You’re at work and want to go home early. What do you do?
Coming up, I’m going to share 10 good excuses to leave work on short notice.
You can use these excuses to attend a job interview or simply get some time off if you’re exhausted.
Good, acceptable reasons to leave work early include the following:
All of these are good excuses to leave work on short notice.
But some may be better than others depending on the time of day and situation.
Coming up, I’ll share more on the pros and cons of each reason, and what to say if you decide to use one of these excuses to get out of work.
Feeling dizzy is one of the best excuses to leave work early, especially on short notice.
It’s a great excuse because it’s quite hard for an employer to doubt you or say they still need you to stay. If you’re dizzy and unable to continue working, what can they say?
It’s also unlikely that they’ll ask if you’ve tried taking medicine. Whereas, if you say you have an upset stomach, your boss may suggest taking some medicine on your lunch break and then seeing how you feel.
So if you’re looking for a surefire way of leaving work early, you can report feeling dizzy with a script like the following:
“I’d like to go home early. I’m feeling quite dizzy and am not sure why.” This is direct, convincing, and is always an appropriate reason to go home from work.
Any good employer should respect your health and well-being, and send you home.
Better yet, this excuse allows you to return the next day and say you’re feeling fine again! Whereas with some other medical symptoms you may report (like those coming up), an employer is more likely to follow up and ask how you’re doing over the next few days.
Next, you can say that you’re feeling ill suddenly. You can report feeling sick in general, or feeling nauseous.
Like the excuse above, this will allow you to leave work early, and most employers will not request a doctor’s note or expect you to attend a medical appointment for a simple illness like this.
Note that feeling sick in general is a good excuse to call out of work before the workday, too. A good employer will not want somebody coming into the workplace and infecting other people with a cold/flu, and should grant you sick leave if you report symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.
Of course, some employers and bosses are far from great. Use your best judgment with this excuse. If your boss is someone who pressures sick people to come to work anyway, then this may not be the best excuse for you.
A migraine is another one of the best excuses to leave work on short notice, especially if you say you’re feeling extreme sensitivity to light and sound (which is a common symptom of migraines).
Again, it’s hard for employers to pressure you into staying at work if you say that you can’t look at your computer screen due to light sensitivity and pain.
So, this boosts your chances of leaving early without having to engage in a battle with your boss!
And like the excuses above, it’s quite easy to come back to work the next day and say “I’m feeling fine now, thanks.”
No doctor’s note or medical appointment is required.
Also, this is an excuse that you can use multiple times throughout the year (within reason, of course). Whereas, with some reasons below, like a dental emergency, you’re just going to be able to leave work early one time.
Saying you need to attend a doctor’s appointment is another good reason to leave work early. To use this reason, you can simply say:
“I need to leave a few hours early to attend a doctor’s appointment. I’ve been waiting to hear about availability and the doctor just had a cancellation open up. If I don’t go now, I’m not sure when I will get an appointment, and this is an important appointment for me.”
You don’t need to name a specific, personal illness or any more than that. Most employers should accept this reason.
But depending on your employer, you may be asked for a doctor’s note the next day.
That’s the one risk or downside here.
So, think about whether your boss is likely to request a doctor’s note before you use this excuse!
You can also use a last-minute dental appointment or emergency to leave work early.
Any time during your regular work hours, you can say the following:
“I need to leave work early today. I’m experiencing sudden tooth pain as of this morning and just received a message that my dentist can fit me in for an appointment today.”
I used this excuse once while working as a recruiter. It was true in my case. I woke up, noticed that one of my teeth felt strange, and called my dentist that morning to request an appointment.
Just before lunch, my dentist got back to me with an appointment, and I immediately told my boss.
He said, “No problem. Why don’t you just come back tomorrow and I’ll see you then. I hope the appointment goes well.”
This was for a 2:00 pm appointment. That’s a great hour to leave work early and not be asked to return, depending on where your appointment is, and what your company’s regular business hours are.
If you have children, then their illness is another great excuse that you can use once or twice per year for leaving work early.
If your child falls ill and needs to be picked up from school, or needs immediate attention at home, most employers will let you go home to care for your child.
You shouldn’t need to provide much more detail than that!
Most companies will find this to be an acceptable excuse to leave work on short notice.
If you want to give a very general excuse, you can say that you need to attend to a family emergency or home emergency and leave it at that.
As long as you don’t have a track record of poor attendance or requesting “too much” time off, most bosses will accept this once per year with little question.
Next, you can say that you’ve been notified that you need to be home for an important delivery or repair. You can say that you cannot miss it, and the worker has informed you that someone must be home at the time they arrive.
You may face follow-up questions with this excuse, though, so be prepared.
For example, your supervisor may ask, “What are you having delivered? Sounds interesting.”
Still, any reasonable boss should let you head home if you say that your presence is required.
If you commute to work by car, you can ask your employer to let you leave a few hours early to get your car fixed.
This is a good way to get the afternoon off with few questions from your employer, if any.
You can say that you’ve been concerned about your car recently. You could tell your boss that the mechanic had some availability open up at the last minute, and if you don’t go to this appointment, you could end up missing more work due to ongoing car trouble.
Most bosses should see this as a valid reason to let you leave early.
The above are all good excuses to leave work early, but if you have some other reason, consider telling the truth (unless you’re attending job interviews; in this case, I do NOT recommend telling your boss).
But if you need to help a family member or take a day off for mental health reasons etc., then consider telling your employer what’s really going on.
If your company has a good culture and cares about its employees, they’ll want to know what’s happening, and they’ll understand that we all need time off from work occasionally.
You don’t need to fake a sudden illness or make up a detailed story about your family members if you have some other personal reason for wanting to leave early.
And if you’re facing a true last-minute emergency like a home break-in, then just tell your direct supervisor in one sentence, “I’ve had a home break-in. I need to head home now.”
Overall, trust your instinct. If you feel your reason is not acceptable or wise to share, then you can use one of the safe, common excuses above to ensure you’re leaving work early with no risk.
I’ll keep this section brief, but I want to warn you about two types of BAD reasons to leave work. Avoid these reasons.
First, don’t tell your boss or HR department that you need time off to attend job interviews at another company.
This is NEVER a good idea. Wait until you’ve accepted a new job offer to tell your current employer anything about your search for new employment.
Next, avoid any reasons that you should have known about in advance.
For example, if you name certain family obligations like a wedding or party, your boss is going to question why you didn’t request a day off in advance.
Any time you leave work early, you’re putting your boss in a bit of a tough spot. So it’s best to choose a reason that’s truly last-minute and could not have been anticipated.
That’s why so many of the reasons above are related to sick leave or an unpredictable emergency.
While the excuses above are safe and acceptable if you want to get a partial day off, you should request time off in advance for ongoing issues.
For example, if you’re routinely feeling tired at work, take a vacation.
If you’re struggling with mental health, do the same.
If you need time off for ongoing medical treatment, arrange it with your direct supervisor.
You’ll be more likely to receive a positive response from your boss if you ask for time off in advance so that they can cover your shift.
You can leave on short notice for a personal emergency once or twice without doing harm to your standing at work, but don’t make a habit of it.
If you’ve read the list above, you now know 10 common, acceptable excuses to leave work during your shift.
You can use any of the excuses above without setting off any red flags with your boss/company.
As long as you’re not leaving work early regularly, your employer and team will likely understand.
And as a final word of advice: whichever excuse you choose, be direct, brief, and don’t share too much detail when explaining.
You don’t need to spend five minutes in your boss’s office (or five paragraphs via email) explaining why you’re leaving early. Say a few sentences and be done with it.
The best excuses to leave work early are brief, succinct, and share just enough detail to convince your company that you need to leave for the day.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
Get our free PDF with the top 30 interview questions and answers. Join 10,000+ job seekers in our email newsletter and we'll send you the 30 must-know questions, plus our best insider tips for turning interviews into job offers.