If you need to miss work, including on short notice, this article will give you the 9 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 9 believable excuses for missing work, even at the last minute.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked 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.
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