Missing work at the last minute can feel as pressured as negotiating a NATO peace treaty.
Whether someone is calling in sick, needing a mental health day, or just “literally can’t” on a given day, there are bulletproof excuses to get out of work and ways to massage the message to the managers.
The words, tone, and channels you use to ask for time off at the last minute are important.
In some cases, you’ve got the power of the law backing you up.
What Type of Excuses Do Bosses Generally Find Acceptable?
The word “excuse” is a slippery slope. Are you justifying a fault or simply being released from a requirement?
Trying to find the best excuse to miss work can leave an employee with a sense of guilt that makes a day off feel like doomsday.
There’s no magic formula here—the most believable excuses for missing work are the honest, authentic kind.
- Health Issues: Companies are more aware than after post-pandemic that forcing or quilting someone to call in sick can lead to more illness in the office.
- Legally Protected Issues: State laws vary about the use of mental health days, and your company handbook will detail the time-off allotments. FMLA is protected under federal law but requires paperwork in advance.
- Accidents: If you or one of your dependents has been in an accident, your boss likely won’t push back.
- Burnout: Bosses who know good employees are at their wit’s end might be more flexible.
27 Good Excuses To Miss Work On Short Notice
It’s always wise not to “make up an excuse,” but you can take life events and challenges and parlay them into a day off.
Bosses have limitations and latitude as to how they can react to an employee’s last-minute call to take the day off.
1. You just aren’t feeling well.
COVID taught us that no illness presents the same in each person; bosses don’t want to risk it. You should offer to work from home. Don’t apologize.
“I woke up with a fever and need to rest.”
“I have a sore throat with white patches. I’m going to the doctor and won’t be in today.”
2. Your kids are sick.
When a child is ill, you’ve been exposed. It’s time to focus on healing and prevention for both of you.
“My child has been vomiting all night. I need to stay home with him.”
“We have a bug going around our house. Out of the utmost caution, I’m staying home.”
3. You are mentally unprepared for a work day.
School shootings, gun violence, political feuds, and severe weather wear on all of us.
“I’m mentally shaken about the storms that kept us up all night. I am helping with community clean up today.”
“My family needs a day to distance themselves from tragic news. We are all unplugging, and I won’t be available.”
4. You see severe weather is in the forecast.
If you’re in a watch or advisory area, take action outside of work.
“The NWS advises this storm could be damaging, and I need to prepare my family today.”
“The winter storm will make road conditions treacherous, and on the advice of the weather experts, I’m staying off the streets.”
5. You have aches and pains that are too much to bear.
The aches in necks and eyes from too much screen time need attention.
“I’m going to the chiropractor to get my spine aligned. I need to rest after that. I’ll be in tomorrow.”
“I have a migraine aura and need to get away from screens and sounds. Please accept this as notice that I won’t be in today.”
6. You have car trouble, new or ongoing, that needs to be handled.
You need reliable transportation to get to and from work, so use a day to deal with auto or bicycle issues.
“My car battery died again today. This is inconvenient for everyone. I’m addressing it today and won’t be in the office.”
“We had a rash of car break-ins at my apartment complex, and I’m having a catalytic converter cage added.”
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7. You slipped and fell down and need to rest.
It just takes a little black ice to turn a step into a slip and fall.
“I fell going to my car just now. I need to lay down the rest of the day and ice my ankle.”
“I saw three people fall today, and I can’t risk that with my knee injury. I will be staying home today.”
8. You have a time-sensitive delivery.
You have no control over delivery drivers in a distribution shortage.
“I have a major appliance being delivered between 10 am and 2 pm today. It just makes sense to take the day off.”
“The bug company is coming today to access all corners of my home, and I am required to be home.”
9. Your dental pain has reached an intolerable level.
Nobody can focus at work with dental pain, and even breathing can introduce new bacteria.
“I have a tooth infection so bad I can hardly see straight. I will be taking a sick day.”
“The dentist told me this root canal requires me to be in bed for 12 hours afterward. I won’t be available today.”
10. You have a last-minute guest coming to town.
The pandemic took away much-needed family and friends moments. Don’t feel guilty.
“My 60-year-old aunt can finally leave home, and she just showed up at my door. I’m spending the day with her while I can.”
“It turns out my best friend from college is in town for 24 hours, and we’re going to reconnect after 20 years.”
11. Your internet needs troubleshooting.
There are only so many “NO INTERNET” alerts we can handle with shoddy service. Take the day to fix it (finally!).
“My internet is down again this morning, and I know you said it’s frustrating when you can’t reach me. I’ll be unplugged until it is fixed.”
“I am switching internet companies, and it could be a long wait.”
12. You are experiencing grief.
Beyond the leave someone gets when a loved one passes, there are times weeks and months later grief can be overwhelming.
“It’s my mother’s birthday, and I didn’t realize how the first one without her would hit so hard.”
“Today, my grief is overwhelming. I know you said if I ever needed anything to let you know. This is me letting you know.”
13. Your spot on a medical waiting list opened up.
Getting into a doctor’s office last minute is like winning the lottery.
“A last-minute cancelation opened for the mammogram. I need to be there and not at work.”
“The new specialist in town for skin cancer has a sudden opening to take care of some issues I have; I hope you’ll understand.”
14. You need to help a family member.
Family first. That is a full answer.
“My dad can’t use the snowblower anymore at his age. I need to get gas and clear their walkway.”
“My diabetic grandma is having blood sugar spikes today and can’t be left alone. I’m the only family member in town, so I’ll be with her.”
15. You have a family member in the hospital.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to be there for people in emergency situations.
“My uncle was rushed to the hospital last night with a serious heart issue. I need to head to the ER now.”
“I have a nephew who broke his leg last night, and my sister is freaking out. I have to help them today.”
16. You found a great last-minute travel deal.
Finesse this one with your boss if there is a way to make it seem work-related or a milestone event.
“I just got an alert about a $25 train ticket to Springfield for today’s 10 am route. I know we’ve been looking to expand into that area, so I’m going.”
“My boyfriend just surprised me with a trip. I think this might be the big weekend. He feels terrible he didn’t clear it with you.”
17. The power is out or went out.
A power outage can mean expensive losses if you don’t jump on it.
“The power was out for three hours last night, and I need to check my food since I’m on that strict renal diet.”
“Our neighborhood is without power, and with temperatures this hot, I will lose my food supply. I need to take action.”
18. You were involved in or witnessed a dog attack.
It’s a traumatic experience whether a dog attack happens at the dog park or walking around your neighborhood.
“Buddy got bit this morning on our walk, and I need to get him to the vet now.”
“There was a dog attack at the park this morning, and I need to file a witness statement with animal control.”
19. You have overwhelming anxiety for no reason.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a real thing, and you can’t control when the attacks happen.
“I’m having an anxiety attack now, and these last a while. I simply can’t come in today.”
“My heart is racing, and I have pain in my chest. I’m sure it’s just anxiety, but I need to get it checked out with my family’s heart history.”
20. You finally got Taylor Swift tickets.
I’m not sure a human in this country wouldn’t realize how big of a deal this is.
“I know this might sound lame, but I just had two tickets to the Detroit Taylor Swift concert fall into my lap. I’ve got to head to the city for the day.”
“I won the radio contest this morning for the Taylor Swift concert, and I won’t make my swing shift tonight.”
21. You ate something that isn’t agreeing with you.
Whether it was a binge or a bad slice of sushi, nobody wants to see, hear, or smell it.
“That lobster roll really made my belly snap. I need to be close to a toilet for the next six hours.”
“I promise I’m not hungover, but something in that keg of beer at the professional mixer last night is tearing up my stomach.”
22. You completely forget to ask and feel terrible about it.
It happens to all of us in this crazy, hectic life.
“This is totally my bad, but I have a hair appointment two hours away and then lunch with my mom. I could’ve sworn I asked for the day off, but now I see I didn’t.”
“I’m on my way to the airport when I saw that meeting pop up. I am so sorry I didn’t tell you about this trip.”
23. You had a car accident.
Big crash or fender bender, it doesn’t matter. Injuries likely manifest hours afterward.
“I had a car accident last night in the drive-through, and the more I think about it, the more I want to get seen by urgent care first thing.”
“Did you hear about the big accident on I-80? I was in the middle of that, and I won’t be in today.”
24. Your phone died or is on the fritz.
What was once an inconvenience is now the loss of a lifeline.
“My iPhone isn’t holding a charge, and I can’t make my sales calls without it. I need to get this addressed today.”
“My Pixel camera got smashed in my purse, and I can’t make marketing photos without it.”
25. The environment around your home is too loud.
When we work from home, there’s little control we have over the noise around us.
“There’s pothole construction outside today. They’ve been drilling since 5 am. They’ll be making noise until 4 pm. I’m going to burn a day off.”
“I didn’t realize the roofers would be this loud, even with my office on the lower floor.”
26. You’ll feel charitable and inclined to help someone.
So many tragedies tear at our hearts, and it’s okay to turn a mental health day into a day of action.
“I saw those tornadoes in Missouri, and they need blood badly. I’m going to donate blood.
“You know how you guys joke about my doomsday supply of water? I’m putting it to good use to help wildfire victims get water.”
27. You don’t have a reason but… be mysterious.
Some issues can be too much to explain to a boss, especially if you don’t feel comfortable with the relationship.
“I have a personal emergency, and I won’t be in today.”
“I don’t mean to some vague, but there’s a serious issue that just popped up, and only I can address it.”
10 Worst Excuses to Call Out of Work
Taking a day off work should come with mutual respect and genuine empathy on both sides. Follow the cardinal rule of “Don’t be a jerk.”
1. “I just don’t feel like it.”
Take a survey of anyone who feels like going to work today, and maybe one or two people (who weren’t listening to the question) will raise their hands. This reflects more of your work ethic than your need for time off.
2. “I’m still out of town.”
You took a trip to Aspen in winter with a flight that landed an hour before your shift starts? That’s bad planning and reflects on your organizational skills more than your Black Diamond run skills.
3. “Since Bob missed yesterday, I’m missing today.”
When you’re keeping score with colleagues, you’re showing the wrong kind of competitive edge. You don’t know Bob’s situation from the day before and should be supportive, not trying to even the score.
4. “I am so hungover.”
If you want to rage on a Wednesday night, fine. But have some self-discipline to keep it manageable so you can do your job. Your boss wants an ace, not a potential alcoholic.
5. “Hello, backup boss? I’m not coming in today.”
Don’t use your boss’s absence to mean you shouldn’t have to show up and perform. It shows disrespect to your middle managers and will definitely get back to the bigwigs.
6. “I had a verbal fight with a colleague and don’t want to see her.”
This shows you have no conflict resolution skills and tells your colleague who’s the real alpha dog of the office. Go in and face it or avoid it; just show up.
7. “Here’s an excuse with tons of reasonable doubt.”
Don’t say someone died, that you tested positive for COVID, or you have an emergency when you don’t. Chances are your social media prowess will give you away. If you’ve made it clear you only have one aunt, and three have now died, that’s suspicious.
8. “You woke me up, so I’m just going to stay in bed.”
The main thing you have to do in the morning is wake up. If you can’t get that together, how are you going to focus on the other things you need to do?
9. “Here’s an elaborate story that I’m making up as I go.”
Your boss will know all your strengths and weaknesses, so when you drone on about the ghost that could’ve been a prowler, and you stubbed your toe, but now it’s swollen, and you can’t walk, but you’re going to walk to the pharmacy to get meds… you’re boss will call B.S.
10. “I’ll figure out an excuse later.”
Ghosting work is unprofessional and causes unnecessary panic among your teammates. If you’re brave enough to ditch work, at least come up with a lame excuse.
What If You Lie About Your Excuses to Get Out of Work Last Minute?
Do you want to be lied to about a possible raise coming? A bonus potential in the works? No. So don’t do that to your employer.
- Company Handbook: The bible of your business will detail what is allowed for sick time or PTO. You’ll be held accountable for that.
- Trust Erodes: If your boss can’t trust you to show up on time, why would they trust you with a promotion?
- Employee File: Even if nobody lets on, your employee file is growing with notes of absences, legit or not.
- Colleague Conflicts: So you stuck it to your boss, but your colleagues picked up the slack… again.
Getting time off work at the last minute starts long before building your reputation as a reliable and trusted worker. The more your boss sees your benefit, the more latitude you’ll have when it’s time for a day off or you’re not feeling well.