Family emergency excuses to call in sick to miss work

What are good family emergency excuses to call in sick and miss work?

The best family emergency excuses affect you or your family’s health or well-being. Any issue involving sickness, hospitalization, death, or birth may be a valid reason for missing work. However, your employer may ask for more details on why you are missing work, especially for extended leave.

Imagine being able to miss work when a loved one needs you. You prioritize family first, which is how it should be.

Taking time off work for a family emergency will happen at some point.

Luckily, I’ll show you some of the best reasons to take off work for a family emergency. I’ll show you if you can call in sick and if you have to show proof. You’ll be well on your way to taking time off in no time!

Key Takeaways

  • Good family emergency examples include sick family members, hospitalizations, mental health issues, family death, car accidents, or birth or adoption.
  • You can call in sick due to a family emergency. However, extended leave may require contacting your HR department or applying for Family Medical Leave Act.
  • Disclosure of a family emergency isn’t required, but it does build good faith with your employer. 
  • Always call your boss immediately when a family emergency happens. Try to have your work covered by another coworker, reschedule any meetings, and minimize the impact on business operations.
  • It is considered unethical to lie and create fake family emergency excuses to leave work early. Honesty is usually the best policy.

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What are good family emergency excuses?

A good family emergency excuse involves the health or well-being of a direct family member. An immediate family member can be you or your spouse, parent, grandparent, child, or sibling on your or your spouse’s side.

Here is a list of family emergency excuses:

  1. A family member is sick or has a fever
  2. A family member has been hospitalized
  3. There was a death in the family
  4. A family member is showing signs of mental health issues
  5. There was a car accident
  6. Adding a family member, such as birth or adoption

You can come up with your own family emergency because every family is different. Your child may be struggling with a bully at school, or your spouse is going through depression. Anytime you need to support yourself, or a family member’s health or well-being is a valid excuse.

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Family emergency vs. personal emergency

A family emergency differs from a personal one, but they often overlap. Family emergencies focus on the health or well-being of you or a family member. Personal emergencies are matters that require attention in your own life but don’t necessarily affect the health or well-being of you or a family member.

Do be aware that personal emergencies may involve your health or well-being.

Examples of personal emergencies include:

  • Leaving the stove on at your house
  • Trying to figure out why your credit card keeps getting declined
  • Personal medical emergencies
  • Feelings of depression
  • You needed a dental appointment for an urgent issue

There’s often an overlap between a family emergency and a personal emergency. For example, if your child is sick and you cannot focus on your day-to-day tasks, the family emergency has become a personal emergency.

Can I call in sick for a family emergency?

You can call in sick for a family emergency. However, extended leave may require you to apply for the Family Medical Leave Act. Contact your human resource department for further information on extended leave.

Text messages may be acceptable for calling in sick or family emergencies, depending on your working relationship with your boss.

For example, sometimes I text my boss when I tell him that I won’t be going to work. 

However, it’s usually a good idea to include why you aren’t showing up to work in your text message. Specifying upfront that you are not showing up to work for a family emergency is better than saying that you’re not showing up.

A text message may also be appropriate whenever you wake up early for work and want to notify your boss immediately.

For example, I typically wake up for work around 5 in the morning. I had thrown my back out the night before and wanted to see how it would be in the morning when I woke up for work. However, when I did wake up, I knew immediately that I would not be able to make it to work.

Therefore, I sent a text message stating I was injured and needed to seek medical help. Hopefully, I didn’t disturb my boss’s sleep, but I still communicated that I couldn’t make it to work. 

What to say when there is a family emergency?

In most cases, you can just tell your boss that you have a family emergency and cannot make it to work. You should also update your employer on when you anticipate returning to work. Employers may have policies in place to cover family emergency leave.

Do I have to explain my family emergency?

An employer does not need to know why you have a family emergency. You can tell an employer requesting further details that it involves personal family details. However, explaining a family emergency can provide good faith to your employer and may be required for extended leave.

I usually like to give my boss a little insight into why I am requesting time off. I believe it provides good faith to your employer, so it doesn’t look like you’re just trying to skip out on work.

Most often, I don’t have to disclose my family urgency.

In most cases, I tell my boss there is a family matter I would like to attend to. I explain that I have already talked to my coworkers who have agreed to cover any scope that comes up throughout the day. I plan to return to work tomorrow at the normal start time. 

It’s also a good idea to set up an out-of-office message in your outlook email. State you’re unexpectedly out of the office today and list a coworker who can help with urgent tasks.

Sample script for telling my boss I have a family emergency

Here is a sample of what I tell my boss whenever a family emergency happens while I’m at work.

Me: “Hey boss. I’m sorry for the short notice, but I have a family issue, and I need to take the rest of the day off. I’ve already checked my calendar, and nothing should come up today. However, I’ve already talked to Susan and briefed her on my projects. Susan has agreed to cover anything that comes up.”

Boss: “Is everything alright?”

Me: “Yes, it’s nothing major. However, my family could use me at home right now.”

Boss: “Ok, but what is the status of the urgent project you are working on?”

Me: “The urgent project is on someone else’s desk right now. I’ve sent them an email explaining I’ll be out of the office, and Susan can pick it up if they finish their part. Susan has been briefed and has my phone number if questions come up. I’ll even set up an out-of-office reminder on outlook saying Susan is covering urgent requests, and I’ll be in tomorrow.”

Boss: “Ok, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Before you request time off, make sure you read “Expert Advice for Crafting a Professional Excuse Letter for an Emergency Absence from Work.” The guide covers making an excuse request that your boss is unlikely to deny.

Steps to take before requesting time off for a family emergency

As you noticed in the sample script, I usually work toward eliminating my boss’s concerns before taking time off for a family emergency. Eliminating your boss’s concerns makes it easier to persuade your boss. 

Eliminate your boss’s concerns about you suddenly leaving work by:

  1. Ask a coworker to cover your scope of work for the day.
  2. Brief your coworker on what might come up.
  3. Set up an out-of-office message on outlook indicating your coworker is filling in for you.
  4. Inform people working on urgent projects you’re involved with on what to do in your absence.

However, keep in mind all family emergencies have different levels of urgency.

Eliminating your bosses’ concerns by briefing a coworker and setting up an out-of-office message is time-consuming. Not all family emergencies can wait for you to perform these tasks.

For example, your wife can wait for an extra half-hour if she is having a hard day with the kids at home. In this case, take a little time to get things in order before leaving work quickly.

However, if one of your kids is in a car accident, don’t worry about eliminating your boss’s concerns. Your family is more important, which is a valid reason to leave work early. Just be sure to notify your boss on the way out.

What is a really good excuse to miss work?

Any contagious sickness, medical emergencies, or mental health issues are good excuses to miss work. Your employer does not want to spread infectious illness. Additionally, all employees should prioritize their and their family’s health above work.

Any sign of coughing, vomiting, excess fatigue, or symptoms that may be contagious should allow you to avoid work. Employers want their employees to be healthy to maximize productivity. You can’t have a productive workforce if everyone is sick.

My personal favorite is using a severe headache as an excuse to miss work. The linked guide will walk you through my process for requesting time off whenever I get a migraine.

Remember, you can always get another job but can’t replace yourself or your family. Never feel guilty about missing work to care for a loved one or yourself.

Do you have to prove a family emergency?

You may be asked to prove an absence from work that is not covered by sick leave or normal paid time off. Any time you take additional leave, an employer may ask for proof. Your employer may let you go if the Family Medical Leave Act does not cover your emergency and you do not show proof.

Your employment agreement sets forth the rules of your employment. This employment agreement will often cover how much time you get off and for what reasons.

Most employers understand family emergencies come up. For some employers, it’s no big deal. However, some employers will want to do their own due diligence to verify you’re not just skipping work.

Knowing when you have to prove a family emergency to your employer can be challenging. Therefore, I put together this guide which shows you when you need to prove an emergency under different circumstances.

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Can you lie about a fake family emergency?

Coming up with fake family emergency excuses is considered an unethical practice. Technically, you can lie to your boss about an urgent family matter or call in sick. Many people lie to their boss and come up with reasons to miss work. However, lying to your boss can result in disciplinary action if you are found out.

Personally, I have always found that telling the truth is the best practice in a professional environment.

I prefer to build a good working relationship with my boss. Every day, I try to be a hard worker that my boss can rely on to get the job done. In return, anytime I need to miss work, my boss is more than willing to let me have some time off.

Family emergency pay

Emergency leave covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees that you can take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks per year. The law also states that your employer cannot fire, harass, or penalize you for taking leave or deny your request for leave.

FMLA eligibility requires:

  1. One year of employment with your current employer
  2. You worked 1,250 hours in the past year
  3. The employer has 50 employees minimum within 75 miles of your workplace.

Therefore, pay is typically determined by your workplace policy on leave or sick pay.

For example, if your workplace offers paid time off, then you are most likely able to use your paid time off. However, if your workplace has a sick policy of unpaid time off, then you will most likely only get unpaid time off. 

Contact your Human Resources Department to determine your company’s policy on FMLA and sick leave.

Contact your state’s Department of Labor if your family emergency is covered under FMLA and your employer:

  • Doesn’t let you have time off
  • Fires you for taking time off
  • Doesn’t give you your job back after a family emergency leave
  • Makes working at the company miserable after taking leave
  • Does not give you the compensation that you are entitled to after taking leave 

You should also check out my guide, “Employer violations of FMLA rights.” The guide will show you the most common FMLA violations by employers and how to protect yourself.

Family emergency action plan

A family emergency action plan communicates to your family the steps needed to take in the event of an emergency. 

Having a family emergency plan is essential because there is usually little time to respond in the event of an emergency. All families should have an emergency plan, even if they don’t anticipate a crisis.

For example, I know a family that was negatively affected by covid-19. 

One of the family members had to be life-flighted to a hospital in another city. There was only room in the helicopter for one person, meaning the rest of the family was left behind.

Unfortunately, the family didn’t have a plan, so they tried to make arrangements as the family member was being loaded onto the helicopter.

Family emergency plans are essential for those with medical conditions.

Do you or your family members need constant trips to a hospital? If so, a plan can make the next trip smoother.

Even if you don’t make a plan, it’s always a good idea to discuss the potential for a family emergency with your family. 

Family emergency binder

A family emergency binder is a perfect place to keep critical information you might need on short notice during an emergency. You can save this binder in an easily accessible and ready-to-find area of your home so you can grab it and go.

Information to consider putting into your emergency binder includes:

  • Emergency contacts and contact information 
  • Family member medical information (e.g., blood type, allergies, medical history, medications)
  • Who to contact to take care of your pets or house 
  • Employer and School contact information 
  • Responsibilities that must be performed even if you are unable to complete them
  • Copies of your insurance cards 
  • Location of legal documents such as your will
  • Where to find information on your financials
  • Usernames and passwords to important accounts 
  • Medical preferences such as do not resuscitate
  • Information on bills that need to be paid that aren’t already paid automatically 

As you can tell, your binder contains a lot of personal information. Therefore, you may want to consider getting a binder with a padlock. You can then let the family know where the key it’s located or share the combination.

Mom may know everything in this book, but what if Mom is the one in need of medical assistance? 

The family emergency binder contains all the critical information to make a family emergency less stressful.

Family emergency bag

A family emergency bag is a prepackaged bag containing everything you need in the event of an emergency that you can quickly grab and go. Family emergency bags are often known as emergency kits.

You can either have one bag for the entire family or have each family member pack their bag.

The last thing you want to do during a family emergency is pack your own bag. Having a prepackaged bag is going to ensure that you have changes of clothing, toiletries, snacks, and everything you need to get on the road.

Here are some items to consider for your emergency bag:

  • Entertainment
  • Changes of clothing, including sleepwear
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Your emergency binder
  • Medicine
  • Clothing or necessities for your child
  • Hygiene items
  • Cash
  • Cell phone chargers or battery pack
  • Water

If you pack your bags separately, make sure you take the person’s bag who’s having an emergency. The last thing you want to do is travel to an out-of-city hospital and realize you left your spouse’s bag behind.

Family Emergency Assistance Programs

The following programs are available to help you depending on your family emergency.

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

988 is the new national hotline to call instead of 911 when your family emergency involves suicidal or emotional distress. This line is open 24/7 toll-free. Trained crisis workers provide confidential counseling and mental health referrals.


This website is an anonymous and confidential Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. You can find treatment facilities in the United States to help with substance abuse, mental health problems, or addiction. They also offer emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing.

This organization provides emergency housing for families with over 6,000 safe locations across the United States. Family Promise acts as a home base where families have access to: 

  • Showers
  • Storage
  • Playrooms
  • Laundry facilities
  • Computers

Volunteers provide overnight security, a shoulder to lean on, cook and serve meals, and help work towards goals such as finding housing, employment, education, and child care.

Emergency Financial Assistance for U.S. Families Abroad

Contact +1-202-501-4444 for the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services if you are temporarily destitute abroad. Family or friends can send you funds via the U.S. Department of State to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a $30 fee.

Emergency Medical Assistance for U.S. Families Abroad

Check the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate’s website for a list of doctors and hospitals. For eligible temporarily destitute U.S. citizens, you can get a limited emergency medical assistance loan.

Emergency Housing

Through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, your family can receive an Emergency Housing Voucher, which provides 70,000 vouchers to local Public Housing Authorities for families at-risk of homelessness or fleeing violence.

Medical Emergency Flights

Only two U.S. airlines offer discounts for medical emergency or bereavement airfare. Delta has a medical emergency flight for SkyMiles members. Alaska Airlines provides 10% off the lowest refundable fare for bereaved travelers.

Summary: Family emergency examples and excuses

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons you can call in and skip work. Family emergencies are common, and most employers won’t mind the occasional emergency. However, extended leave may require you to prove your family emergency.

Examples of missing work include anything that affects your health or well-being or the health and well-being of a family member. Any hospitalizations, mental health issues, sickness, deaths or births may be covered.

In most cases, you don’t have to explain a family emergency to an employer. However, the employer has the right to ask, especially for extended leave.

Tell your boss you have a family emergency as soon as possible. Try to get someone to cover your work scope while you’re gone and reschedule any meetings. Give your boss a short excuse and when you expect to return to the office. It would be best if you tried to minimize the impact on business operations as much as possible.

It’s not considered ethical to create family emergencies to call out of work. However, many people lie about an emergency to miss work. Honesty is usually the best policy.

John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.