What are the best excuses for missing work last minute?
Any of the following are a valid reason to miss work on short notice:
- Personal illness
- Sudden death of a close family member
- Childcare issues
- A doctor’s appointment opened up
- Mental health issues
- Menstrual cramping
- Bad weather
- Sick kid or family member
- Lack of sleep last night
- Symptoms of pregnancy
- Home emergency (e.g., pipe burst)
- Car problems (e.g., flat tire)
- Pet emergency
- Spouse needs help
- Food poisoning
- Family emergencies
- Car accident
- Religious holiday observance
- Your friend needs help
- Emergency dentist visit
- Self injury (e.g., back pain)
- Appliance delivery
- Getting locked out
- Unexpected guests showed up
- Flexible work schedule
- Emergency eye appointment
Luckily for you, I’ll show you a list of good excuses which your boss will believe. I have personally used a good majority of these reasons for missing work and have curated this list for you to use as well. Use any one of these excuses or come up with your own for an extra day off work.
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Legitimate reasons for missing work last minute
A valid excuse for missing work last minute usually includes at least one of the following:
- You’re unable to make it into the office
- You or someone you know is sick or needs medical attention
- Placing family before work
- Something happened to your home or car
Keep in mind, some work excuses can turn into bad excuses real quick. Your boss may ask for proof of your emergency, so try to avoid using a fake excuse. For example, medical appointments may require a doctor’s note and jury duty may require your summons or a juror’s slip.
Most bosses will require you to request time off prior to missing work. Luckily, we wrote a guide to help you master the art of writing the perfect excuse letter for being absent from work.
Let’s look at some of the best reasons for missing work.
#1 Feeling Ill or Sick
No one can predict an illness or when they will feel too sick to work. Feeling under the weather is a legitimate reason to call into work at the last minute. You don’t want to get your coworkers sick, and most managers are sympathetic to employees who aren’t feeling well.
In 2022, 6% of surveyed workers missed at least one day due to illness. Another 15% missed between two and three days, while 11% missed between four and five days. Bosses who don’t accommodate sick employees probably won’t have them around for much longer.
Some states, such as Colorado, mandate employers give employees so many sick days per year. Usually, employees who don’t receive separate sick time have PTO or personal time off.
Sick workers should use it instead of trying to force themselves through a workday. Otherwise, you might make your illness worse or make mistakes at work.
#2 Sudden Death in the Family
While there isn’t a federal mandate for bereavement leave, many employers provide it. Sudden death in your family is another reasonable reason to miss work at the last minute. Like an illness, you can’t predict when a loved one will pass away.
Most supervisors will be willing to work with their employees in these sensitive situations. Your immediate supervisor will usually schedule the time you need to grieve and take care of family matters.
For instance, you may be a loved one’s estate executor. You may want additional time to settle your loved one’s financial affairs. In these instances, you might need to ask for PTO in addition to bereavement leave.
That said, sudden death in the family is one of the top good excuses for missing work last minute. The reason is outside your control and not a deliberate attempt to avoid your job responsibilities.
#3 Childcare Issues
Single-parent and two-parent households face childcare issues, especially if a child must stay home sick. Many daycare centers and private childcare providers don’t necessarily want to be around an ill child. Other problems can happen, such as babysitters who cancel or daycare centers that close.
Childcare issues like these aren’t always foreseeable. Some bosses may let you work from home so you can watch your kid. However, not all jobs can be done from home, and you may need to take a day or two off.
When you run into these childcare issues, it’s best to explain the situation to your supervisor. Most bosses will understand more if you give as much detail as possible. Let’s say your daycare center abruptly closes.
Give your boss the backstory and tell them what you’re doing to resolve the problem. For example, you’re lining up a backup form of childcare while searching for a new center. And you’ll be able to return to work in the next day or two.
#4 A Doctor’s Appointment Opened Up Last Minute
Doctor’s appointments are a tricky last-minute excuse to use. You may come across as disorganized or insensitive to the organization’s staffing needs. But it’s easier to use sporadically if you have a good relationship with your boss.
When you communicate openly with your supervisor, they’ll understand you must miss work for last-minute doctor appointments. Your boss doesn’t need to know your full medical history or situation. But letting them know that you may have to schedule some doctor’s appointments soon can help.
This way, your supervisor won’t be completely caught off guard or frustrated when you miss work. Good communication prevents frustrations even if your company’s culture is more lax when using sick time.
Give your boss a head’s up that you’re trying to get into the doctor. Say you’ll let them know once you’ve confirmed an appointment. They’ll then be more receptive to a call or text saying you got in this morning or afternoon.
#5 Mental Health Issues
A whopping 80% of employees occasionally feel stressed out or overwhelmed at their jobs. About 60% of missed work happens because of stress or burnout. So, the need to take a mental health day can easily sneak up on you.
Most people call in sick if they need to recover from stress and burnout. But chances are that your boss also has to take mental health days from time to time. Remember that their job responsibilities and stress levels are usually higher than yours.
However, calling in sick to recover from stress or burnout isn’t a long-term solution. See if you can talk with your supervisor about policies, work conditions, or procedures that are causing undue stress. Your company should do what it can to ensure employees don’t reach the point of burnout.
Sometimes, the right answer is to start looking for another job with a different organization. Alternatively, you can look into other open positions in your company. You may need to be in a different job or need to work with less difficult personalities.
#6 Menstrual Cramping
Menstrual cramps can come on suddenly and vary from month to month. Sometimes the pain can be so severe that you can’t concentrate, sit up, or stand. While severe cramping can be a symptom of conditions like endometriosis, you can’t power your way through them.
You may need to take a day off work to rest and take over-the-counter pain medication. In these cases, using a sick day or two is okay. You don’t need to tell your boss why you’re calling in. Say you’re not feeling well and need to rest.
But see your doctor if you continue experiencing severe cramping, dizziness, and nausea. You may need to undergo tests and imaging, including an ultrasound, to determine the cause. While period cramps are common, they’re usually not going to keep interfering with your lifestyle.
#7 Panic Attacks or Anxiety
About 6.8 million U.S. adults have a generalized anxiety disorder. Another 6 million American adults have panic disorder. However, not everyone recognizes they have these conditions or seeks professional treatment. Even if they do, panic and anxiety attacks can happen anytime.
Medication and therapy are meant to manage panic and anxiety disorders. But these treatment methods can’t necessarily cure someone or prevent all attacks. When you have an episode, avoiding your job or any serious responsibilities is best.
In other words, don’t make life-altering decisions, sign contracts, or engage in financial transactions. Depending on the severity, you might also want to seek care during a panic or anxiety attack. Have someone you trust call your employer if it’s too much for you to handle.
Anyone who’s had a migraine knows they’re not your average headache. You can’t always take aspirin to eliminate a migraine or its side effects. Those effects can include dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and vision issues.
To recover, you may need extra strength pain medication and caffeine. You might also need to lie down in a dark room. Sometimes migraines can be a symptom of more serious conditions, such as brain aneurysms. It’s better to stay home, call your doctor, and use a sick day.
And because migraines aren’t something you plan, calling in the day they happen is understandable. Most bosses aren’t going to punish you for taking a sick day for this reason. Some people also have to leave work early because of migraines.
When they show up to work, they feel fine. But as they get their day going, a migraine strikes. Some people are more prone to them, including those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Fortunately, I wrote the following guide to help you get out of work when a migraine strikes:
The guide covers everything you need to know for getting out of work due to migraines.
#9 Unsafe Weather Conditions
Inclement weather happens, and dangerous conditions can come as a surprise. Weather forecasts don’t always get it right and unsafe road conditions may develop quickly. Compassionate and understanding bosses aren’t going to want their employees to risk their lives.
So they’ll understand that you can’t safely make it to work because of hazardous conditions. They may not make it into work themselves when the weather is bad. Because some employees can do their jobs from home, they may tell you not to worry about coming in.
Instead of working in the office that day, you’ll work from home. But if this arrangement isn’t possible, some employers will pay their employees for a snow or inclement weather day. School districts are examples of organizations that do this.
A school district can’t operate buses or teach students if inclement weather impacts building or school safety. Therefore, these employers close their offices and buildings while announcing that all employees should stay home. They also don’t have to take a vacation or sick day to make up for the pay.
#10 Sick Family Member
An ill family member or sick child can cause you to miss work at the last minute. Employees with sick time or PTO can legitimately request time off to care for a sick family member. Once someone exhausts these benefits, the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA leave takes over.
However, some stipulations apply to FMLA leave. Different illnesses and situations may determine how much FMLA leave you can take. FMLA leave is also unpaid, and you usually have to work for an employer for at least 12 non-consecutive months.
Small businesses with less than 50 employees also don’t have to grant FMLA leave. That said, most employers will accommodate employees who care for ill family members. Whether for a day or a few weeks, the leave you take costs less than hiring a replacement.
Diarrhea can come with little forewarning. Food poisoning, rapid hormone shifts, and other health conditions can cause diarrhea. While diarrhea can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, it can also cause dehydration.
When you have a bout of diarrhea, it’s impossible to work. You’ll need to stay close to a bathroom and use it several times throughout the day. Drinking plenty of fluids, taking medications, and getting rest are also necessary for recovery.
Plus, diarrhea can be a symptom of a more serious condition or illness. Missing work last minute because of diarrhea is something that’s going to happen because you’re human. You can call in sick without telling your boss what you have.
However, if you’re experiencing diarrhea because of an underlying condition, you may want to disclose what’s happening. For example, you may have COVID, and diarrhea is one of your symptoms. Telling your boss you’re calling in because of COVID lets others know if they need to get tested.
#12 Lack of Sleep
A lack of sleep can impact your ability to concentrate and make decisions. When you’re tired or sleep-deprived, you’re also more likely to make mistakes on the job. These mistakes can cause accidents and put others at risk.
So, if you’re feeling the symptoms of sleep deprivation, it’s better to miss work. Tell your boss you need to take a sick day. Since some won’t take the excuse lightly, they don’t need to know why.
The exception is if you’re traveling on company business. Travel delays and problems can interrupt your sleep schedule, especially if you’re stuck in an airport. In these scenarios, your boss will understand that you need a day to sleep and recover.
#13 Pregnancy Symptoms
Almost everyone knows that morning sickness is a common pregnancy symptom. Morning sickness is a good reason to stay home and miss work. Like an illness, you can’t predict when morning sickness will strike.
Even if you know you’re pregnant, you may feel fine one morning and not so great the next. Morning sickness can also strike at different times of the day. Sometimes something you eat or smell triggers it.
Taking care of yourself is more important than trying to go into work or make it through the day. Explain to your employer that you’re not feeling well and need to take sick time or PTO. You can choose to disclose why if you know you’re pregnant.
Otherwise, your symptoms may prompt you to consider pregnancy as a possible cause. Once you know you’re pregnant, you can work with your doctor to manage the symptoms.
#14 Home Emergencies
Home emergencies, such as burst pipes, can cause you to miss work at the last minute. Other examples include the AC or heating going out, or you’ve discovered a pest. These aren’t problems you can ignore or address after work.
Burst piping or an HVAC system that’s not working can cause further damage to the property. Calling vendors over to fix the issue means you need to be home. Let your boss know what’s happening and that you can’t come in today.
#15 Car Problems
You can’t get to work if you’ve got car trouble. A car that won’t start, malfunctioning brakes, and flat tires are typical reasons for missing work last minute. Unless you can get a ride or take public transportation, you will need time off.
Now, car trouble may mean you don’t miss the entire day. You might only miss a few hours or half the day. Taking or towing your car into the shop will give you a better idea.
Just be sure to update your boss on the situation. Some will tell you to go ahead and come in if you can get your car to start. Others will tell you not to worry about coming in and to keep them in the loop.
#16 Your Pet is Sick
Pets are family, too. So, you’ll miss work if you’re the only person who can take care of a sick pet. For most ailments, you’ll need to call your vet or take your animal in for an evaluation.
Caring for a sick pet may mean staying home with them during the most critical times. Severe episodes can require emergency surgery or hospitalization. Since animals can’t speak for themselves, it’s their owner’s responsibility to do it.
Whether you need to take part of the day off or all of it, tell your supervisor what’s going on. They might be pet owners and more than sympathetic toward your situation.
#17 Home Invasion
No one wants or expects their home to be broken into. While break-ins don’t always occur during work hours, you need time to deal with the aftermath. Police reports, investigations, and cleanups can spill over into the workday.
In these cases, it’s a good idea to be honest with your boss about why you’re missing work last minute. Break-ins can not only cause physical damage but also lead to emotional distress. You may need to stay somewhere else while you repair your home.
Victims of robberies and home invasions may also need emotional support and counseling afterward. The distress can impact your work performance or whether you can return full-time. For instance, you might sustain physical injuries in addition to emotional trauma.
#18 Your Spouse Needed You
Part of a marriage involves helping spouses in their time of need. They could be in an accident or require help with another type of emergency. You may already be at work when you get the phone call.
Or, you might be ready to head out the door to work. Either way, give your boss a quick call or text to let them know you can’t work that day. Let them know your wife or husband has an emergency they need help with.
You don’t necessarily have to say what the emergency is unless you want to. For the most part, employers aren’t going to give you any pushback. They know family matters come up that are out of your control.
And given that spouses are often medical proxies or emergency contacts, they’re expected to provide immediate support. There’s no reason to feel guilty about missing work or leaving your job to help out your significant other.
#19 Food Poisoning
Food poisoning can make you extremely sick. It can even kill you in extreme cases. Besides a fever, you may experience vomiting and diarrhea. You may also experience fatigue and dehydration.
There isn’t a magic pill to cure food poisoning. Most cases involve riding it out in bed with sports drinks, water, or non-caffeinated soda like ginger ale. You won’t do any good to your employer while you’re sick.
Call in and say you’re using a sick or PTO day. You can say you’re sick with food poisoning or not feeling well. Luckily, most cases of food poisoning go away with a day or two of rest.
#20 Family Emergency
A family emergency can be anything from a sudden death to an accident or severe illness. Most people will tell their employers they can’t make it to work because of a family emergency. They don’t always say what that emergency is.
Because of laws like HIPAA, employers or supervisors shouldn’t pry or ask for specifics. Whether you want to disclose what’s going on is up to you. Some people have close friendships with their bosses and coworkers.
They don’t mind if they know the details of what’s going on in their lives. Other people prefer to keep things private and maintain a professional distance. Whichever way you approach the situation is up to you.
But emergencies are unplanned, so you shouldn’t worry about your employer’s resistance. Say you won’t be in and will let them know when you’ll be back once you know more.
Fortunately, we put together a guide to family emergency excuses for missing work. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about using a family emergency excuse for work.
#21 Car Accident
This is not a fun reason for missing work at the last minute. But if you do, it’s probably because you were in an accident on your way to work. Or, you were in one the day before you’re scheduled to come in, and your car isn’t drivable.
You could also be hurt or hospitalized because of a car accident. Someone else may contact your supervisor for you if this happens. But say you’re not hurt, and only your car sustains physical damage.
Even if your insurance covers a rental car, getting a drivable vehicle can take a few hours. You may also be so shaken up that you need time to process what happened. Taking the day off because of a car accident is a reasonable and expected request.
#22 Observance of a Religious Holiday
To be honest, this excuse may come off as irresponsible. Most employers will expect you to schedule time off for a holiday in advance. The only reason why it will fly as a last-minute excuse is if your company or boss tolerates it.
Some organizational cultures or departments don’t mind if employees submit vacation or time off requests at the last minute. But if you’re new to a company or job, don’t count on doing this.
You might be able to get away with saying you forgot. Or, you were so busy you missed your chance to ask for the day off. Once you let your boss know you need to observe a religious holiday, they’ll probably grant the request.
However, don’t be surprised if they ask you to give them more of a heads-up in the future.
#23 Your Friend Needed Support
Not everyone has immediate family nearby. Instead, they rely on their friends for support during emergencies or hard times. Your friends may call on you for support that requires you to be with them in person.
And that means missing work at the last minute because you have to rush to be by their side. How you explain and handle this with your boss is up to you. Some people say they have a family emergency or call in sick.
Others are more upfront about the situation and explain they are their friend’s source of support. Regardless, being there for someone you care about is more important than work. Your job will be there when you return, but your friend may not.
#24 Dental Emergency
Chipped teeth and infections are examples of dental emergencies. You might be able to give your supervisor a heads-up the night before. Or, your dental emergency could happen on a day you’re scheduled to be in.
Dental emergencies are usually physical ailments that can’t wait. For instance, infections along the gum line can get into your bloodstream. You’re at risk for serious complications, and your dentist will need to take care of an infection asap.
Missing work at the last minute is a no-brainer when your health is in jeopardy. Tell your boss why you’re missing work and take whatever paid leave is available. You might need recovery time, so hold off on telling your employer when you’ll return until after your procedure.
#25 You Injured Yourself
Falling off a ladder, throwing your back out, or other severe injuries can make you miss work unexpectedly. However, no reasonable boss will expect you to show up with a severe physical injury. You need to take care of yourself, see a doctor, or go to urgent care.
Depending on the severity and type of injury, recovery time may also be in your immediate future. There’s no sense in returning to work before you’re physically ready or cleared to by your doctor. Once you’re out of danger and have a treatment plan, let your employer know how long you’ll be out.
#26 New Appliance Delivery and Installation
In most cases, you know when you’ll be getting new appliances. But say your fridge or dishwasher goes out on Sunday. You’re able to buy a replacement and get your local home improvement store to deliver it on Monday.
They’re also going to install it and haul the old one away. This is the soonest opening the store has, and you’ll have to wait weeks if you don’t take it. Tell your boss what happened and why you must be home on Monday.
You might get permission to work from home that day if your job permits it. Otherwise, you can take a vacation or personal day. It’s not ideal, but situations like these do happen occasionally. Your boss has probably run into them and will likely empathize with you.
#27 You Locked Yourself Out
Yes, you can lock yourself out of your home or car. This means you’ll need a locksmith or someone else with a working key to bail you out. You’ll need to wait until they can get to you before you’re ready to go anywhere.
It’s not a fun phone call or conversation, but you must tell your boss why you’re missing work. However, they may laugh with you at the situation. You never know.
#28 Unexpected Guests Have Arrived
This is more likely to happen around the holidays. But having relatives, friends, or acquaintances show up on your doorstep without warning can be jarring. You may need to get them settled or feel uncomfortable leaving them alone.
It may be best to be completely forthcoming with your boss in these scenarios. This way, you won’t have to come up with a story.
#29 Your Company Offers a Flexible Work Schedule
This situation may not be as rare as you think. Flexible schedules are becoming more common as employers struggle to recruit and retain talent. When you work for a company that offers flexible schedules, it doesn’t make sense not to take advantage of it.
That flexibility allows you to pick up your kids from school and schedule doctors’ appointments. You can also work remotely when you need to. Just let your boss know, and you should be okay.
#30 Emergency Eye Appointment
Taking care of eye emergencies is the same as any urgent medical issue. There’s no reason to try to make it into work if you can’t see properly.
Eye injuries and sudden vision loss can fall under the eye emergency umbrella. Make your appointment and let your boss know you won’t be in.
Just ensure your eye problem isn’t that you couldn’t see yourself coming into work today.