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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. Last updated January 9, 2024

19 of the Best Excuses to Miss Work

Plus, five messages to send your boss when you need to be out

Woman wearing an apron and leaning against a door frame
Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio

We all need unexpected time off work sometimes, whether an emergency comes up or you got a bad case of food poisoning. Every company is different, so there are a few ways to handle these situations.

Some managers may regularly remind you of all that paid time off you’re building up, making sure you take your personal or vacation days each month. But, some workplaces just aren’t as flexible on what you can do, even if they offer you a certain amount of time off. There could be lots of different expectations about actually using it.

So, adapt this advice to your own place of work. In general, to stay in your employer’s good graces, you should always:

  • Avoid calling in at the last minute.

  • Pay attention to how much you’re taking off each month.

  • Ask your manager when you have questions.

  • Watch how other people are handling time off at your job (and how management reacts).

  • Avoid lying or fabricating an illness or family death.

  • Avoid posting on social media if you are still out doing things on a sick day.

  • Give your manager just enough information and not too much explaining.

  • Have a plan for any project or deadline you’re missing.

  • Avoid telling your boss you are hungover or forgot to come in.

Remember that not all days off require an excuse. For instance, personal days should be used however you want them, even if that means you’re going to the spa. But if it’s last minute, you need to have a good reason.

Read more: Unlimited PTO: As Good As It Sounds?

Here are 19 good excuses to miss work and how to share them with your manager. 

1. Personal illness

The most common reason to call into work is sickness. If you’re feeling ill, have a fever, or can’t keep your breakfast down, everyone will appreciate you staying home. Even if you work remotely, ask for the day off so you can rest.

Contact your manager as soon as you know you need to take off. Keep it short and sweet, something like: “I have a fever so I won’t be able to work today.” Keep your manager updated about your condition each day.

2. Family emergency

Unexpected crises happen all the time that may keep you from being at work. Maybe a family member got into an accident or someone is in the hospital with a serious illness. Perhaps a nurse didn’t show up for your aging parent and you have to step in for care that day. Sometimes it’s absolutely enough to tell your boss: “I’m dealing with a family emergency and can’t come in today.” 

Depending on expectations and your relationship, you may want to give a few other details so they know what’s going on and how long you may be out.

3. Death of a loved one

Lots of organizations have dedicated bereavement leave when a close family member passes away. Even if your job doesn’t offer this benefit, they will hopefully understand if you’re not at work following a death. Tell your manager as soon as you can about what’s happened, or have a friend or other family member let them know. 

Check in when you can and tell them when services will be held and when you may want to come back to work. Hopefully, they will work with you on a realistic timeline that feels comfortable to you.

4. Medical appointment

It’s important to have regular checkups, whether with a general physician, dentist, eye doctor, OBGYN, or other specialist. Don’t be afraid to tell your manager that you have to miss work to take care of these appointments since they are crucial to maintaining your health and wellbeing. 

5. Car trouble

Sometimes there’s no way to get to work when your car breaks down or you’re in an accident. Even if you’re unharmed, you still have to deal with your insurance company and car repairs, so you need time to get these details worked out. 

Simply tell your manager what’s going on: “My car won’t start so I have to take it to the shop. I’ll keep you posted.” You may be able to rent a car or get a ride after that, but always let them know.

6. Public transportation issue

Hopefully, a delayed bus or train won’t impact your entire day, but sometimes there’s nothing you can do except wait. Text or Slack your manager that there are significant issues and that you’ll be there as soon as you’re able. You can also send them a screenshot of public transit alerts or news articles to show them why you’re not there.

7. Home emergency

Especially if you own your home, there are always unexpected issues to take care of. If a pipe bursts or your basement is flooding, you need to deal with it now. Tell your boss the situation: “I woke up to a flooded basement so I have to be here when the workers arrive.” 

8. Mental health issue

You may need a personal day here and there for your mental health. Or, maybe you’re dealing with a condition and can’t imagine going into work. Don’t feel any shame or hesitation about calling in when you are struggling. Simply tell your boss that you’re having a hard time with a mental or emotional issue and are unable to come to work. You could also say, “I really need a mental health day today.”

If it’s an ongoing problem and you’re unsure when you’ll be back, you should meet with them to discuss options for a disability absence or other arrangement.

9. Child care problems

Parents have to deal with ensuring their children are cared for during the day before they can get themselves to the office. When a babysitter doesn’t show up, there’s not much some people can do on the spot to get care. Tell your boss you have no other option and need to stay with your child.

10. Pet emergency

Sometimes you can’t get to the office if your dog or cat needs immediate medical care. If it’s a last-minute need, send your boss a message that your pet’s condition is worsening and they need to see the vet right away. Otherwise, you may want to ask in advance about taking time off for a vet appointment, though some workplaces won’t mind you using personal time for routine check-ups.

Read more: All You Need To Know About Taking a Leave of Absence

11. Severe weather conditions

Extreme weather conditions like heavy snowstorms, hurricanes, or severe flooding can make commuting unsafe or impossible. Notify your manager about the hazardous weather conditions preventing you from coming to work. Provide any relevant updates or news reports to substantiate your claim.

12. Jury duty

If you receive a summons for jury duty, it is your civic duty to fulfill your obligation. Inform your manager promptly about your jury duty notice and provide them with the necessary documentation. Be prepared to provide an estimate of how long the trial is expected to last, as it may affect your availability in the coming days.

13. School-related commitments

If you have children or are pursuing higher education yourself, there may be occasions when school-related commitments arise unexpectedly. This could include attending a parent-teacher conference, accompanying your child on a field trip, or participating in a mandatory class or workshop. Inform your manager in advance about these commitments to arrange for time off or adjust your schedule accordingly.

14. Personal relocation

Moving to a new home can be a time-consuming process that may require taking a day or two off work. Whether you are packing, coordinating with movers, or settling into your new residence, notify your manager about your relocation plans and request the necessary time off in advance.

15. Important personal appointments

There are times when you need to attend significant personal appointments that cannot be scheduled outside of work hours. This could include meeting with a financial advisor, attorney, therapist, or other professionals. Communicate with your manager about the appointment and the importance of attending it, ensuring you provide sufficient notice.

16. Community service or volunteering

If you participate in community service or volunteer work, there may be occasions when you need to miss work to contribute to a cause or attend a specific event. Inform your manager about your commitment to community service and provide details about the organization or event you will be involved in.

17. Passport or visa issues

If you are planning an international trip and encounter unexpected complications with your passport or visa, you may need to allocate time to resolve these issues. Notify your manager about the situation and explain that you need to take off to address the passport or visa problem promptly.

18. Personal celebration or milestone event

Occasionally, personal celebrations or milestone events arise that are significant to you or your loved ones. Whether it's a special anniversary, birthday, or graduation, communicate with your manager about the event and request time off to celebrate or attend the gathering.

19. Conflicting appointments or double booking

Mistakes happen, and there may be instances where you unintentionally schedule multiple appointments or commitments simultaneously. When faced with a conflicting appointment or double booking, immediately inform your manager about the situation, apologize for the inconvenience caused, and discuss the best course of action to resolve the conflict.

These scenarios and more are valid reasons to miss work. But not every day off needs a reason. Don’t miss our guide to why you should play hooky—and 14 things you should do with your time. 

Plus, five example templates when you need to miss work unexpectedly

Example 1

Subject: Unexpected Absence

Dear [Boss's name],

I apologize for the short notice, but I won't be able to come into work today due to an unexpected illness. I'll ensure that all my pending tasks are handed over to [colleague's name] and will be available to assist remotely if needed. I'll keep you updated on my progress and hope to be back in the office tomorrow.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

[Your name]

Example 2

Subject: Family Emergency

Hi [Boss's name],

I have a family emergency that requires my immediate attention, and I won't be able to make it to work today. I'll inform [team member's name] to cover my responsibilities in my absence. If there are any urgent matters, please feel free to contact me via phone or email.

Thank you for your support.

Kind regards,

[Your name]

Example 3

Subject: Car Troubles

Hi [Boss's name],

I'm facing unexpected car troubles this morning, and it will prevent me from reaching the office on time. I have contacted [colleague's name] to handle any pressing issues on my behalf. I'll do my best to resolve the situation quickly and be back at work as soon as possible.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

[Your name]

Example 4

Subject: Sudden Illness of a Child

Dear [Boss's name],

I regret to inform you that my child has fallen ill, and I need to stay home to take care of them. I have informed [team member's name] about my situation and will ensure that any pending tasks are delegated appropriately. If there's anything urgent, I'll be available remotely to assist.

Thank you for your consideration.


[Your name]

Example 5

Subject: Personal Medical Appointment

Hi [Boss's name],

I have a previously scheduled medical appointment that I cannot reschedule, and it falls during work hours today. I will make sure to complete any necessary preparations before leaving and inform [team member's name] to handle any pressing matters in my absence. I will be reachable via email if needed.

Thank you for your support.

Kind regards,

[Your name]

Remember to always notify your boss as soon as possible and follow any established company procedures for reporting absences. Be honest and clear about the reason for your absence and offer to help with any necessary arrangements to ensure your responsibilities are covered during your time away.

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