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Excuses to Call Out of Work: Legitimate Reasons for Short Notice Absences

Take time off from work while maintaining professionalism with these ingenious excuses. Learn how to approach your boss, what not to say, and more.
By Synkdup Editorial Team  |  15 May 2024
Excuses to Call Out of Work

Honesty is the best policy – unless you tell your employer that you can’t come to work because you don’t feel like working today. In such cases, half-honesty is the best policy: I don’t feel like working today because my dog just died.

At times, you really need to take a day off or check out early but don’t have a justifiable reason to give to your manager. In moments like that, it really helps to have a ready-made excuse at your disposal.

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So in this article, we are going to discuss some excuses that you can give for missing work on short notice. Go through them and see which one fits you best, as many of the excuses listed in this article are not going to be useful to everyone. For example, only people with kids can use excuses related to child emergencies, and only married people can use their spouse in the story as to why they can’t come to work.

Most excuses can be put into one of these categories:

  • Sickness
  • Accident
  • A friend suddenly needs help
  • Family emergency

Making excuses to skip work or leave work early is part and parcel of corporate life. So much so that, often, the manager knows very well that the person asking for a day off is lying about their reason, but they just go along with it.

However, the biggest concern of any manager while approving your short-notice leave of absence is that you are going to make a habit of it. They are worried that if they let you off the hook once, you might start taking liberties. So, make sure to use the excuses shared in this article sparingly.

Excuses to Call Out of Work - Things to Remember

Before we dive into the excuses to not show up at work, here are some things to keep in mind whenever you need to take a day or two off unexpectedly.

  1. Make sure to show respect by properly following the company protocol and policies for applying for leave.
  2. Make sure you inform your supervisor or employer that you are not going to attend work that day BEFORE the office day begins.
  3. If possible, suggest a solution for your absence, such as offering to find a coworker to cover your shift or proposing how you'll make up for missed work.
  4. Assure your supervisor that you will finish all your pending work in time and proactively coordinate with the team to catch up with them when you come back to work.
  5. If a team member has to fill in for you, make sure to express your gratitude and try to make it up to them.

15 Bulletproof Excuses to Get Out of Work/Leave Early

1. House Maintenance

A sudden repair requirement around the house, such as a plumbing emergency, electricity or wiring issues, or heating or cooling system repair, can be a very believable reason to miss work. Water, electricity, and heating/cooling are basic utilities, and if something goes wrong with their supply system, it merits urgent fixing. And it can happen completely out of nowhere, too. What’s more, it doesn’t sound like a generic excuse, and, delivered well, the supervisor is most likely to believe it. This makes house maintenance one of the most bulletproof excuses to skip work.

2. Brief Sickness

Granted, this one is not the most original idea, but the truth is that generic as it is, it actually works really well. You just need to make sure that the illness you pick is one that can go away within a day without you seeing a doctor. Say something like food poisoning, stomach flu, a migraine, or allergies. Contagious diseases like strep throat and the common cold are really good options because you get to throw in the bit about how you don’t want to risk getting others infected.

3. Family Emergency

The beauty of this excuse lies in the fact that you could just say the term ‘family emergency’ and there would be no further questions asked. In most workplaces, it is taken for granted that when someone gives this as a reason for absence, it is because they don’t want to be specific without solicitation. It is very likely that your superior will not ask you about the nature of the emergency out of simple courtesy. And if they do, the sickness of a family member who you need to wait on is a bulletproof excuse.

4. Accidents

Accidents of all sorts and scales are a part of our earthly existence. And when it comes to excuses for missing work, the best thing about them is that they can happen to anybody, anytime, anywhere. From a pulled hamstring to a car crash, you can use any kind of accident as a reason to miss work. Something as common as ‘’I tried to lift the side of the couch while cleaning at home and sprained my back’’ works quite well, in spite of how generic it is.

5. Pet Issues

If your boss/supervisor is a pet parent, this one should work very well for them. Pet-related excuses cover a wide range from my pet ran away to my pet is sick/injured to my pet just died. It depends on how far you want to take it, though in most cases, your pet being lost should suffice just fine. And since sickness would warrant a vet’s medical report, it is safest to simply go with the missing pet story.

6. Doctor’s Appointment

Doctor’s appointments are pre-scheduled, so normally you can’t use them as an excuse to skip work. However, you can say that a slot just opened up for a certain doctor’s appointment or that they suddenly rescheduled your appointment due to a cancellation. The only trouble with this strategy is that the employer may ask you to produce the medical report or doctor’s prescription when you go back to work.

7. Bereavement

If you really want that day off, killing off an imaginary family member shouldn’t be too big a deal. Don’t go overboard with the acting though, just keep a poker face to be safe. The loss of a loved one would arouse the sympathy of most bosses, and it is one of the most formidable excuses to miss work on short notice. This is a particularly good excuse for getting more than one day off.

8. Taking Care of Someone Who’s Sick

Looking after your loved ones when they are sick is an important part of social life, so it is very understandable if you call out of work with this excuse. If you have kids, you can say it is them, and if not, you can always invent a relative. You can go ‘’my aunt is sick, and my uncle has to urgently go out of town, so I need to take care of her for one day till my uncle comes back.’’ Simple as that.

9. Shifting

Generally, moving does not make for a good excuse to skip work on short notice because moving is not something that comes up abruptly; you generally plan your move weeks, if not months, in advance. However, if you are on particularly good terms with your supervisor, you could tell them you forgot to apply for leave amidst all the packing and planning. And, come to think of it, the fact that it is never used as an excuse for missing a workday only makes it more believable.

10. Period Pain

If you’re a gal, saying you have got period cramps is a truly bulletproof excuse to miss work—no questions asked. It is a mic drop where nothing more needs to be said. However, you should probably consider this one ethically. You might not want to use this reason falsely, as it could contribute to giving the whole issue of women’s needs a bad rap.

11. Power Cut (Remote work)

For people who work from home or on a hybrid work model, a sudden power cut is one of the best pretexts to call out of work under, unless you think your boss could ask you to come to the office and work.

When you are working remotely, your boss cannot see you or your computer. This offers the opportunity to make excuses like ‘’my computer suddenly broke down’’. You can also customize this excuse around any technology malfunction specific to the software you use at work to make it more believable.

12. Expecting a Parcel Delivery

‘’I was expecting a parcel delivery from Amazon tomorrow and had arranged for a friend to be there to receive it. But last night I got an email and phone text saying the delivery guy would arrive a day early, which is today. There’s no one here to receive it, and it is a parcel of utmost importance, so I need to take the day off. I hope you understand.’’ Simple as that.

If your boss demands a screenshot of the invoice, you can just say the item you bought is something personal. They’ll probably understand and be too embarrassed to ask any further questions.

13. Dead Car Battery

Most car troubles that would deter you from going to work would need you to take your car to the mechanic. So, you need to arrange a fake mechanic invoice for some regular repair and maintenance, which you should be able to do easily if you are on friendly terms with your mechanic. And if you cannot arrange a forfeit invoice, a dead car battery is the best car-excuse.

The morning you want to skip work, you can call your boss and tell him your car won’t start and you are having the mechanic come over. He can’t get here before lunch, and so I can’t make it to work today.

If the next day, when you go back to work, the boss asks you to produce a mechanic’s invoice, you can just say, ‘’ It was just a dead battery, and the mechanic just jump-started it with his car. And he’s a friend, so he didn’t charge anything.’’

14. Surprise Guest

‘’An old aunt from outside of town knocked on my door this morning out of nowhere. She is headed to my parents', but she’s going to make a pit stop at my place. There is no way I can leave her alone and go to the office. I really regret it, but I just can’t make it to work today.’’ Most people are sensitive to familial obligations and would probably understand. If you know your boss to have an elderly relative, bingo, invent the same relation for your excuse for better chances of winning your boss’ empathy.

15. Getting Locked Out of Your House/Car

This one works best if you can come up with a funny story about how you got locked out. Remember to throw in some specific elements from your work or personal life to make it more believable.

You can send your boss a text like this: ‘’ I was staying at a friend’s place last night. He works as a gym trainer and leaves for work at 6 in the morning. He left this morning when I was still fast asleep, and he must have locked the door out of habit, forgetting I’m there and I need to go to work too. So, I am locked in here till he comes back around 12. And that’s why I cannot come into work today. Really sorry!’’

Informing Your Boss

The way you break the news of your day off to your superior is as important as the excuse you give for it. In addition to a formal email, you should also notify them with a brief WhatsApp message or a phone text. And, of course, it is always better to just call.

Notifying formalities vary from workplace to place; however, the practice of sending an email is more or less standard. So, here is a template for writing an email informing your supervisor that you won’t be coming to work that day:

Subject: Request for Emergency Leave—[Your Full Name]

Dear [Supervisor's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to inform you of an unexpected family emergency that requires my immediate attention and presence. Due to this urgent situation, I regret to request a day off from work on [date] to attend to this family matter.

I assure you that I will make every effort to minimize the disruption to the team and ensure that all my tasks are up-to-date and well-organized during my absence. If needed, I am available to provide guidance or support remotely.

I understand the inconvenience my sudden absence may cause and will ensure to complete any pending work promptly upon my return. I am also willing to adjust my schedule or work extra hours to compensate for the lost time.

Please let me know if there are any specific procedures or paperwork required for requesting this emergency leave. I will be more than willing to comply with the company's policies and procedures in this regard.

Thank you for your understanding and consideration during this difficult time. I will keep you informed of any changes in my situation and the expected date of my return to work.

Best regards,

[Your Full Name]
[Your Position]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Phone Number]

This is a great sample to get an idea of the format that’s followed for an application for a day off. You can base your email on this sample, making changes to suit your excuse for missing work, and rest assured that you have sent a professional email.

How to Craft a Believable Excuse

The most believable excuses are the ones for which you already have material. For example, if the flu has been going around in the city lately, catching the flu would be a very believable excuse to miss work.

Or, say, if everyone at work knows you have a dog, my dog is sick would be a good excuse. Or if you are a gym goer, you have always got stuff like a muscle pull or sprain. You get the idea.

Sometimes, saying something completely over the top and bizarre with stone-faced confidence also works. Something like ‘’it's a festival in the religious cult I just joined.’’

Generally, a good excuse has the following three elements:

  • Empathy: Try to give a reason that your employer can empathize with. If, for instance, both you and your supervisor have kids, you can say something like my daughter had a fight with another kid at school yesterday and I need to report to her school for a parent-teacher meet-up today.
  • Authenticity: Try to avoid generic excuses like sickness or ‘family emergency’. Try to come up with an excuse that is specific to you in some way. For example, if you drive a trashy car to work, it would be very plausible if you said your car broke down. Tying up your excuse with some personal information lends credibility and authenticity to the excuse.
  • Apology: The way you deliver an excuse is just as important as the excuse itself. Remember, no matter how good you think your excuse is, always have an apologetic tone while communicating it. Take care that your mannerism clearly communicates that you regret having to take the day off.

Bad Excuses to Miss Work: What Not to Say

Any excuse that your boss can verify by running a simple reference check, like asking you to produce relevant documents, is a bad excuse to skip work. Anything like military duty, doctor’s appointment, and car repair are lame and weak because your boss could ask for the mechanic’s invoice etc.

But in case you happen to have some way of forging documents that prove military duty, military duty is a pretty cool excuse. Your boss would never dare be too hard on you in the prevalent politically correct corporate atmosphere.

Also, look out for anything that people have said a lot in the past, as your boss could be biased towards that reason. Take common reasons like migraines and food poisoning, for example. And generally, migraine only works as an excuse when you have a history of the disorder.

As a rule, always steer away from excuses that reflect your prioritizing personal preferences over professional responsibilities. Like a friend’s birthday or a minor religious occasion. Also, avoid reasons that contradict your recent behavior, activities, or commitments. And of course, you should also avoid excuses that stem from laziness or procrastination rather than an emergency.

Navigating Company Policies for Off Days

Before you start raking your brains for excuses to get out of work, you might want to stop and think about whether it is even necessary. Most companies have policies in place for times when an employee needs to miss work for even half a day, and there might be a provision for the reason you need to miss work. Even if there isn’t, it is very important that you clearly understand your company’s policies for off days. So make sure you know about the following before approaching your supervisor with a leave request:

Accrual and Allocation of Paid Time Off (PTO)

Most companies have a system outlining how PTO is accrued and how it’s allocated during the year. So make sure you understand how your PTO is accumulated, whether it carries over to the next year, and other specifications related to it.

Application Protocol

There is most likely a protocol for requesting time off, whether it is through an online system, email, or a specific form. Most companies nowadays use some kind of attendance tracking software, and you need to apply for leave on it. Most workplaces also have comprehensive guidelines about how much notice is required for various types of leaves. Make sure you are well informed about all this, especially if it has been a while since you last took a day off.

Unplanned Leave and Sick Leave

Unplanned leave, often referred to as unplanned time off or unscheduled leave, is any absence from work that is not prearranged, scheduled in advance, or part of regular time-off plans. Make sure you are updated on the policies regarding carryover, compensation, or forfeiture of unused leave at the end of the year. And the same goes for sick leave.

Approval Process

Make sure you understand who is authorized to approve time-off requests, which could be your supervisor, HR department, or, as is generally the case, a combination of both.


Q3: Is a flat tire a good excuse to miss work?

Ans: It is, but you gotta say you fixed it yourself because if you say you took your ride to the mechanic, your boss might want to say the mechanic’s invoice. A flat tire might also not be a good excuse if your boss is likely to ask, Does it take a whole day to have a tire fixed?

Q4: Is mental health a reason to miss work?

Ans: Yes, mental health is definitely a justified reason to miss work. HRs today are more aware about mental health issues than ever before. Mental distress is recognized as a valid handicap in most modern business organizations. You could simply say, I feel overwhelmed with stress, there’s a lot going on in my personal life right now, and I am getting extremely anxious, I think I should take a day off–and it would be perfectly acceptable.

Q5: What to say when calling in sick while pregnant?

Ans: Nothing. When you are pregnant, it is very likely and understandable for you to have health issues. You can even say something vague or generic, like I'm feeling sick in the stomach, or even simply, I am feeling extremely tired. If you are in the latter months of your pregnancy, you can even get away with a simple ‘’I’m not feeling well today’’.

Q6: How many days of work can you miss?

Ans: It completely depends on your employment contract, company policies, the reason for your absence, and the applicable labor laws in your region. The workload during your absence is also an important factor. Generally, you can get fewer days off during busy, high-activity periods at work.

Q7: Can you get fired for calling in sick?

Ans: Yes, although it is unacceptable under normal circumstances, there are some scenarios where calling in sick can get you fired. The most likely reason for which you can get fired for calling sick is habitual absenteeism. If you have been taking too many days off lately, it may make your employer wonder if it wouldn’t be better for the organization to just lay you off. Especially if they can tell that you are lying.


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