Top 10 Good (and Bad) Excuses to Get Out of Work

What excuses are worthy of calling off work? And which should you avoid?

Worker thinking of good and bad excuses to get out of work

Let's face it, there are days that going to work is just not in the cards, it happens to the best of us!

It doesn’t matter if you love your job or hate it, at some point in your career you’re going to need a day off. For some of you, it can feel terrifying to ask for a day off, even if the reason is legitimate, like you're struggling with depression at work.

For others, you may have no problems asking for the day, even if it’s not legitimate. How do you know what is a good excuse? Or when you should just suck it up and go in? After all, you want to be careful what you ask your employer, they are the ones paying you!

We are here to give you some encouragement by walking you through 10 good excuses that will get you out of work and showing you 10 bad excuses we hope you never use to get out of work, too. Let's dive in!

Good excuses to get out of work

We know it’s going to happen eventually — you’re going to need to get out of work. Let’s go over some excuses that you should feel good about when requesting to get off work.

1. You’re sick

Everyone gets sick once in a while, often there is nothing you can do about it, so don’t overthink it. Waking up with a fever is not top on anyone's list and I'm sure your boss wouldn’t mind you keeping that at home to yourself. Send in your sick day email, or call in if that's your company protocol, and move on!

Not sharing your germs is a good excuse to get out of work. It’s important to note, if you're in a remote work environment, calling in sick can still be a good excuse. While you may not be sharing germs, your sickness can make it difficult for you to focus and complete your work to your usual level. Request the day off appropriately and recover as needed!

2. You’ve got an injury

Not all injuries are planned, as much as we would like them to be, but none-the-less, an injury is a valid reason to call out of work. The injury could be sudden or a long time coming that now requires more appropriate care, reach out to your boss and share the information as soon as you know the details.

Get the rest and the healing you need, perhaps request the ability to work from home for a time, then head back when you’re ready.

3. There’s an emergency

There are just two items we would characterize as an emergency for a good excuse to not head into the office:

  • Family emergency
  • Home emergency

If your child's school has suddenly canceled or they are unexpectedly ill and you need to take care of them, those are good excuses for a family emergency. Hopefully they get better quickly, and you won’t be sending in a leave of absence letter for something longer. It's not a good idea to create a fake family emergency either (you know, because karma).

If your furnace stopped working or a pipe burst and you need to wait for the maintenance to come fix it, those would qualify as a home emergency that you need to focus on immediately. While emergencies are out of your control, be sure not to abuse this with your boss. Be someone they can trust and always be honest about the emergencies as they arise.

4. You’re celebrating a religious holiday

You should be able to practice your religion, even if the holiday is not observed by your organization. Getting out of work for a religious holiday is a great excuse and you should not have to deal with discrimination in the workplace for this request.

Ask for the day in advance and dedicate the time, energy, and emotion that the day deserves, trusting that your employer has everything under control in your absence.

5. You’ve got jury duty

It’s inevitable, jury duty will eventually come calling and you must answer. It's important to note that even though you were summoned for jury service, it doesn’t mean you will actually serve on the jury, and that is when you would need the time off.

Share with your boss right away that you have been summoned and could potentially need some time off accordingly. You’ll attend the meetings to verify your willingness and ability to serve on the jury and then a decision will be made allowing you to share more concrete dates of the time you need off with your employer.

6. You’re having car trouble

It happens to the best of us. Your car won’t start — so annoying! These days there are many other modes of transportation, even bikes for commuting to work, so this could borderline on the side of a bad excuse, but we believe if you don’t abuse it, car trouble out of your control is a valid excuse. If it's happening more often, perhaps it’s time to invest in a more reliable form of transportation to get you to and from the office.

7. There’s a bereavement

Sadly, you lost someone close to you, it’s time to give them the respect they deserve and honor their memory by attending services and supporting family members. Losing someone is a valid excuse to get out of work, even if bereavement is not included in your employee benefits.

Some organizations may require “proof of loss” — don’t take it personally, it’s part of their policy and everyone has to abide by it. Simply share the obituary or card from the funeral and allow the condolences to wash over you as you work your way back into a new normal without your loved one.

8. You need a mental health day

We live in a world where nearly half of U.S. workers suffer from mental health issues, so taking a mental health day should be totally acceptable in your mind and the minds of your employer. You were hired for your role in the first place because of who you are — don't lose that along the way. If you're struggling with your mental health, talk to your employer and dedicate the time for recovery that you need.

Watch our interview with Bianca Riemer for more tips to improve your mental health:

9. You have a medical appointment

Most common roles are going to be during “regular business hours”. Well, that means that your doctor or dentist also work during these hours and scheduling an appointment to go see them might interfere with work. Of course, when at all possible, see if you can schedule these during a lunch break or before or after a shift. But if you can’t, and need to schedule during your work time, this is a legitimate reason.

10. It’s your birthday!

Now, celebrating your birthday could really go either way in the realm of good or bad excuses, but provided you’ve cleared it with your employer prior and didn’t just call your boss that morning saying, "Surprise, it's my birthday. My present to myself is a day off work. Okay, bye!”

Requesting work off for your birthday is bulletproof, although, your boss might be sad because after all, singing in the office is good for you!

Bad excuses to get out of work

Now that you know the acceptable reasons to get out of work, let's go over a few inappropriate reasons to get out of work. If you find yourself experiencing any of these, cut your losses and get yourself to work!

1. You’re stuck in traffic

While a car accident can slow you down and is truly a disadvantage of driving to work, for the most part, you should check traffic before you go and plan accordingly. Calling out of work for traffic is a really bad excuse.

2. You overslept

We’ve all been there, you wake up peacefully to then immediately start panicking. What time is it? Did my alarm already go off? You either slept through it, or it didn't go off. Either way, you’re late, and feel like you’re too tired to work. You might as well use it as an excuse, right? Wrong, this is a bad excuse wrapped up in a worse one. Get ready as fast as you can, get some coffee, and get going!

3. The weather is too good/bad

If good weather is your jam, and you look outside and the sunshine is calling your name, that's not a good reason to get out of going to the office. Open the blinds at work and enjoy while you’re making that money! If driving in the snow is the bane of your existence and it’s the world’s worst blizzard outside, you should still make an effort to work. Get on your winter work outfit, go slow, leave early, and stay calm, or ask to work from home for the day. Either way, get to work!

4. You’re feeling overwhelmed

It's true, work can be overwhelming. Life can be overwhelming, too, but you don’t get to call out of that either. If you're dealing with workplace stress and feeling overwhelmed, talk to your boss about how to solve the problem, don't bury it under a bad excuse to get out of work.

5. It’s your pet’s birthday

Look, you may get to spend your birthday celebrating, but not going in to work because your animal has a birthday… that’s a bit of a stretch. Unless, of course, it’s an office pet, in which case you better hurry to work for the celebration! Otherwise, feel free to plan your pet’s birthday on a day off and throw a big party with all their pet friends and family, but don't use this bad excuse to get out of work.

6. You’re scared to leave the house

Mistakes were made and you watched that horror movie you know you shouldn't have and now you're terrified to step foot out your front door. Too bad! Take a deep breath and get going. If you must, call a friend to escort you, but get there. Maybe next time, just don't watch the movie.

7. You forgot it was Monday

A classic case of forgetfulness is not a good excuse to get out of work. Just because your Monday was mistaken for Sunday doesn’t justify not going into the office. Once you’re called out on the error, cut your losses and just go to work.

8. You believe the apocalypse may be coming

We all have our beliefs, and you may feel strongly about them, but hey, if the apocalypse is coming today, I guess you'll be at work when it happens because this is a really bad excuse.

9. You’re having a bad hair day

If this terrible hair day is beyond repair, throw some water on it and start over. Calling out of work for a bad hair day may have your boss laughing so hard they fall out of their chair, and not in a good way. Bad hair days are a dime a dozen, so throw some gel in it, run a brush through it, dread it if you need to, and get to work.

10. The next season of your favorite show just released

Quite possibly the most understandable of the bad excuses to get out of work, but still a bad excuse no matter how you spin it. Although this show is everything you've ever wanted in life at the moment, spending the day home from work to watch it is not a good excuse. It’ll still be there tonight, don't worry. Go to work!

Key takeaways

We are all going to take off work. It’s inevitable, as we have seen, but do your best to be a dependable employee by sticking to the good excuses and avoiding the bad ones! Before calling in to get out of work ask yourself these things:

  • Is this situation completely unavoidable?
  • Is this situation absolutely mandatory?

If it checks the boxes, then you’ve got yourself a good excuse. If it checks those boxes and it falls on the list of bad excuses, we have a whole other problem, and you know the actual answer — get to work!

What other reasons do you think are acceptable enough to skip work? Let us know in the comments below! 


This is an updated version of an article originally published on 25 February 2019.