Unfortunately, “I don’t want to work today” doesn’t usually go over too well with managers. You’ll need a reason — okay, call it a bulletproof excuse to get out of work. Ideally, one that won’t lead to questions. We turned to our list of contributors to learn about their tried-and-true best excuses to miss work. After sifting through the many responses, we organized 23 into the categories below.
You’ll find some old standbys like “car trouble,” as well as the technical issues that can absolutely kill a remote worker’s day. You’ll also find some very serious excuses to call out of work; needless to say, these are more reasons than excuses, and faking a loved one’s death can open you up to serious problems (both karmic and at your job!) later on.
Click on the links below to jump to a section that works for you:
- Bulletproof excuses only (that better be true)
- Traditional excuses to get out of work
- Medical reasons
- The full list with explanations
Bulletproof Excuses To Get Out Of Work (The Big Ones)
Here are the eight most bulletproof excuses to get out of work, but they better be true:
- Car accident
- Death of a loved one
- Family emergency
- Just feeling sick (unspecified illness)
- Child is sick
- Mom is sick
- Pet is sick
Warning: Possible Karmic Retribution For Using Those
Excuses To Get Out Of Work: The Traditional Ones
- Bad weather/natural disaster
- Car trouble
- Family commitment
- Home repairs
- Medical appointment
- Public transit problems
- Tech difficulties
- Attending work-related seminar/conference/skill-builder
Medical Excuses To Miss Work
- Awaiting COVID-19 test results
- Food poisoning
- Mental health day
- Tested positive for COVID-19
23 Best Excuses To Miss Work, Explained
In an ideal world, a manager will accept “I can’t come in to work today” without question (even if it’s on short notice). The list below goes into more detail about each option we just shared, so get reading if you need to provide an explanation.
Bad weather and/or natural disasters
Circumstances beyond your control, such as bad weather, may prevent you from making it to work. These are conditions over which you have no control, such as the occurrence of a storm, flight delay, or earthquake. Don’t bother phoning in if it’s something you might have prepared for in advance. Your employer probably won’t think too highly of you if you do that.
— Angelico Trentino of NC CuttingTools
Accidents are the ultimate excuse for getting out of work on short notice because they are, by definition, unpredictable. An accident doesn’t necessarily have to involve you directly, either. A spouse, child, or dependent who needs your help after an accident is a valid excuse for missing work.
— Thomas Lewis of RIP City Reviews
Death of a loved one
The death of a loved one, whether they be a family or a friend, is difficult. Taking time off from work and other responsibilities to grieve is understandable. It’s important to give your employer as much advance notice as possible so they can prepare for your absence. Some companies have bereavement policies that allow workers to temporarily step away from their jobs without jeopardizing their employment.
— Josh Thill of THRIVE ENGINE
It can be hilarious, but diarrhea is self-diagnosed, and you don’t always need to get to a hospital. Don’t worry, the HR department won’t ask for any proof — and you can get better at home.
— Lauri Kinkar of Messente
If you have an important family event or obligation that requires your presence, you can use it as a valid excuse. It’s important to remember that you may need to provide proof of this event, however.
— Jimmy Huh of JH SEO
A family emergency is one of the best excuses for calling out of work because you often won’t have to answer many follow-up questions or go into great detail. This is a reason to miss work that the normal supervisor will accept without much hesitation or question. However, if you use this justification for missing work, be prepared to be questioned if the situation has changed.
—Mark Blakey of Autism Parenting Magazine
Food poisoning, as most people understand it, is characterized by episodes of vomiting and diarrhea in addition to general unpleasantness. Nobody is going to ask you any questions about this, and the vast majority of the time, you won’t even need to visit the doctor for it. Get as much Gatorade as you can.
— Tia Campbell of Practice Reasoning Tests
General car trouble
This is, in my professional opinion, one of the finest excuses for being late to work. It’s by far the most common and convenient reason individuals use (unless you take other means of transportation, of course). Inform your manager that your vehicle did not start this morning and you are bringing it to the mechanic. Since you lack transportation to work, you may request to remain at home.
— Tom Miller of FitnessVolt
Emergencies at home might occur at any time. Maybe you had a little fire in the morning when you were making breakfast. The boiler may have failed. The gas main broke. A bedbug inspector is coming to your house because you discovered an infestation in your bedroom. All of these situations are genuine emergencies that should be treated as such and merit a day off from work. If your supervisor needs verification, feel free to send over a photo. If not, an email will do (along with a notification, if possible).
— Timothy Allen of Corporate Investigation Consulting
I have an appointment
Missing a day of work for one appointment is a valid excuse. I know from experience that when you have something else on the go that is outside of your normal routine, it can be tough to concentrate on your everyday tasks. This can greatly impact the level of work you do, as well as your motivation.
— Brian Ferritto of 42connect
I have COVID
Even if you don’t feel sick, you could still be spreading the COVID virus. Consider CDC, municipal, and workplace rules, as well as your vaccination status, before coming into the office if you or someone close to you has tested positive. When determining your time of work return, you should also consider these suggestions.
— Michael Hess of Code Signing Store
I have a medical appointment
If the only time you can schedule a medical appointment is during work hours, you should be able to miss part of your work day to attend it. Managers should always be looking out for the health of their workers, and a medical appointment is a good enough reason to miss work.
— Anthony Martin of Choice Mutual
I have a migraine
Since most supervisors are aware of how painful migraines can be, using migraine as an excuse to skip a full day of work virtually guarantees that no questions will be asked. You won’t have to give your boss a long story or make up more falsehoods when you get back to the workplace, unlike making up another medical problem or saying you have a doctor’s appointment. Simply explain that you are currently lying down in the dark while making this phone call and that you can hardly see into the light if your supervisor ever queries or doubts you.
— Cynthia Hamilton of OGLF
My kid is sick
As a single parent, relying on school and care outside of school hours to mind your child is essential, particularly when you are employed full-time. At times when grandparents are unable to provide care, taking a day off work to care for a sick child is really the only option.
— Mark Jimenez of Sensible Dollar
My mom is sick
No matter what you do, you never ignore your mother’s health. So, when an employee comes up with this reason, you’ve got no option but to give them a day off. If your mother is unwell, it’s understandable that she needs help at home and you need to be physically present to help her get the rest she needs. While this is a believable reason, many employees lie and use it as a reason to justify missing work.
— Anu Gadway of StarLinkHow
My pet is sick
Emergency appointments for pets due to a major illness are an acceptable excuse to miss work. Pets can’t take care of themselves; in an emergency, it is necessary for the owner to take some time off to properly take care of the pet. Depending on the circumstances, everything from a clean-up to treatment and transporting the pet to the veterinarian may be necessary.
— Shirley Borg of Energy Casino
Being a parent who also has a job may be challenging, but this is particularly true in unusual circumstances, such as during a pandemic. If you do not have access to daycare and your young children are not enrolled in school, your only real option is to take a sick day from work. There is nothing else you can do. When compared to other justifications for calling out, this one needs less evidence and proof.
— Tyler Seeger of Retirement Being
Public transportation problems
Delays in mass transit could cause you to arrive late or miss work. Since this type of situation is generally out of your control, you can use it as an excuse to be late.
— Max Shak of survivalgearshack.com
If your work device is not working, you cannot work. Explain you have booked an emergency appointment to get it looked at, and say you have to miss work, because you can’t work via your phone.
— Ella Ding of Smoothies N Cookies
Some companies allow absence or early departure if you have an opportunity for professional development. To reassure your employer that your time away from the workplace is constructive, describe the positive effects these experiences will have on job-related skills and output.
— Jeff Romero of Octiv Digital
You’re waiting for COVID results
Protecting yourself and others has never been more important, especially with the new variant on the rise! So, what better excuse to miss work than mentioning you have symptoms of COVID and are awaiting test results?
— Sarah Kay of Sincerely Essie
You need a mental health day
Taking a day off to focus on one’s own well-being is essential at times. Maybe you’ve been working too much or spending too much time at home, and you need a break to get some rest, do some chores, or just unwind. It’s entirely acceptable to need a day for oneself. A day off won’t cure your mental health issues, but giving yourself some extra time off will help you recharge so that you can be there for yourself and your job in a better way.
— Tia Campbell of Practice Reasoning Tests
You’re just not feeling good
You won’t be able to give your best performance or accomplish anything when severely ill. It’s for the best if you take the day off to rest and recover, then come back to work when you’re feeling 100%. If you work in an office, you should think about the other individuals you’d be in contact with, even if you feel like you can still do your job despite your illness. Whether it’s the common cold, the stomach flu, or something more severe like COVID-19, spreading illness at work is never welcome. Do some of your work from home if you have the option. If you feel you can’t face work, let your manager know that you’re sick and when you expect to be back. Contact your primary care physician via phone or electronic message if your employer mandates a doctor’s note.
— EDWARD MELLET of WikiJob
Want to see some more ideas?
Click here to see excuses to work from home, here for reasons to leave work early, or here for excuses on short notice. You’ll see some overlap, but those lists were created specifically for those categories.