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Good Excuses to Call Out of Work While Maintaining Professionalism

Woman professional looking distressed on the phone with her boss calling out of work in her kitchen sitting behind her laptop

Unexpected events happen; occasionally, they require you to take a day off from work. When one of life’s surprises knocks on your door, properly navigating the messaging is imperative. This guide covers good excuses for calling out of work, bad reasons to miss, and the right way to take leave – all while maintaining professionalism. 

Is it bad to call out of work?

Truthfully, it isn’t inherently wrong to call out of work. Sometimes, we need to pay immediate attention to our personal lives, health, or other commitments. The important thing is how you handle the situation. The goal is to create minimal disruption in your workplace while maintaining transparency and honesty with your employer, but always remember that a healthy work environment thrives on reliability and consistency. Frequently calling out can damage professional relationships and hinder teamwork, resulting in an unreliable image. 

It’s all about achieving that delicate equilibrium where you respect and honor your personal needs without compromising professional commitments. Maintaining a mindful approach to absences protects your professional reputation and ensures your well-being and job responsibilities are well taken care of.

How do I ask off work at the last minute?

It is imperative to communicate transparently, politely, and conscientiously when requesting time off at the last minute. Send an immediate message to your supervisor or manager, whether by phone call, message, or email, conveying the urgency and genuine reason for your sudden absence. 

Following up on your initial communication with a formal email outlining how your responsibilities will be handled in your absence demonstrates forethought and responsibility. Even in unexpected situations, express gratitude for their understanding and, when possible, offer to assist in minimizing disruptions caused by your absence, maintaining a professional approach.

Related: How to write an out of office email

14 Good excuses to call out of work (and how to communicate with your boss)

1. Medical illness

When a person is sick, not only is their physical and mental ability diminished, but there is a risk that they may transmit illnesses to others – compromising the health and productivity of the workplace. 

Taking adequate rest can help speed up the recovery process. Consequently, prioritizing health is not solely an individual benefit but acts in the best interest of the company’s welfare and all its employees.

Example of how to communicate a medical illness to your boss

“Unfortunately, I am not feeling well today due to [a brief description of your illness/symptoms – as much as you’re comfortable sharing]. I believe it’s in the best interest of my health and the team to take a sick day to recover and prevent any potential spread of illness in the office.”

Related: How to write a sick day email

2. Doctor’s appointment

Doctor’s appointments are necessary to detect health issues early and manage existing conditions. They prevent additional unplanned absences from work due to worsening health. While scheduling these visits outside of work hours is ideal, sometimes it’s impossible due to limited healthcare provider availability or urgent medical needs.

Example of communicating a doctor’s appointment to your boss

“I am writing to let you know I needed to schedule a last-minute doctor’s appointment today at [time], which I cannot reschedule outside of working hours. I had an unforeseen medical issue arise that requires immediate attention.”

3. Family emergency

A family emergency demands immediate and focused attention, as the well-being of loved ones takes priority over a job. Striking a balance between work and personal life is essential for mental health and a productive work atmosphere.

An empathic employer is aware of the urgency and emotional toll of a family emergency, and realizes that providing time and space can help foster morale, loyalty, and productivity.

Example of communicating a family emergency to your boss

“I regret to inform you that I am dealing with an unexpected family emergency that requires my immediate attention and presence. Consequently, I will need to take [the day off today/a few days off] and will return on [date].”

4. Funeral attendance

Managing the loss of a loved one and handling funeral arrangements is emotionally demanding and universally accepted as a legitimate reason for taking time off work. Juggling these emotional tasks with work can impair performance. Employers typically give employees time to grieve and handle related commitments.

Example of how to communicate funeral attendance to your boss

“I hope you are doing well. I am writing with a heavy heart to let you know that [a close family member/friend] has passed away. The funeral is scheduled for today, and I will take time off to attend it and be with my family during this difficult time.”

5. Jury duty

Last-minute extensions of jury duty serve as a valid excuse to call out of work because they represent an unforeseen and mandatory civic responsibility that individuals are legally bound to fulfill. Jury duty is an essential aspect of the democratic justice system, and citizens are called upon to ensure a fair and impartial trial process. When a trial takes longer than anticipated, jurors may be required to extend their service unexpectedly.

Example of how to communicate jury duty to your boss

“Today, I was informed that the trial I am serving on is taking longer than initially expected and, as a result, my jury service has been extended, so I can’t make it into work today. I deeply apologize for this unforeseen extension and the short notice. I will keep you updated on any further changes or if I get released earlier than anticipated. Thank you for your understanding and support in this matter.”

6. Mental health day

Mental health is essential for overall well-being and peak performance on the job. Taking a mental health day is valid and beneficial in preventing burnout and reducing stress, ultimately leading to increased productivity when back at work. Neglecting mental health can lead to a lack of focus and a rise in mistakes, adversely affecting the individual and the entire organization.

Example of how to communicate a mental health day to your employer

“I am writing to inform you that I cannot attend work today due to personal reasons and need to take an unscheduled leave day. I need to take this day to address and manage my well-being to continue contributing effectively to our team.”

Related: How to write a request for time off email

7. Child-related responsibilities

Raising a child involves unexpected and sometimes immediate needs that require the parent’s attention. A parent’s presence can be necessary for various reasons, such as sickness, school-related needs, or other emergencies. Taking a day off to attend to child-related responsibilities demonstrates a commitment to your family while preemptively managing potential distractions that could impact work quality.

A supportive workplace will acknowledge and accommodate the parental responsibilities of its employees, cultivating a culture of understanding.

Example of how to communicate missing work due to child responsibilities

“I am dealing with an unexpected child-related emergency that requires my immediate attention and presence today. Consequently, I will need to take the day off.”

8. Car trouble

Car trouble is an unpredictable obstacle that can legitimately keep someone from getting to work if they depend on their vehicle as a sole source of transportation. Issues can vary from breakdowns to minor accidents, creating logistical problems and safety concerns. In these cases, taking time off from work becomes a necessity.

Most employers understand that your ability to commute to work reliably and punctually directly impacts your ability to maintain consistent attendance.

Example of how to communicate car trouble to your boss

“Unfortunately, I experienced unexpected car trouble this morning, which prevented me from driving to work today. My immediate attention is required to fix the problem to maintain reliable attendance moving forward.”

9. Severe weather conditions

Severe weather like heavy snow, thunderstorms, or hurricanes presents safety risks and logistical issues, making them valid reasons for missing work. Such conditions can disrupt public transportation while causing driving to be unsafe. Employers usually prioritize employee safety and well-being in these circumstances.

Example of communicating severe weather conditions to your employer

“Due to the severe weather conditions impacting our area, I cannot commute safely to work today. [Include specific details about the weather conditions, such as a state-issued warning or related news link.]”

10. Religious observances

Honoring religious observances is a matter of personal faith and often a legally protected right, making it a respected and valid reason for taking time off work. In diverse workplaces, the importance of individual religious practices is understood and respected, usually with supporting policies in place.

Example of communicating religious observances to your boss

“I request a leave of absence today due to [specific religious observance]. This day is important in my faith and requires my full participation [option to list rituals and events].”

11. Military obligations

Employees serving in the reserves or other military roles have essential national service duties that are both recognized and respected. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) safeguards the employment rights of military service members.

Example of how to tell your boss about a military obligation

“I have a military obligation today that I must attend and will not be able to come to work. I have attached my orders for your reference.”

12. Exam day 

Pursuing further education while maintaining regular employment is often regarded positively by employers, as it represents dedication to personal and professional development. There’s a good chance the organization you work for will recognize that continuous learning and development enhances workplace knowledge and capabilities.

Example of how to tell your employer about an exam day

“I have an exam scheduled for today as part of my [specific course/degree] in [subject], which I have been pursuing further to enhance my skills and contributions to our team. I will need a day off to adequately prepare for and take the exam.”

13. Legal obligations

As they often require mandatory appearances or dealings that cannot be rescheduled, legal obligations are universally recognized as legitimate reasons to take a day off. Legal matters require strict adherence to schedules and procedures, so your employers should acknowledge the importance and necessity of fulfilling legal responsibilities, understanding that failure to attend to them may lead to severe consequences. 

Example of communicating legal obligations to your employer

“I am writing to inform you that I am required to attend to a pressing legal matter today and, therefore, will be unable to be present at work.”

14. Taking care of a sick pet

Caring for a sick pet might not always be perceived in the same light as attending to a human family member, but it’s undeniable that pets hold a cherished place in many individuals’ hearts and minds. A pet’s severe illness or emergency veterinary needs can be a legitimate reason to request a day off for many compassionate employers, especially those who acknowledge the deep emotional bond between a person and their animal companion.

Example of communicating a day off for a sick pet

“Unfortunately, I am writing under less than ideal circumstances as my pet [Pet’s Name] has fallen seriously ill and requires urgent veterinary care today, which requires my immediate and undivided attention.”

Bad excuses to call out of work

  • Oversleeping: “I slept through my alarm.”
  • Regular weather conditions: “It’s too [hot/cold/sunny/rainy] to come to work.”
  • Social events: “I have a party to attend.”
  • Minor personal tasks: “I need to receive a package at home.”
  • Petty dislikes: “I don’t like the lunch menu at the cafeteria today.”
  • Vague ailments: “I feel like I might be getting sick.”
  • Fictional events: “My cousin’s friend’s dog’s birthday party is today.”
  • Hungover: “I am too tired and hungover from staying up late last night.”

How to return to work after a sick day without being stressed

To mitigate undue stress, thoughtfully approach your transition back to work after a sick day. Before diving back into your workload, take a moment to ease into your routine – acknowledging your health and the importance of maintaining it. 

Prioritize pressing tasks and time-sensitive messages that piled up while you were away, but balance them with adequate breaks to maintain your energy levels.

Also, delegate when possible and ask for assistance or additional time to complete items that take time to complete.


Will I be fired for calling out of work at the last minute?

Maybe, but you’ll need to refer to your employer’s policies, your history of absenteeism, and the nature of your excuse for calling out at the last minute. While occasional emergencies are generally understood and accepted, consistently calling out unexpectedly or for inappropriate reasons will likely jeopardize your standing in the company. Communicate transparently and promptly with your employer, provide the necessary documentation, and adhere closely to your company’s policies regarding absenteeism.

Can I text instead of calling in sick?

Whether you can text instead of call to report a sick day depends on your company’s communication policies and your standing as an employee. Some workplaces permit sending a text message, but others require a phone call to discuss any necessary arrangements or coverage. Always adhere to your company’s guidelines, prioritizing clear, timely, and respectful communication when reporting absences.

How often is it too often to call in sick?

Striking a balance in how often one calls in sick is nuanced and varies across workplaces. While there isn’t a universally applicable number, some employers might start to take notice if you’re calling in sick more than, for instance, ten days a year, especially if it doesn’t align with your allotted sick leave.