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