feeling well.

You can’t predict illness, so calling in sick is an effective excuse.

  • “I woke up this morning with an awful sore throat and cough. I’d hate to get anyone else sick, so I won’t be coming in today.”
  • “My allergies are horrible today because of the change in weather. I can’t get my symptoms under control, so I need to take a sick day today.”
  • “I’ve got terrible menstrual cramps today and can barely move off the couch. Unfortunately I’m not going to make it into work this afternoon.”

You’ve got a sick child to take care of.

Sick kids get sympathy, especially if your boss has met them before.

  • “My son woke up with a fever this morning and I need to take today off to take care of him.”
  • “My twins were throwing up all night and I need to be home to monitor them today.”
  • “I can’t make it in today. Strep throat has been going around my daughter’s school and it looks like she’s caught it.”

You have a last-minute doctor’s appointment.

Doctor’s appointments are cliché, but they work when used sparingly.

  • “I’ve been trying to get an appointment for weeks and a slot just opened up for tomorrow, so I’ll need to take the day off.”
  • “I woke up with a high fever and had to make a last-minute appointment to get checked out. I’m sorry for the late notice, but I can’t come in to work today.”
  • “My doctor’s office called and rescheduled my appointment for this afternoon. Unfortunately I’ll have to leave work early today.”

You’ve got food poisoning.

Food poisoning is sudden and severe, and people know how awful it is.

  • “I’ve been up all night with food poisoning and there’s no way I can come into work today.”
  • “I think I’ve come down with food poisoning. I can’t keep anything down, so I’m going to have to take today off.”
  • “I went out to eat last night and I think I contracted food poisoning. I’m not going to make it to the office today. Hopefully I’ll be recovered by tomorrow.”

You’ve got a dental emergency or appointment.

A chipped tooth is a great excuses to miss work last-minute.

  • “I broke a tooth at breakfast this morning and need to go see a dentist right away.”
  • “There was a cancellation at my dentist’s office and my appointment got rescheduled for today, so I won’t make my shift.”
  • “I slipped on ice while walking to my car and busted a few teeth. I have to go in for emergency dental surgery and can’t come into work today.”

You’re coping with a migraine.

Migraines are severe and make it nearly impossible to work efficiently.

  • “I’ve got a horrible migraine today and there’s no way I can make it through my shift later. I’m going to need to take today off.”
  • “I have a migraine today and it hurts to even look at a computer screen. I’m taking a sick day today.”
  • “I can’t come in this evening. I’ve had a horrible migraine all day and it doesn’t seem like it’s getting better anytime soon.”

You had a minor accident or injury.

Accidents happen to everybody.

  • “I tripped over my son’s Lego spaceship and rolled my ankle. I’m hobbling pretty poorly and need the day off to recover.”
  • “I twisted my knee on a run last night and it’s swollen and painful today. I need to go to the doctor to get it checked out, so I need the day off.”
  • “I sliced my hand open when I broke a dish this morning. I have to go get stitches and won’t be coming in today.”

You threw out your back.

Almost nothing is more universally loathed than a hurt or strained back.

  • “I did something to my back at the gym this morning and can barely move.”
  • “I threw out my back yesterday while I was moving some appliances around for my kitchen renovation.”
  • “I had to help my daughter move into her dorm yesterday and hurt my back lifting some heavy boxes. I’m gonna need to take a day off to recover.”

You need a mental health day.

Mental health is personal, so empathetic bosses won’t push back hard.

  • “I’ve been under a lot of stress getting ready for my wedding next week and need a day off to get myself together.”
  • “My anxiety has been through the roof this week. I’m taking a personal day today to take care of myself.”
  • “Without going into too much detail, I’m in a rough spot mentally and need some time off today.”

You were exposed to Covid.

In today’s world, Covid is the ultimate excuse to get out of work.

  • “I just found out I was exposed to Covid at a family gathering yesterday. I don’t have symptoms, but will not be coming in until I can get a negative test result.”
  • “I was in close contact with someone who has an active Covid infection last night. I will be staying home to quarantine today.”
  • “I was exposed to Covid recently. My rapid test was negative, but I can’t come in today since I’m waiting on my PCR results.”
  • Double check your company’s Covid policy before using this excuse. You may be required to quarantine for several days or weeks.

You just donated blood.

Donating blood

  • “I wasn’t expecting to feel so lightheaded after donating. I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to come in today.”
  • “I fainted after my blood donation this morning and need the day to recover.”
  • “The nurse who took my blood recommended I stay home today since I felt pretty weak afterwards.”

You have a pet emergency or vet appointment.

Adorable pets will get you sympathy from your boss or manager.

  • “My cat won’t eat or drink anything and I’m worried about her health. I had to make an emergency vet appointment.”
  • “My dog ate something in the trash and is now very sick. I need to stay home today to watch him.”
  • “My dog went after a raccoon on our morning walk today and got bitten and scratched. I’m worried about infection so I had to make a last-minute vet appointment.”

You’ve got a family emergency.

Family emergencies work great since they can be vague or personal.

  • “My father fell this morning and has to go into emergency surgery. I need to be at the hospital with him and can’t make it into work today.”
  • “I got a call from my elderly grandma and she sounded completely incoherent. I’ve got to check in on her and won’t be coming in today.”
  • “I’m experiencing a family emergency today and need to leave town unexpectedly. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I can’t come in today.”

You can’t find childcare.

Childcare is hard to find when your usual daycare or caretaker falls through.

  • “My nanny called in sick at the last minute and I can’t find anyone else to watch my daughter.”
  • “My son is being sent home from school early today and now I have to go pick him up. I’m going to have to leave the office early today.”
  • “My daughter’s daycare class has to quarantine because of a Covid exposure and I couldn’t find a babysitter to watch her today.”

You’ve got out-of-town visitors.

Unexpected friends or family are a valid excuse to take time off.

  • “My mom is surprising me with a visit tomorrow and I haven’t seen her since before the pandemic. I’m going to need the day off.”
  • “My brother is flying into town unexpectedly to deal with a personal emergency and I need to be available to pick him up from O’Hare.”
  • “My sister got called into jury duty and I have to watch my nephew all day tomorrow, so I’ll need to take the day off.”

You’re taking care of a household problem.

Most people understand that severe home issues can happen any time.

  • “My basement is completely flooded because of that storm last night. I’ve got to stay home today to do damage control and get some repair people in here.”
  • “The stairs on my back porch collapsed and the only time a carpenter could come take a look is during my shift today. Unfortunately I’ll need the day off.”
  • “A pipe burst in my kitchen and I had to call an emergency plumber. I can’t make it into work today.”

You’re expecting an important delivery.

In the United States, almost 1.7 million packages are stolen every day.

  • “I’m having a new oven delivered and installed tomorrow, so I’ll need to take the day off.”
  • “I have to be home tomorrow to sign for an important package from a relative. The delivery window is all day, so I can’t come into work.”
  • “My couch delivery is coming sooner than expected and I need to take this afternoon off to be home for it.”

You’re having car trouble.

If you need your car to get to work, this is a golden excuse to call off.

  • “I can’t get my car to start. Unfortunately I can’t make it to work until I figure out what’s wrong.”
  • “I got a flat tire on my way to work this morning. I need to take my car in to get a replacement and won’t be coming in today.”
  • “I noticed some smoke coming out from under the hood and took my car to the mechanic. It’ll be in the shop all day, so I’ll need the day off.”

You’re locked out of your house or car.

Getting locked out is a universally frustrating experience.

  • “I locked my keys in the car while I was warming it up this morning. I can’t leave until my wife gets home with the spare keys.”
  • “I’m locked out of my apartment and my roommate is out of town until tomorrow. The locksmith won’t come until this afternoon, so I have to miss work today.”
  • “I lost my keys at the gym this morning and can’t get in to change for my shift. I have to wait for my boyfriend to get home and make key copies.”

You’re observing a religious holiday.

Religious holidays work as long as you tell your boss a little in advance.

  • “I will be taking tomorrow off in observance of Yom Kippur.”
  • “I can’t come into work on Friday in observance of Diwali.”
  • “Work is restricted on Fridays during Ramadan, so I will be leaving early tomorrow.”

Community Q&A

Amanda Cousins

  • Keep your excuse brief since too many details might begin to sound fabricated. Just state your excuse, apologize for the late notice, and mention you’ll give more information once you have it. [21] X Research source Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 2
  • Consider whether your excuse makes more sense if it’s spontaneous (like an injury or car trouble) or if it needs advance notice to make sense (like a religious holiday or an important upcoming delivery). Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1
  • When possible, call your manager instead of texting or emailing. It shows that your excuse is urgent and that you’re taking extra care to alert them as soon as possible. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

best excuse for missing work and not calling in

  • Review your company’s policies about missing work before calling in with an excuse. Too many absences might result in probation or disciplinary action (plus you’ll want to save some sick days for actual illnesses and emergencies). Thanks Helpful 18 Not Helpful 2
  • Consistency is key. If you call in sick, avoid posting photos on social media of yourself at a party or on the beach with alcohol. Your employer may see them, leading to truancy dismissal and negative references that can harm future employment. Furthermore, your credibility will be damaged, making it difficult for others to trust you. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

You Might Also Like

What to Say when Calling in Sick with Diarrhea

  • ↑ https://www.thejub.com/millennial-career-resources/7-best-excuses-not-to-go-to-work
  • ↑ https://careersidekick.com/excuses-to-miss-work/
  • ↑ https://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/14-good-excuses-to-miss-work-on-short-notice-609876/?singlepage=1
  • ↑ https://hqhire.com/reasons-to-miss-work-last-minute/
  • ↑ https://thebalancework.com/good-excuses-to-miss-work-on-short-notice/
  • ↑ https://www.zippia.com/advice/excuses-to-miss-work/
  • ↑ https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/10/package-theft-how-amazon-google-others-are-fighting-porch-pirates.html
  • ↑ https://careeremployer.com/miscellaneous/12-excuses-to-miss-work-on-short-notice/

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17 Good Reasons & Excuses To Call Off Or Miss Work

October 20, 2023 by Hannah Morgan

There are plenty of valid excuses to call off work, but many people are afraid to use them! This usually comes from a concern that they’ll be viewed as unprofessional for missing work (especially last minute)

But let’s be clear, honest and hardworking employees should never feel bad about giving legitimate reasons for missing work.

A woman with a good excuse to call off work

This list of excuses for calling off work will give you the confidence to use them when the moment comes.

1. Sickness

If you’re feeling under the weather, don’t be a hero. Being sick is a perfectly valid excuse to call off work.

When you’re ill, you can’t perform at your best. Your productivity wanes, and you could bring your entire team down. If you work in an environment where everyone needs to be on their A-game, coming into work sick will do no one any good.

On top of all that, there’s the risk of spreading the illness to your coworkers. No manager wants to deal with a sweeping sickness that takes out the entire team. It’s best to stay home, rest, and come back refreshed.

Some employers will require a doctor’s note or proof of illness for this to be considered a legit reason to call off work. In that case, don’t be afraid to go to your general practitioner or a local health clinic. Not only will you get the proof you need, but you’ll likely get some treatment to speed up your recovery.

2. Family Emergency

Family emergencies refer to any unexpected situation that affects the health or safety of your family. The definition is pretty broad here, which is fine. Things happen all the time, and family comes first.

You might have to take off work because your child or spouse experienced a sudden illness. Or, it could be your grandmother who suddenly needs help handling a heavy delivery because she’s incapable of doing so herself. Whatever the case, family emergencies are valid excuses to miss work.

In some cases, you may even qualify for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Keep your employer informed and updated as things evolve.

3. Childcare Issues

If you have a child, you know how challenging being a working parent is. Many unexpected situations arise, and you have no choice but to adapt quickly. While your childcare arrangements might cover things most of the time, you might suddenly encounter problems when you cannot utilize your usual arrangements.

Once again, things happen! Babysitters can get sick, and daycare centers can experience problems that cause them to close down temporarily. Even if you have school-aged kids, you might have to take off to watch your child as they stay home.

You can’t leave your child home alone. While some managers might be more understanding about this reason than others, it’s valid. Your kids’ safety should always be a top priority.

4. Your Pet Is Ill

Here’s a good excuse for missing work that many people experience. Your furry friend is another family member, and illness is a big deal!

Pets can’t take care of themselves. While mild sickness usually isn’t a huge deal, it can snowball into something worse unless you seek veterinary care.

Going to the vet can be an all-day endeavor. Not only that, but you must be there to care for your animal, clean up accidents, and provide treatment. 

This isn’t an excuse to get out of work that you should use often. But if your pet is seriously ill and needs your care, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking time off (even if it’s at the last minute).

5. It’s a Special Occasion

Do you have a special occasion coming up? As long as you provide plenty of advance notice, most employers won’t mind that you miss a little work. Taking some time off doesn’t always have to follow illness or disaster.

Sometimes, your day off comes with tons of fantastic memories!

Special occasions don’t come often, so most managers consider this a perfectly acceptable reason to call off work. As always, be honest and upfront.

What constitutes a special occasion? Realistically, it’s anything that doesn’t occur in your everyday life. Maybe you have a class reunion, your child is doing a music performance, or you have a big family event. Each of those examples and more are good excuses for missing some work.

6. You’ve Been Selected for Jury Duty

When it comes to bulletproof excuses to get out of work, this might be at the top of the list. If you get called for jury duty, you have no choice but to fulfill your civic duty! Employers must give you time off. Otherwise, they could end up breaking the law.

You can get called for jury duty at any time. It tends to come unexpectedly and can last for several days or weeks, depending on the case and whether you’re selected as a juror. If you’ve never been to jury duty, it’s not something many people enjoy!

Many people dread it and would actually rather go to work. But if you get that notice, you can’t ignore it.

7. You Have School

If you’re in school, your education is likely your top long-term priority. Whether you’re actively paying tuition or not, it costs money to go to school. Skipping it to work would be a waste, and most employers fully understand that.

Plus, failing to go to class could cause your grades to suffer.

There’s a good chance that you’re going to school to further your career. Whether you stay at the company you’re at now or you transition to an entirely different industry, your priority should be to complete your education.

What makes your time at school a legitimate excuse for missing work is that it should be communicated to your employer ahead of time. Let them know you plan on attending classes, and help them find a schedule that works for both of you.

8. Food Poisoning 

Here’s an excuse to call off work that is hard to appreciate until it happens to you. Make no mistake: Food poisoning is no joke!

The severity of food poisoning can vary dramatically. Some people will get off relatively scot-free with mild symptoms. But for others, it can cause fever, sweats, and an overall awful feeling!

The symptoms can be so severe that people cannot get out of bed. It’s not always something you can “tough out” at work.

Here’s the thing about food poisoning: It comes and goes quickly. Because the condition shares an intrinsic link to food, it can seem to come out of nowhere after eating a bad meal. The symptoms might last a day, but most people recover quickly enough to return to work the next day. If you have a good relationship with your employer, this reason for missing work likely won’t be met with resistance.

9. Military Obligations

Like school, your military obligations are more important than your job.

In most cases, you have no choice when it comes to your military obligations. For example, people in the National Guard have to do monthly drill weekends and a two-week training period every year. These obligations aren’t something you should skip.

There are even laws covering those work absences, making it a bulletproof excuse for getting out of work. Most managers usually won’t fight you on this, but it’s still professional to provide plenty of notice if you can.

10. Your Pet Is Missing

Earlier, we covered the validity of calling off work if your pet is sick. Your pet going missing is just as much of a reasonable excuse for missing work as caring for them when they’re ill.

Again, it all comes down to the importance of your pet to you and your family. You love them immensely, so there’s no reason to hesitate taking time off work to find them when they go lost.

Whether they run away or accidentally wander outside, locating them can take an entire day. Don’t feel bad about wanting to focus your attention and energy on searching for your beloved pet rather than hopping on a conference call while they continue to wander away from your home.

11. You Need to Take Care of Someone in Your Family

This excuse for calling off work is similar to that of a family emergency. However, it might not occur suddenly, and you may have plenty of advance notice. 

No matter what the situation is, needing to care for someone in your family is an excellent reason to miss work. You may be the only one available who can care for your loved one. It could be an unexpected illness, or you could have to provide more extensive care after surgery.

If there is no one else to turn to, you have no choice but to take the mantle of caregiver. As always, be professional and give your employer as much of a heads up as possible.

12. Religious Holiday or Event

Most companies provide days off for nationally recognized holidays. But if you live in a country where many cultures are present, there are other religious holidays and events that millions of people take time off to enjoy.

Don’t be afraid to use this as a reason for calling off work. Just because no one else in your company is doing so doesn’t mean it’s not valid, and most managers are more than understanding. This is also something that you can easily notify your employer about ahead of time, since holidays are predictable events.

If your employer isn’t understanding, that could open up doors to legal issues due to the challenge of your religious freedom. Companies must respect your personal and spiritual needs. That’s why this reason for missing work is rarely contested.

13. Your Car Broke Down

This is an excuse that people use to get out of work all the time, even when it’s not true. That’s unfortunate, but if you run into car troubles, don’t be afraid to tell the truth and explain the problem.

Car troubles happen, and not everyone lives in an area where they can take public transit to work. If you do, your manager may ask if you could try to take a bus, train, or taxi. But if that’s not possible, don’t hesitate to take the day off.

That said, try to get things fixed or come up with another source of transportation as soon as possible. Some bosses understand the struggle and how debilitating a lack of proper transportation can be. But others will grow impatient if you take longer than a few days to address the issue.

14. Home Emergency

What would you do if you had a sudden pipe burst in your basement? Will you address the issue or let thousands of dollars of damage occur? Most people (including your managers )will choose the former!

Home emergencies can come out of nowhere, leaving you with few options. These problems require immediate attention, and you can’t address them at work. If it’s a repair issue, you must be there to allow experts in and assess the damage.

But it doesn’t have to be that catastrophic either. Last-minute important deliveries that require a signature can be a valid excuse for calling off work as well. 

Remember that you’ll likely be asked why this issue is occurring and why you didn’t have advanced notice. This is where it’s helpful to have a good relationship with your employer. If you’re an honest and hard worker, you’re less likely to get pushback.

15. Doctor’s Appointment

Of course, your health is the most important thing of all. Doctor’s appointments are a good excuse to miss work for a few hours (or an entire day depending on the situation). 

Some managers might ask you to reschedule, but here’s the thing: Most offices are only open during standard “nine to five” hours. If you work those same hours, that makes it impossible to get an appointment on your day off.

If you have one scheduled ahead of time, do what you can to notify your manager ahead of time. But remember that last-minute appointments are valid, too. Sometimes, the only time you can get in is when someone cancels. Your health comes first!

16. You’re Moving

Moving likely isn’t something that you do regularly, but it’s a monumental task everyone has to go through at some point.

Ideally, you’d schedule moving duties outside of work hours. But once again, not everyone has that luxury.

Emergencies can also force you to move out suddenly. For example, you or a close family member might be dealing with eviction. There’s also the issue of natural disasters, fires, and more. Those are more common than you think.

Explain your situation and why it’s necessary for you to miss work. We’ve all been there.

17. Migraine

At first, migraines might seem like an odd excuse for calling off work. Everyone experiences headaches, right? 

But a severe migraine can be so painful that you cannot focus on anything. It seriously hinders your productivity (to put it mildly). In many cases, migraines cause light and noise sensitivity. As a result, even being at work can make your situation far worse than it should be.

Most understanding managers aren’t going to question the issue too much. Migraines usually don’t require doctor’s notices, either. Fortunately, things can improve fast, allowing you to return to work the next day.

Migraines are an acceptable excuse to miss work. You can never plan around these debilitating issues, so your only choice is to take things easy and wait for things to pass at home.

How to Avoid Getting In Trouble When Calling Off Work

Requesting a day off can be daunting. You want your manager to see you as trustworthy and reliable, and many people think taking time off diminishes trust or hurts chances for a promotion. Fortunately, that’s not usually the case.

Things happen. You’re not a robot and can suffer from sudden emergencies and family issues just as much as the next person.

So how do you avoid getting into trouble or experiencing some backlash when providing these reasons?

The biggest tip is, to be truthful. There’s no need to lie about your reasoning. You don’t have to go into explicit details about what you’re going through, but don’t skirt around the truth.

Lying will change your managers’ perception of you. Dishonesty hurts you in the long run, so keep things above board.

You also want to brush up on company policy. Every organization has rules about time off. You may see a list of accepted reasons or procedures for making last-minute requests. Follow those rules to a tee to avoid any confusion and frustration.

Finally, try to avoid making it a regular thing to call off work. You can experience rough patches and occasional unavoidable emergencies. But when these issues become too frequent, people start to ask questions.

Suddenly, you cast some doubt over the validity of your past stories. Before long, managers will start to think that you’re unreliable or untrustworthy. 

Reasons to Avoid Giving

It’s okay to miss work every once in a while. As long as you have a valid excuse, it isn’t something you should feel bad about.

But if you think you can use the following reasons to call off work, think again.

Work Conflicts

Everyone goes through issues with colleagues at some point. Some personalities don’t mesh well even if your company focuses on collaboration and teamwork. Your differences could create an uncomfortable work environment, but that’s no excuse to call out from work.

Deal with those issues before they affect your productivity. You can try to work them out on your own. But if that doesn’t work, turn to HR. Anything is better than missing work for issues like this.

Let’s get one thing straight: Mental health days are reasonable to request every once in a while. If you’re genuinely feeling overwhelmed with your workload, talk to your boss and see if you can make improvements.

But asking for a day off because you’re tired? That’s probably not going to be received very well.

An excuse like that comes off as lazy, because everyone gets tired from time to time. Using tiredness as an excuse will not go over well.

Other Job Prospects

Here’s a big no-no: Don’t use an interview for another job as an excuse to get out of work! That’s a quick way to get on your manager’s bad side.

You’re within your right to explore career options and interview for new positions. But it would be best if you did that around your existing work schedule. Use lunch breaks, days off, and other accrued PTO to complete those interviews.

General Workplace Unhappiness

Job dissatisfaction is not a good excuse to skip out on work. If you’re unhappy with your job or certain day-to-day aspects, take it up with your manager or HR. There are many good ways to deal with those problems.

Not showing up isn’t one of them.

Avoidable Last-Minute Requests

Finally, avoid using any last-minute excuse for which you could have provided advance notice. Genuine emergencies happen. But if you simply forget to talk to your manager, it’s not going to reflect well on you.

It comes off as irresponsible. Always let your managers know when you plan to take time off whenever possible. Valid emergency scenarios are okay, but it’s always better to provide early notice when possible.

As you can see, there are plenty of legitimate reasons and excuses you can use for missing work.

As long as you do your best to give your job as much of a heads-up as possible, everything will be just fine.

Hannah Morgan Career Sherpa

Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including  Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success .

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12 good reasons to call out of work (and 4 ways to communicate it)


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If you’re wondering how sick is too sick for work, you’re not alone. Recent research shows that many employees feel guilty for taking sick days , especially if they work from home. 

So what is a good reason to call out of work? Some might think physical pain or a family emergency is the only valid excuse to take a day off of work. But in reality, there are plenty of reasons that you might call out of work. From a bad cold to needing a mental health day, it’s OK to take the time you need to rest. 

Unfortunately, hustle culture has led many of us to believe that we should just “push through” illnesses and personal problems. In fact, the idea that showing up is more important than taking care of yourself is so common that it has a name: presenteeism . Though this behavior may come from a desire to succeed professionally, it can only lead to burnout in the long term. 

The truth is that there are plenty of valid reasons to miss work. As long as you’re not taking advantage of company policies, calling out of work should be reframed as a form of self-care. When you take the time you need to rest, you can be more effective, productive, and focused later. There’s science behind the power of Inner Work® and rest . In fact, at BetterUp, we’ve studied this. Engaging in different types of rest improves well-being, productivity, and focus . 

Let’s dive into 15 legitimate reasons to call out of work, how to communicate with your team when you need a day off, and tips for returning to work after time away. 

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12 good reasons to call out of work

If you work remotely, you may struggle over the decision to call in sick . Yet, studies show that working while sick negatively impacts your job performance . You might be doing the work, but if you’re not fully present, you’re bound to make errors or turn in lower-quality work. 

But being sick is just one of many valid excuses for missing work. We’re all human and sometimes, life happens. It’s important to understand when you need to take a step back. 

12 good reasons to call out work

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Feeling sick
  • Food poisoning
  • Someone else is sick 
  • Doctor’s appointment 
  • Caring for a pet 
  • Family emergency 
  • Lack of childcare
  • Car trouble
  • Internet connection issues
  • Jury duty 
  • Personal day

1. Loss of a loved one 

If someone you love passes away, the last thing you want to think about is work. On top of taking time to process your grief , you may need to deal with logistical and financial arrangements such as the funeral.  

Some companies have a formal bereavement leave policy to cover death in the family, so be sure to check your employee handbook for guidelines. If not, you can talk to human resources or your manager directly about what happened and why you need time off. 

2. Feeling sick 

If you’re suffering from seasonal allergies, a minor headache, or a mild case of the common cold, you can probably still get things done. However, if an illness is keeping you from being fully engaged or focused on your job, it’s best to take a day off to rest. Remember, even if you could work from the comfort of your bed, that doesn’t mean you’ll be effective. 

If you do have to go somewhere in-person, contagious symptoms like coughing could be considered a good excuse to call out of work. In this case, it’s best to check with your manager. Keep in mind that your employer may ask for a doctor’s note if you tell them you’re feeling seriously ill. 

3. Food poisoning 

Food poisoning wrecks your body and often, keeps you up all night. If you eat something bad and get sick afterward, it’s completely normal to call out of work. You may need to catch up on sleep or simply take some extra time to recover. 

4. Someone else is sick 

Maybe you’re feeling fine, but you have a sick child at home and need to take care of them. You might have to pick up a prescription, drive them to urgent care, or make sure their fever doesn’t spike. 

Whatever support your family member needs, it will be hard to juggle that on top of your work responsibilities (even if you work from home ). Yes, you could try, but more than likely your attention will be on other things. If you can, it’s best to step away from your desk for the day and take of your family. 

5. Last-minute doctor’s appointment 

Usually, you can give your employer advance notice if you need to take the day off for a medical appointment. But in some rare cases, you may need to call out at the last minute. 

For example, say you’re waiting to see a specialist that has limited availability. If they call you in the morning to say that someone canceled their appointment, you may want to jump at the chance to take that opening. If you don’t, it could be months before you see this doctor. It’s reasonable to miss work for the appointment. Make sure you communicate clearly with your manager to gain support and the time you need to focus on your health and well-being. 


6. Caring for a pet 

If your pet has an emergency, that’s certainly an acceptable excuse to call out of work. Your dog might’ve gotten into the trash and potentially eaten something poisonous. Or you notice your cat is limping and not eating. Or you need to take a pet to a surgical procedure or some other type of appointment. It’s OK to make your animals a priority. 

Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. If you can’t avoid missing work, your manager is likely to understand your need to attend to a pet emergency. 

7. Family emergency 

Any good employer will understand that family comes first . That means if you’re faced with a sudden and unexpected family emergency, it’s completely reasonable to call out — in these moments, we need to give our loved ones our full attention. 

Here are some examples of family emergencies that could cause you to miss work: 

  • Someone needs to have an unplanned, urgent surgery 
  • A family member was in a car accident 
  • An elderly family member is injured 
  • You need to travel to support relatives that were victims of a natural disaster 
  • A family member is going into labor and needs you to take care of their other kids
  • Someone is dealing with mental health issues and you need to be present to support them

8. Lack of childcare 

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic brought childcare problems for many working parents . And even though the effects of the pandemic have faded, parents still need workplace flexibility as they juggle raising their children and contributing to their jobs. 

This doesn’t just affect parents that need to go to the office, either. Even if you work from home, that doesn’t mean you can be productive when school is unexpectedly closed or your babysitter calls out sick. Needing some time to work out childcare arrangements is a great excuse to call out of work (as long as it’s true, of course). 

Calling out of work to prioritize childcare can also help curb the impact of caregiver fatigue . After all, caregivers are burdened with quite a lot of priorities. It’s important to make sure you’re helping your working parents focus their energy on what matters most. 

9. Car trouble  

Whether it’s a flat tire or a fender bender, car trouble can really ruin your day. Sometimes you can wait to address these issues until the weekend, but most likely, you’ll need to get that tire changed or submit insurance claims sooner rather than later. 

If you have a less serious car problem, you can just call out of work for a few hours. But if you get into an accident on the freeway, you could be held up for much longer. Whatever the trouble, just be sure to inform your manager as soon as you can. 

10. Internet connection issues 

If you’re having trouble with your internet connection, remote work can feel just about impossible. But before you call out, see if you can get online using your cell phone’s hotspot or by going to a local cafe that has free WiFi. 

If your WiFi problems are being caused by severe weather conditions, though, you may not want to leave your house to access the internet. If that’s the case, just take the day off and try to get online after the weather passes through.  

11. Jury duty 

If you receive a jury summons in the mail, you have one of the best excuses to call out of work. Jury duty is a responsibility that you can’t avoid, so be sure to ask for time off as soon as you know you need it. 

According to federal law, your employer is required to give you unpaid time off for jury duty — but depending on your state, they could also be required to pay you for those days off. Either way, you may be asked to show your official jury summons to your employer, so be prepared.

12. A personal day 

Sometimes, you just have too much on your plate. Maybe you’re moving to a new apartment or juggling home renovations on top of your work schedule. Or maybe you’ve hit a bout of challenges and need to take a mental health day . Whatever you’re dealing with, a personal day could be what you need to stay sane, run errands, and catch up on life. 

The one thing you shouldn’t use a personal day for is your job search . This is dishonest and could put your coworkers in a tough position if you call out at the last minute for no good reason. Use traditional paid time off for your interviews and plan ahead as much as you can. 


Reasons to call out of work last minute

As we all know, we can’t control what life throws at us. It would be nice to know when emergencies are going to happen, but that’s not realistic. At some point or another, you might need to call out of work at the last minute — here are three reasons why. 


Severe weather can prevent you from commuting or knock out your internet connection. But hurricanes, tornadoes, and other dangerous events can also mean you need to evacuate on short notice. Even if you don’t evacuate, you may need to take a couple of hours off to stock up on supplies and groceries ahead of the storm. 

Home emergency 

Whether it’s a pipe burst or a bedbug infestation, problems with your home can distract you from working. These situations are almost always sudden and disruptive, so you’ll probably have to call out at the last minute to manage the emergency. 

Circumstances out of your control

Ultimately, any unexpected situation out of your control can keep you from working. It could be something as simple as running out of gas on the highway as you’re commuting to the office. Or, it can be as dramatic as the family emergencies we listed earlier. Regardless, it’s important to know when to call out so that you can take care of yourself and maintain a good work-life balance . 

A note on mental health days

Not every company allows for mental health days, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a valid reason to call out of work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, mentally exhausted , or constantly anxious, it’s time to find a way to step back. 

So how can you balance your employer’s policy while also preventing burnout ? Well, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and HIPAA, you don’t have to tell anyone why you're taking sick time . That means you can use sick days to focus on your mental health — because it’s just as important as your physical health. 

There are plenty of ways to spend a mental health day . A mental health day can allow you to check in with your therapist or coach, get outdoors, or simply relax on the couch. Do whatever you need to do so that you can come back to work the next day with more energy and excitement. This will help you thrive at work in the long run. 

At BetterUp, we’ve studied a concept called Inner Work ®. It’s a practice that challenges us to look inward at our experience, though it’s personal and unique to every individual. 

After all, our inner world looks at how we show up for ourselves, what we value, and how we see the world around us. Without taking a pause to look inward, we risk grinding ourselves to dust. 

The science behind Inner Work® tells us that we return to our workplace as better communicators, better teammates, and better leaders. In fact, it’s been shown to improve employee retention , employee engagement , and even curb the impact of burnout. 


How to call out of work

You might have a perfectly good reason to call out of work, but if you don’t communicate with your boss, you could put your job in jeopardy. Here are 4 steps to calling out of work the right way. 

1. Alert your boss ASAP 

As soon as you know that you won’t be able to work, give your boss a phone call or send them a message. If you wake up at 6 am with a migraine or you’re up with a sick child at 3 am, you can even go ahead and send them an email at this hour. Then, within work hours, it’s a good idea to follow up and confirm the message was received. 

2. Keep it simple

You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of your food poisoning to request the day off.

Keep your message brief, direct, and clear so that your manager and team members know why you’re going to be away and when they can expect you back. 

3. Be honest  

Honesty is crucial when calling out of work. If you just want to sleep in, don’t lie and say you’re feeling ill. Remember, you were given sick days for a reason, and they should be used responsibly — but also at your discretion. If your kids kept you up all night and your mental health is going to suffer without some sleep, then you can be honest about that, too.

4. Share updates 

Finally, stay in touch with your company as much as possible. If you find out you need more time off than you originally thought, tell them immediately. When you’re feeling better, share that, too. This will make it clear to your team that you take your job seriously. 

Tips to return to work without feeling overwhelmed

Going back to work after time away can be stressful, even if you’ve been planning your vacation for months. When you have to step away suddenly and without preparation, it can be even tougher. 

Here are a few tips for avoiding overwhelm when you return to work: 

  • If you have time before you call out, send an email to your manager and team with a list of the most important things that need to be done while you’re away. 
  • Keep a document of all your current projects and their statuses. Update it regularly so your team can access it and continue to make progress when you’re not there. 
  • Create how-to tutorials for your most important tasks. When you’re dealing with a personal emergency, those tasks can then be handed over to a team member. 
  • Make sure to take plenty of breaks during your first few days back at work. It will be easy to get caught up in meetings, emails, and everything else, but try to ease yourself in.

The bottom line on calling out of work 

You might feel guilty for missing work, but if you don’t take care of your family, your health, and your well-being, you’ll struggle to be productive — even if you work from home. Plus, not taking the time off when you need it can reduce your job performance, keep you sick longer, and lead to burnout. 

When you take care of yourself, you can be fully present at work. That will make, you and your employer, happier in the long run. 

If you’re a leader, trusting and supporting your employees is one of the most important things you can do. But if you’re not sure where to start, BetterUp can help. Access to virtual coaching can provide personalized support to navigate challenges, especially the ones that we don’t anticipate.

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Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

Is presenteeism a problem? You may be encouraging it — do this instead

The hidden struggle of working moms guilt. here's how to overcome it, how inner child work enables healing and playful discovery, face workplace stressors head-on with these tips, don’t get boredout. here’s what to do when you’re bored at work, too much alone together. the risk factors for social isolation, 10 ways to calm down anxiety when you're feeling overwhelmed, avoid caregiver burnout: why asking for help is your secret weapon, dealing with work anxiety how, when, and if you should tell your boss, similar articles, feeling tired 7 reasons to take a vacation, how to work from home with kids: 12 tips for remote and hybrid work, how to call in sick and what to say, mental health days: what, when and why you shouldn’t hesitate to take one, how to ask for time off in 7 steps, how to request stress leave from work, put out-of-office messages to work for you when you’re away, reactive vs. proactive management styles: which one gets results, what is absenteeism in the workplace and how much is acceptable, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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