Excuses for Missing Work (Good and Bad Reasons)

Best and Worst Excuses for Getting Out of Work

Young woman sitting on bed with headache
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According to a recent , 40 percent of workers have taken a fake sick day during the last 12 months. That’s up from 35 percent the previous year.

We could speculate about why workers feel compelled to call in sick when they’re well. But, the most important thing to you, the potential malingerer reading this article, is to protect yourself from the negative repercussions of faking a sick day.

The best way to do that is to be honest.

As Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” The best excuses for getting out of work are truthful ones. Everyone needs a day off now and then. Before you assume that you need a more fanciful excuse, examine your real reasons and ask yourself if they’re legitimate on their own. The list below can give a sense of what’s OK.

And then, for contrast, read on for some truly terrible excuses for missing work. (Hint: there’s a llama.)

Good Excuses for Missing Work

If you are concerned about using the "I need a sick day" excuse too many times and want to be creative, here are some work excuses that might work when you need a reason to take time off from your job:

  • Appointments (financial planner, accountant, lawyer, etc.)
  • Babysitter problems
  • Car troubles
  • Child has to get a physical
  • Colonoscopy (nobody wants to question that)
  • Death in the family (be careful, see below)
  • Delivery (appliances or other major purchase)
  • Doctor or dentist appointment
  • Illness
  • Family emergency (you don't need to share details)
  • Family illness (child, elderly parent)
  • Furnace needs emergency repairs
  • Leaky pipes
  • Medical procedures
  • Medical tests
  • Migraine
  • Root canal
  • School closed
  • New baby in the family

When You're Going to Be Late:

When You Need to Leave Early:

Tips for Giving an Excuse

As we’ve said, honesty is the best policy when it comes to giving excuses for getting out of work.  However, for an , one of the reasons listed above may be one you can use.

When telling your boss the reason for your absence, keep your excuse brief. Don’t go into an elaborate explanation – the longer the excuse, the more likely your employer is to think you are lying. Remember: the longer your excuse, the less likely you will be able to remember it. Also, be sure to tell your boss about your absence as soon as possible.

The best way to do this is by calling the office as soon as possible, or . If your company has a particular policy for calling in sick, be sure to follow those guidelines.

Bad Excuses for Missing Work

Be aware that some excuses typically don't work. Some of them are too far-fetched, too elaborate, or simply not good enough reasons to miss a day of work. See below for some excuses that you probably do not want to use when you skip a day of work:

  • Car insurance expired
  • Death in the family (especially if you have already used this one)
  • Dog shut off alarm
  • Got arrested
  • Headache
  • Hungover
  • Lost phone
  • Office is too cold
  • Office is too hot
  • Partied too much last night
  • PMS
  • Someone stole water pipes
  • Sore feet
  • Stubbed toe

Worst Excuses for Missing Work

There are some reasons you should never give for calling in sick. An earlier survey from CareerBuilder listed some of the most absurd reasons for calling in sick, including the following:

  • The employee said the ozone in the air flattened his tires.
  • The employee’s pressure cooker had exploded and scared her sister, so she had to stay home.
  • The employee had to attend the funeral of his wife’s cousin’s pet because he was an uncle and pallbearer.
  • The employee was blocked in by police raiding her home.
  • The employee had to testify against a drug dealer, and the dealer’s friend mugged him.
  • The employee said her roots were showing, and she had to keep her hair appointment because she looked like a mess.
  • The employee ate cat food instead of tuna and was deathly ill.
  • The employee said she wasn’t sick, but her llama was.
  • The employee had used a hair remover under her arms and had chemical burns as a result. She couldn’t put her arms down by her sides due to that.
  • The employee was bowling the game of his life and couldn’t make it to work.
  • The employee was experiencing traumatic stress from a large spider found in her home. She had to stay home to deal with the spider.
  • The employee said he had better things to do.
  • The employee ate too much birthday cake.
  • The employee was bitten by a duck.

Write a Good Excuse Note or Email

Many companies require some kind of formal excuse note whenever you have an absence, such as a sick day or a vacation day.

Keep the note brief and professional. In the letter, state what days you were off, why you were off, and, if sent ahead of your absence, if you have asked any coworkers to take over any tasks. While you might be tempted to go over your symptoms to prove you really were sick, ignore the urge and just be straightforward. Resist as well any urge to apologize, either for being sick or for the inconvenience. 

If you are sending your note in advance of your absence, it's a good idea to share if you will be available, and the best way to reach you. We live in a smart phone era, which means that many people are constantly checking email (even when they're sitting in a paper gown in the doctor's office). Specify if you will be checking your email, and how frequently. You might write, "I'll be checking my email occasionally." or "I'll be largely away from my email but do not hesitate to call me if there is an emergency." 

Send your note promptly. If you are sending it the day of an absence, send the email in the morning, before the official start time at your company. Here are . 

What Can Happen if You Get Caught in a Lie

Do keep in mind that, even if you use what you think is a good excuse, being dishonest can cost you your job if you're caught.

Don't think that your employer won't check up on you. They typically will not, but there is always a chance they will. CareerBuilder's annual survey reports that 38 percent of employers who responded to the survey have checked up on an employee to confirm their excuse for missing work. Some employers have asked to see a doctor’s note, and others have called the employee to check in on them. Some have even driven to the employee’s house.

Be Careful About Social Media

If you don’t tell your boss the truth, be very careful about using social media. According to CareerBuilder’s survey, 43 percent of employers surveyed have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking their social media. Double-check your privacy settings so you are aware of who can see what you post.

Even if you're careful about privacy though, don't post a status, message, or photo that contradicts what you told your boss. Your boss might not see it, but if you're friends with other people at work, it could easily get back to your manager if you're not out of the office for the reason you gave.