AnnaMarie Houlis
Journalist & travel blogger

Can't make it into work tomorrow but worried about how you're going to break it to your boss? If you're looking for excuses to get out of work, make sure you have a legitimate one or you can risk your job.

You shouldn't ever be playing hooky, but sometimes you really do need the day off — because you're under the weather, worn out, have a job interview, need to make it to a doctor's appointment or simply want to stay home and safe as you self-quarantine. And whether your excuse seems professional or unprofessional (or valid or a lie) is all about how you phrase it to your boss. Fortunately for you, we've rounded up seven excuses to get out of work that are reasonable and well-worded.

We're not encouraging you to lie to get a day off, and we hold to that the best excuses are the genuine ones. But the next time you need to skip the whole office thing, remember these very valid reasons you'd need to take off.

1. You're really sick.

If you're really sick, you will need to skip work to avoid spreading your germs around the office. Of course, if you just have your average head cold with a slight cough, you can probably stand coming into the office. But if you're wiped out with a fever and can't stop sneezing, no one in the office is going to want you anywhere near them anyway.

Besides, if you're really sick, you're not going to perform well or be all that productive anyway. It's better that you take the day off to get well sooner and come back to the office recharged and ready to roll. Feel free to acquire a doctor's note as proof too, being that this is the most popular excuse to call out.

2. Your child, parent or spouse is really sick.

If you have a family member who is really sick, such as your child, parent or spouse, and you need to take care of them, this is a legitimate reason to call out of work. Again, if they're perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and don't require supervision, you really can't use this as an excuse. Staying home from work just because someone else in your family has a headache doesn't warrant a sick day for you, too.

What does warrant a day off for you, too, is having to take care of your sick child. If you have a newborn or a young child who is sick and home from school, you probably need to be there to take care of them (and to watch them). While you can probably do some work from home in this case, you won't be able to make it into the office.

Likewise, if your elderly parent needs help because they're ill with a fever, you'll need to be there to care for them. Or if your spouse broke their arm and you need to stay home with them to help them around the house/feed and bathe them, then that's a reasonable reason for needing to stay home.

3. You need a mental health day.

Sometimes, you just need a day off to watch out for yourself. Perhaps you're burnt out from work or home life and you need some time to catch up on sleep, run some errands or just relax. It's perfectly acceptable to need a day for yourself. And, if your boss is understanding, they'll know that this personal day can help you recharge and come back to the office with renewed ambition.

4. You're dealing with unexpected circumstances.

Perhaps the babysitter never showed up and you've been scrambling to find another one all morning but you just can't find anyone to drop in so last minute. This is an unexpected circumstance that's out of your control. While it's unfortunate and not the most professional looking (you could have had a backup plan), you'll need to stay home from work. 

Some unexpected circumstances are totally out of your control and you couldn't have planned for these situations even if you'd wanted to. For example, maybe you were on a business trip and your flight home got delayed; the next flight out isn't until mid-afternoon, so you'll end up missing the day, and you can't work remotely because you'll be traveling all day. This is not your fault, and it's a valid reason to miss work.

5. You have a family emergency.

If you have a family emergency — your child breaks a bone, your elderly parent falls down, your spouse crashes the car on their way to work or something else entirely, you have a good excuse to miss work. These are the kinds of situations you don't want to lie about because lying about an emergency like these is unacceptable, but if it's a real situation with which you're dealing, this is a fine excuse to get out of work.

6. You have a house emergency.

Sometimes, house emergencies happen, too. For example, perhaps you started a small fire on accident making breakfast. Or the boiler broke. Or there was a gas leak. Or you found bed bugs all over the bedroom and the inspector is on their way over. These are all legitimate house emergencies that warrant a day off from work.

7. You're experiencing serious commute complications.

Commuting complications are, oftentimes, not in your control. Perhaps the bus broke down, or the train was experiencing delays or there was an accident on your route and there's bumper-to-bumper traffic. At some point (if it's taking hours to get to work), you might need to call your boss and let them know that you're not able to make it in that day.


What is a good excuse to miss work?

A good excuse to miss work is a real one. You have to miss work because you're really sick, you need a self-care day, you have a family emergency or something else that's genuine. Bear in mind that having a minor cough, stubbing your toe, feeling "tired" or other minor illnesses are not good excuses to miss work.

What is a good reason to call off work?

A good reason to call off work is a real reason. You have to call off work because you're under the weather, you're in desperate need of a rest day, you have a family emergency or another legitimate reason that is real. Keep in mind, however, that you oversleeping and figuring you'll just skip the whole day or you wanting to extend your vacation an extra day are neither good nor professional reasons to call off work.

What do you say when you call off work?

When you call off work, you should call your boss (or email, depending on your usual correspondences), and let them know that you're very sorry but that you won't be able to make it into work that day. You really should have a plan already for who is going to cover you and how you're going to catch up on the work when you get back before you make the call. 

What qualifies as a family emergency?

A family emergency is typically an unexpected event that affects the health and/or safety of your family members (your parents, children, spouse, etc.). Family emergencies might include car accidents, death, serious illnesses, etc.

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About the Career Expert:

AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist for a gamut of both online and print publications, as well as an adventure aficionado and travel blogger at She covers all things women's empowerment — from navigating the workplace to navigating the world. She writes about everything from gender issues in the workforce to gender issues all across the globe.