41 Good excuses to leave work early or suddenly

What are good excuses to leave work early or suddenly?

Good excuses to leave work early or suddenly include family medical emergencies or sudden death, illness, and childcare issues. Most employers will accept reasons related to you or your family’s health and well-being. 

Reasons to leave work early include:

  1. Family emergencies
  2. Sudden death in the family
  3. Feeling ill or sick
  4. Resolving childcare issues
  5. Going to school
  6. Doctor’s appointment
  7. Dentist appointment
  8. Eye appointment
  9. Sick family members
  10. Job interviews
  11. Mental health issues
  12. It’s your last day on the job
  13. Menstrual cramping
  14. Anxiety or panic attacks
  15. Appointments which can’t wait or be rescheduled
  16. Migraines
  17. Heavy snowfall or feeling unsafe to drive in worsening conditions
  18. Diarrhea
  19. Pregnancy symptoms
  20. Lack of sleep
  21. Personal reasons
  22. Voting
  23. Religious observances
  24. Home emergencies
  25. You’ve been working long hours
  26. Car problems
  27. You’re maxing out on vacation days
  28. Major life events
  29. You need a better work-life balance
  30. You’ve got a sick pet
  31. You have a business event to attend
  32. Professional development
  33. Family obligations
  34. Home invasion
  35. Your child got into a fight
  36. Your child was bullied
  37. A family member needs assistance
  38. Your company offers flextime
  39. Your spouse is having a hard day
  40. Adoption
  41. A service member has been activated

Imagine, being able to leave work early without getting into trouble. Maybe you have an emergency or are just looking to not be at work today.

It’s perfectly understandable to want to be away from work when you want or need.

Luckily for you, I’ll show you the best excuses for leaving work suddenly. I’ll tell you how to get your boss to let you go and how to avoid getting in trouble. You’ll be on your way out the door in no time!

Key Takeaways:

  • Good excuses to leave work early include any reason you’re not feeling well or urgent matters requiring your attention.
  • Bad reasons to leave work early are non-urgent, such as a hair cut appointment.
  • Tell your boss before leaving work. In-person is best, but text and email requests for time off are acceptable.
  • You can get into trouble for leaving work early without permission. Check with your boss before leaving and charge your time accordingly.
  • Pay depends on if your company offers paid time off or sick leave. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only guarantees unpaid leave.
  • Giving a fake reason to leave work is considered unethical and should be avoided.

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Good excuses to leave work early or suddenly

Good excuses to leave work early or suddenly include family medical emergencies, sudden death in the family, illness, or childcare issues. Your family and health should take priority in your life above work and most employers will accept it as a valid reason to leave work.

Reasons to leave work early include:

  1. Family emergencies
  2. Sudden death of a family member
  3. Feeling ill or sick
  4. Resolving childcare issues
  5. Going to school
  6. Doctor’s appointment
  7. Dentist appointment
  8. Eye appointment
  9. Sick family members
  10. Job interviews
  11. Mental health issues
  12. It’s your last day on the job
  13. Menstrual cramps
  14. Anxiety or panic attacks
  15. Appointments which can’t wait or be rescheduled
  16. Migraines
  17. Heavy snowfall or feeling unsafe to drive in worsening conditions
  18. Diarrhea
  19. Pregnancy symptoms
  20. Lack of sleep
  21. Personal reasons
  22. Voting
  23. Religious observances
  24. Home emergencies
  25. You’ve been working long hours
  26. Car problems
  27. You’re maxing out on vacation days
  28. Major life events
  29. You need a better work-life balance
  30. You’ve got a sick pet
  31. You have a business event to attend
  32. Professional development
  33. Family obligations
  34. Home invasion
  35. Your child got into a fight
  36. Your child was bullied
  37. A family member needs assistance
  38. Your company offers flextime
  39. Your spouse is having a hard day
  40. Adoption
  41. A service member has been activated

Let’s take a more in-depth look at each reason to leave work.

Family emergency

A family medical emergency can cover anything from:

  • Childbirth
  • Car accident
  • Mental health issues
  • Any reason to seek medical attention.

Typically, family medical emergencies cover grandparents, parents, siblings, and your children.

Family emergencies range in urgency, meaning you might have to leave work unexpectedly at the last minute or you might have some time to let your boss know.

Chances of you getting fired for leaving work without notice for an urgent emergency is low, especially with an understanding boss. However, leaving work early without notice for a non-emergency issue can land you in trouble with your boss.

You should also be aware that your employer can ask for proof of family emergency if leave is taken under the Family Medical Leave Act. An example of proof your employer may ask for is a doctor’s note.

Check out this guide to find out when proof is required.

A spouse that ended up in the hospital is a good reason to leave work on short notice.

Your sole focus should be getting to the hospital to be with your spouse. I would prioritize my family over my career, but try to remember to call my boss on the way to the hospital.

Now, I would notify my boss before leaving if your spouse is having trouble with the kids at home. In this situation, leaving work early without notice isn’t justified but I would still try to get home quickly.

Sudden family death

A family member’s death can occur at any time, including during work. You should be able to leave work immediately should you receive news that a family member has died. Your employer may be required to give you additional time off for bereavement.

Your human resources department will have an official document on bereavement policy.

Bereavement policies are in place to help individuals after the death of a loved one. The amount of leave you get under a bereavement policy is dependent on your company’s policy.

In general, bereavement typically lasts between 2 and 5 days depending on your relationship with the deceased. You’ll most likely get more time off for immediate relationships, such as a parent, spouse, or child.

Bereavement is typically applicable for the following:

  • Grieving
  • Contacting relatives and friends
  • Making funeral arrangements
  • Sorting out the estate of the deceased

Don’t feel ashamed for taking time off if there’s a death in your family. The death of a loved one is a good excuse to miss work or leave work early. Keep in mind, you only have so many grandparents and your boss is probably keeping track.

You feel ill

Any health condition that makes you unable to perform the essentials of your job is a good reason to leave work. This can include an existing health condition, migraines, sudden illness, food poisoning, or any other illness.

It is better to call in sick for work before getting to work than it is to leave early. You want to avoid spreading any illness which is contagious to the rest of your coworkers. However, an illness can strike at any time, so you should leave work as soon as you feel sick.

Don’t feel guilty about calling in sick for work. As long as you’re being honest about your sickness, you have nothing to feel guilty about.

Your body needs rest when you’re sick and you’re not going to perform well showing up to work feeling sick. Your coworkers will also be thankful that you’re not spreading germs at work, bringing down their productivity as well.

Child care

In some cases, despite your best planning, your childcare option might fall through. For example, your child becomes ill and the daycare needs someone to pick them up. You might be the only one that can take care of your child and should be able to leave early.

Example reasons to leave work early due to child care:

  • Your child became sick
  • The person scheduled to pick up your child fell through
  • Your going to get charged for after school care
  • There has been a school closure or early release

Keep in mind, your employer does not have a legal responsibility to facilitate child care. You may be fired for continuously leaving work early or showing up late because of child care issues.

Having a good working relationship with your boss is important if you have child care issues. Try to work with your boss so they sympathize and are willing to help. Consider seeing if you can:

  • Adjust your working schedule
  • Take advantage of remote work from home

Unfortunately, the Family Medical Leave Act does not cover having a lack of child care. However, if your child has a medical issue then you may qualify for FMLA.

Example child medical conditions which may qualify you to use FMLA include:

  • Mental health issues
  • Diagnosed medical conditions
  • Baby bonding

Your employer cannot deny your leave requests which are covered under FMLA.


Going to school is a good excuse to leave work early at night. Since classes are usually scheduled for the same time each week you’ll most likely need to make arrangements with your boss. Your boss may prefer an adjusted work schedule so you still get your required 40-hours in each week.

Employers are typically understanding if you’re still in college or furthering your education.

In some cases, furthering your education will benefit the company.

An example would be going to get your masters in engineering while you’re working for an engineering company. The company would benefit from your increased knowledge as long as you’re going to continue working for the company.

Doctor’s appointment

Doctor’s appointments are usually scheduled in advance so you should be able to give plenty of notice to your boss about leaving early. You should also attempt to schedule your appointment for a day and time which minimizes impact to your job.

Ideally, you would schedule your doctor’s appointment for your day off. However, the next available appointment may not be on your day off or you might get a sudden cancellation.

Taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act does require you to notify your employer with 30 days advance notice. If you can’t give 30 days notice, then you must give notice as soon as possible.

Note that FMLA does allow you to take unpaid time off of work for a doctor’s appointment for you or qualifying family members.

You should also consider the urgency of your appointment and your comfort level of being flexible.

Annual checkups where you have no concerts might be best rescheduled to minimize impact to business operations. Going in for a mysterious lump or mark should be taken care of immediately.

Keep in mind, it’s your health. Go see the doctor if you feel the need to as your top priority.

Dentist appointment

Dentist’s appointments are another good excuse to leave work early. Do your best to minimize impacts to your company’s operation and consider the urgency of your visit.

Annual checkups should be rescheduled if you have no concerns and you have the flexibility to do so. However, any pain or discomfort is a good reason to leave work.

Example reasons of when you should use a dentist appointment as an excuse to miss work include:

  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Chipped or broken tooth
  • Wisdom teeth removal
  • A crown came off
  • You lost a filling
  • Tooth aches

Oftentimes I’ll get to work and have a dental emergency while at work. Such as the time a coworker brought in a bag of Tootsie Pops, which surprisingly led to a cracked tooth.

Eye appointment

As with doctor and dentist appointments, emergency eye appointments are typically scheduled for Mondays. Eye doctors are often closed over the weekends, meaning Monday morning is your first available time to receive treatment.

Emergency eye appointments are a good excuse to miss work and should not be ignored.

Your child is sick

I will always prioritize my child’s health over my career. I’m sure there are plenty of parents who would do the same.

Unless your child’s sickness is covered under Family Medical Leave Act, your boss doesn’t have to let you leave early for your child being sick. However, most bosses are understanding and are willing to work with you.

You have a job interview

Leaving early because you have a job interview is a valid excuse, especially if you are a short-term employee. Examples of being a short-term employee include:

  • You are an intern while you’re going to school
  • Working in a seasonal business, such as retail
  • You work in an industry or company that has high turnover

Telling your boss you have a job interview isn’t my first choice of excuses for leaving early.

Letting your boss know that you are having a job interview gives the impression you are not committed to the company. I wouldn’t tell my boss I have a job interview because this can be on their mind during performance reviews and potential salary increases or bonuses.

Phone interviews are the best way to interview without your boss knowing. You can easily have the interview in your car in your work’s parking lot. Most interviews take around a half hour, which means you won’t be away from work for very long.

You are still obligated to fill out your timecard accordingly.

Some employees will try and use their lunch break to interview for the job. Even if your normally scheduled lunch is at 11:30, you may be able to take an early lunch if your interview is in the morning.

Technically, your employer does not have to give you time off for interviews.

You should try to schedule a job interview so that it doesn’t occur during your normal working hours. Try to take time off of work, such as using your paid time off, if you have a job interview.

However, most companies have a similar work schedule and you will often have to take an interview during working hours.

Mental health reasons

You are allowed to leave work early or take time off for mental health reasons. Mental Health absences are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act. Your employer is required to let you take time off of work if you meet the criteria for eligibility.

Mental health is a bulletproof reason to leave work early.

There are a wide variety of mental health reasons to take off from work. A few different reasons may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling burned out
  • Panic Attacks

You don’t have to tell your boss about your mental health reasons. However, time taken off under Family Medical Leave Act may require proof to your employer, such as a doctor’s note.

In most cases, you can simply let your boss know that you aren’t feeling well.

It’s your last day

Your last day may be a perfect reason to leave work early. Once your work is finished or handed off to your coworkers, your boss isn’t going to expect you to start something new.

Before you take off from work early on your last day, consider the following:

  • You said goodbye to everyone
  • Your boss knows you’re leaving
  • Outlook has an out of office message saying you left and who to contact
  • You have given your contact information to anyone you feel needs it
  • You’ve left a status of your work scope for the next person

Assuming your boss is okay with you leaving, go ahead and leave.

Menstrual cramping

Most companies in the U.S. don’t have a menstruation leave policy. However, you can still talk to your boss about taking time off under sick leave or your paid time off. You should consider taking time off if you experience significant period pain or cramping.

Most employers don’t need to hear about this time of the month. Instead, you can request time off by stating you’re not feeling well.

Anxiety or panic attack

Having anxiety or panic attacks is another valid reason for leaving work suddenly. You can even call in sick if you’re having particularly high levels of anxiety.

Mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Your employer is required to give you reasonable accommodations to assist with disabilities. Note, the accommodations can’t cause undue burden on the employer. So you’ll have to work with your employer to understand what is considered reasonable accommodations.

Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Working from home
  • Adjusted work schedule
  • Adjusted break schedule

It would be best to have your Anxiety diagnosed by a doctor before speaking to your Human Resources Department. Your employer may ask for a doctor’s note or other similar documentation.

Having anxiety may qualify you for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

You have an appointment that can’t wait

Non-medical appointments should be minimized to not impact business operations. However, some appointments or personal emergencies need to be addressed during working hours.

Examples of appointments that can’t wait include:

  • Appliance repair
  • Last minute doctor’s appointments
  • Emergency surgery
  • Home contractors


Having a migraine or severe headache is a good reason to leave work early. You’re most likely not accomplishing much with a massive headache, so you might as well do nothing at home instead.

I’ve personally taken time off a few times for tension headaches.

I’ll usually try to see how much work I can get done within a couple hours and gauge my productivity. I attempt to resolve my headache at work first by:

  • Stretching
  • Taking Excedrin
  • Having caffeine
  • Working muscle knots out

Continuing to feel bad while getting next to nothing done usually means I’m requesting time off. I also wrote a guide on the following:

This guide will show you how to get out of work due to a severe headache.

Snow or worsening weather

Snow and other inclement weather may be a good reason to leave work early. Unfortunately, not working because of snow or bad weather is usually unpaid, but some companies have weather pay policies.

My work does pay employees if they cancel work due to weather and the employee doesn’t have teleworking access. Employees who can do remote work are expected to do so.

Ultimately, you need to make the determination if you feel safe going to work or staying at work.

Last winter, my work didn’t cancel even though the consensus amongst us was that work should have been canceled. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out of my neighborhood before sliding into a curb.

The total repair was over $1,000!

I’m still responsible for damages to my car and my safety getting to work. The company only cares that you’re showing up to work on time, even on a snow day.


You can leave work early if you have diarrhea if you feel you can make the commute home. Diarrhea can be a sign you’re too sick to go to work and nobody wants an accident in front of your coworkers.

You don’t have to go into details when telling your boss. Keep it simple and say you have an upset stomach and need to call in sick. You’ll most likely be back tomorrow.

You’re pregnant

Pregnancy comes with multiple reasons to miss work. You may even start missing work due to pregnancy or morning sickness. Working in an office environment while sitting all day can be difficult while pregnant and a reason to take early maternity leave.

Signs to stop working during pregnancy include:

  1. Nausea and Vomiting
  2. Fatigue
  3. Backaches or soreness
  4. Swollen legs or feet
  5. Inability to stay comfortable
  6. Unable to catch your breath

You should always consult your doctor about your ability to work while pregnant. You should also consider any pregnancy complications, have a high risk pregnancy, or have a demanding job.

Lack of sleep

You should consider staying home if you get little to no sleep. Lack of sleep negatively affects your performance and may cause safety issues. You should also factor in the demands and risks of your job, such as office worker versus forklift driver.

Lack of sleep inhibits your ability to function, which can lead to several issues, such as:

  • Getting into an accident on your way to work
  • Making poor decisions which have consequences (e.g., engineering decisions)
  • Falling asleep at your desk

You should also consider the reason why you didn’t get sufficient sleep. An acceptable excuse is staying up with a crying baby all night. It’s not acceptable or professional to not get any sleep because you were partying all night.

Certain diagnosed medical conditions may make you eligible for FMLA. Consider the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Narcolepsy

Consult your Human Resource Department if any sleep disorder applies to you and if you qualify for FMLA.

Personal reasons

The most generic of all reasons to leave work early is to state you have personal reasons. Some bosses are ok with you leaving for personal reasons, while others may want more of an explanation.

Keep in mind, your boss may deny your request to leave for stating personal reasons.

Personally, I like to give my boss a little bit more details. For example, “I’d like to request time off for personal reasons. I’m not feeling well at the moment and am unable to concentrate.”

The explanation is short, but doesn’t give too many details.

You should note that leaving for personal reasons does not qualify you for FMLA. However, a personal reason, such as a relative just passed away, may allow you to apply for bereavement or FMLA.


Depending on your state, you may be allowed to take time off work to vote in an election. You can check Nolo’s website to see if your state qualifies.

For example, California allows 2 hours to be taken at the beginning or end of shift, whichever is least impactful to business operations. You can’t take time off if you have sufficient time outside of work to vote. The time off is paid.

Another example, Georgia allows 2 hours as determined by the employer. Time off is not paid.

Religious observances

Employers should make reasonable accommodations to facilitate any religious practice where you cannot work due to religious beliefs. Typically, reasonable accommodation comes in the form of a modified work schedule. You are still required to meet your work hours (e.g., 40 hour) and an employer may require a written request to modify your work schedule.

For example, Seventh-Day Adventists tend to observe the Sabbath starting at sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday. In particular, Friday work schedules may bring individuals working too close to Friday’s sundown during the winter months. An SDA employee may request a modified winter work schedule to work different hours.

Keep in mind, your request for a modified schedule does not entitle you to overtime pay if your modified schedule pushes you into an overtime situation. For example, an employer with a standard 40 hour work week does not need to pay overtime pay if you request working 35 hours in the first week and 45 hours in the second.

You can learn more about your right to work schedule adjustments for religious observances at OPM.gov.

Home emergency

Any unexpected event which affects your housing is considered a home emergency and is one of the best reasons for leaving work early. Examples of home emergencies include:

  1. Burst pipe
  2. Gas leak
  3. House fire
  4. HVAC stops working
  5. Broken major appliances (e.g., refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher)

Chances are that you’ll be notified of a home emergency by your spouse or roommate. Usually it is a legitimate reason to leave if it’s important enough to contact you during regular business hours.

For example, your spouse calls you and mentions there’s no water coming out of the faucets. You should probably leave work to help troubleshoot while most plumbers are still working. Otherwise, you run the risk of not having running water until you can get an appointment.

You’ve been working long work hours

Another great excuse to leave work early is if you’ve already been working long hours. Not all companies value a good work-life balance or you may have had an important project at work. Regardless, if you find yourself 60 hours or even 42 into a 40 hour work week, consider taking time off. You deserve a mental health day to recover and prevent burn out.

You have car trouble

Car problems are something you can expect on a regular basis, especially if you have a long commute to work. You should consider leaving work early to take your car to a repair shop or so you can fix it yourself. The last thing you or your boss wants is for you to be stranded on the side of the road or unable to get to work because of a car maintenance issue.

You don’t have to take off an entire day, just long enough to get your car fixed.

Minor maintenance issues can wait, such as an oil change. However, appropriate reasons would include your check engine light came on, engine over-temperature, or any other issue that could lead to bigger problems.

You’re maxing out on vacation days

Some companies will limit how much paid time off you can accrue. Typically, your company’s paid time off policy states that any PTO accrued above your limit goes away. Therefore, the best option is to always take time off instead of losing it.

Major life events

Any important event in your life is worth taking time off of work. Acceptable reasons to take time off for major life events may include:

  • Moving
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Celebrating an Anniversary

You need a better work-life balance

Constantly working isn’t good for your health and can potentially lead to personal illness. Even if you enjoy your work, consider taking time off work to do something other than working. If you haven’t taken a vacation in a long time, say over a year, consider doing so.

You’ve got a sick pet

Having a sick pet is one of the most common excuses to leave work early. You should take time off of work if your pet needs to visit a vet.

Remember, going to the vet may be one of the best believable excuses to miss work, but only if you have a pet. Most people don’t need to stay at home for a pet emergency, but going to the vet is a valid reason.

You wish to attend a business event

Any business event, such as meeting with potential clients or even an office party may be good reason to leave work early. Business events are typically a good way to build relationships, generate business, and networking. However, you’ll need to request permission from your boss to ensure they’re ok with the reason.

You have the opportunity for professional development

Developing your skillset is always a good reason to miss work and you may be able to do so on the company’s dime. The company is usually willing to let you take time off because investing in your education will typically benefit the company. Examples of professional development may include:

  • Attending trade shows
  • Attending Seminars
  • Getting your Masters Degree
  • Obtaining a certification
  • Studying for a license exam
  • Training

Family obligations

Certain family obligations may be a good reason to leave work early. Your responsibility should always be to your family first, followed by your career. Examples of family obligations that I would leave work for include:

  • A family member in need of care or support
  • Attending school board meetings
  • Ensuring your child is picked up from school on time

Standard family obligations, such as grocery shopping or cleaning the house can wait.

Home invasion

If someone breaks into your house then you should leave work and contact the authorities. The police will want to investigate and you should have the opportunity to assess the damage. The sooner you contact the police, the more likely you’ll be to get stolen property (no guarantees). You may even have a distressed spouse at home, so the best approach is typically to head home.

Your child got into a fight at school

No parent wants to get the phone call from a principal saying their child got into a fight at school. You should consider leaving work early so you can address the issue and try to prevent it from happening again.

Your child was being bullied

Having a good relationship with your child is crucial for any parent. I can’t think of a better reason to leave work early than to support your child if they’re being bullied at school.

Take some time to have a conversation about bullies, what to do in the situation, and then spend some time doing something fun together. Supporting your child through a tough time is a great way to protect their mental health and help prepare them for the next time a situation occurs.

A family member is in need of assistance

Anytime a family member feels calling you for assistance during working hours is important for help is usually a good enough reason to leave work. Sometimes all they need is advice, but other phone calls need your immediate attention and can’t wait for the following day.

I have personally left work because a family member needed assistance. For example, a family member’s car battery had died, leaving them stranded. I used some vacation time to leave work early, get a battery, install it, and then spend time with them for the remainder of the day.

Your company offers flextime

Depending on your company’s leave policy, you may have the ability to flex your hours. Usually, flextime depends on the company’s culture and allows you to work more hours on one day and less on another. Ask your boss or human resources department to find out if flextime is an option for you.

Your spouse is having a hard day

A spouse having a hard day is considered a personal emergency, meaning you should be able to leave work until the next day to support.

There are many reasons your spouse could need you at home, such cases include:

  • Dealing with an overly tired or sick child
  • An overly bad day and your spouse is struggling to handle life
  • Your spouse received some unwelcome news
  • Your spouse had a traumatic experience

Having a personal issue, such as this, may not seem like one the best professional reasons for leaving work. However, it is completely acceptable to leave work to support your spouse.

You’re adopting

Adoption is another good reason to leave work early. In fact, adopting a child is covered under the Family Medical Leave Act. Keep in mind, you can’t just leave work as you have to apply for FMLA first. Contact your human resource department if you wish to apply for FMLA.

A service member has been activated

Spending time with a family member that has been activated for military service is another great reason. You should spend as much time with your service member as possible before deployment. Consult your human resource department to find out what leave is available to you.

Side note: Any emergency which arises from a direct family member in active duty status has leave covered under FMLA.

Bad excuses to leave work early

There are a few excuses you should avoid when asking to leave early, which include:

  1. Hair appointment
  2. Oil change
  3. You have nothing to do
  4. Being bored
  5. Starting a long weekend
  6. Your business

As always, the relationship you have with your boss and the type of job will help you determine if an excuse is appropriate.

Hair appointment

A hair appointment is usually easily scheduled on your time off. There is nothing urgent about needing a haircut, so there is no need to take off from work early.

Oil change

As with a hair appointment, there is nothing urgent about needing an oil change. Schedule your next oil change for your day off.

You have nothing to do

It looks bad to request time off if you have nothing to do. Instead, you’re supposed to talk to your direct supervisor to ask for more available work. You may ask for time off if your supervisor fails to give you more work to do.

Now, I would be lying if I said that I’ve never taken time off because I had nothing to do. Most jobs have slow periods.

However, I’ll request time off for something else instead of requesting time off for nothing to do. I might request time to spend time with family or catch up on things I can’t get to on the weekend.

You’re bored

Just like having nothing to do, being bored comes with most jobs. However, it’s still your responsibility to talk to your supervisor to see what other work is available.

Starting a long weekend

Taking time off work to start a long weekend isn’t necessarily bad, but it does depend on your boss. If you have a good working relationship with your boss, then you can ask to take time off to have a longer weekend provided nothing requires your attention.

Other bosses are somewhat of a workaholic. They may expect everyone to be in the office up until quitting time for all long weekends or days before holidays.

Your business

Telling your boss that you want to take time off for your business is not a good idea. It tells your boss that you don’t have enough work and that your focus is elsewhere. Your boss may even start monitoring your work to ensure you’re not working on your business during company hours.

How do I tell my boss I want to leave work early?

You can tell your boss you want to leave early by politely asking with a brief explanation as to why you’re leaving. Ensure your work scope is covered by other employees or that you’ve made necessary arrangements to have your work covered.

The key points to requesting time off include:

  • Letting your boss know you can’t make it in to work or need to leave early
  • Giving a brief, but generic reason why you need time off
  • Providing an update on any urgent work
  • Letting your boss know when you anticipate returning to work

You should talk to your boss and get permission before you leave work early.

Asking for permission is considered a professional courtesy. Not to mention, your performance reviews, pay increases, and job security can be impacted by randomly leaving.

Your explanation doesn’t have to include personal details.

For example, you don’t have to explain a chronic medical condition you have unless you’re taking time off under FMLA. Instead, you can simply state that you’re not feeling well and need to go home.

In most cases, your boss won’t care if you go home if your work is getting done. Therefore, you should have any important projects you’re working on covered. Try to get another employee to cover for you or make arrangements before asking your boss to leave.

Asking your boss for time off is best done in person, but email or text message is acceptable.

In person will get you the quickest approval to leave work because you can easily grab your bosses attention. Text message works, but your boss will need to be checking their phone. Email is slow because your boss will typically receive hundreds of emails per day.

Sample email request to boss for leaving work early

Here is a generic template email to your boss you can use to request time off:

Hey Boss,

I would like to request some time off later this afternoon, around 2 p.m. My plan is to return to work around normal start time tomorrow. 

There is something requiring my attention outside of work which I need to attend to, nothing major, but I could use the time off.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Note that you can change the reasoning to fit your own personal reasons and how much you wish to disclose. For example, if your wife says she would feel better with you at home:

My wife is having a hard day at home and I would like to help ease her struggles.

Now, here’s an email template to leave early due to sudden stress or illness:

Hey boss,

I’m sorry for the short notice, but I need to request time off starting immediately. I’m not feeling well and do not feel I can continue working at the moment.

I anticipate I will be feeling better tomorrow, but will update you if I’m unable to make it in tomorrow.

The above email template is good for any illness, stomach pain, fever, diarrhea, stress, or other condition where you simply don’t feel well.

Sample text message to boss for leaving work early

You can send a text message to request taking time off of work. A sample text message may say something like:

Hey boss. I’m sorry for the short notice, but I need to take some time off today because I’m not feeling well. I don’t have any meetings today and the urgent project is with Susan. I anticipate I’ll be able to return to work tomorrow at normal time, but will update you if things change.

Setting an out-of-office in Outlook before leaving early

It’s always a good idea to set an out of office message before leaving the office. You don’t usually need an out-of-office message if you’re only gone for a couple hours. However, missing a day or more of work is usually the best time to set an OOO.

Your out-of-office message can be as simple as:

I’m out-of-office today and plan to return tomorrow. Please contact my coworker for any urgent tasks.

Is it bad to ask to leave early?

Asking to leave work early isn’t bad if you have a valid reason to leave early. However, frequently asking to leave early without explanation does look bad. Constantly asking to leave can make you look unmotivated to work and that your job is not important to you.

How do I leave early without getting in trouble?

The easiest way to leave work early without getting into trouble is to have a valid reason for leaving early. Your boss is less likely to get you into trouble if you are a hard working employee that doesn’t frequently ask to leave.

To make sure you don’t get in trouble when leaving early:

  • Get permission from your supervisor
  • Charge your time accordingly (e.g., don’t commit timecard fraud)
  • Make sure your urgent work scope is covered

Every employment situation is different. Work with your boss to understand your requirements for leaving work early.

Can I get fired for leaving work early without permission?

You can get fired for leaving work early without permission or notifying your supervisor. Your company should have a time off policy that you are agreeing to follow in your employment agreement. Failing to show up to work or leaving work early without permission is a common fireable offense.

You should also be aware that submitting your time card for a full-day’s work and leaving early is considered time card fraud. Your employer may decide to take legal action against you if you are found to be committing time card fraud.

Some companies may allow the use of paid time off as long as you’re charging accordingly.

For example, our normal working hours are Monday through Thursday, but I’m on a Tuesday through Friday schedule. Work is usually slow on Fridays, so I might leave a couple hours early but I’m charging to my paid time off.

Can my boss stop me from leaving early?

Your boss can try to stop you from leaving early. An employer hires you to perform work during a set schedule and should have policies to request time off. Failing to follow your schedule is outside of your employment agreement and may result in your termination.

However, if my family has a medical emergency then my personal opinion is that I can always get another job. I value my family way more than I value my job. I would rather work for a company that respects the fact that employees have a life outside of work.

Your boss cannot stop you from leaving if your leave is covered under Family Medical Leave Act. However, you’ll need to get the proper approvals from your Human Resources Department.

Left work early by accident

Talk to your boss if you left work early by accident. You may need to adjust your time card. Your boss should understand if it was a legitimate mistake.

Does leaving work early count as an absence or sick day

Your company’s policy will determine if leaving work early counts as an absence or sick day. Contact your Human Resources Department to understand your company’s policy on early leave.

Can I give fake reasons to leave work early?

It is considered unethical to give a fake reason to leave work early. However, people do call in sick just to skip work. Your boss may consider it a sackable offence if you lie about needing time off and are caught.

Do you get paid if you leave work early?

You will get paid for leaving work early if you use paid time off or your company offers paid sick leave, depending on your reason for leaving work early. Leave covered under Family Medical Leave Act is unpaid. Salaried employees should consult their supervisor.

Family Medical Leave Act

Depending on your reason for leaving work, your leave may qualify for the Family and Medical leave Act.

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 applies to employers:

  • Private employers with 50 or more employees
  • Public agencies
  • Public or private elementary or secondary schools

You are a covered employee if:

  • You work for an employer which must follow FMLA
  • Been with your company for one year and have worked 1,250 hours within the last year
  • You work at a location where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles

Reasons you can take FMLA include:

  • You or your spouse are giving birth or adopting
  • A direct family member is sick or has a serious health condition
  • You are unable to perform your job because of a health condition
  • An urgent need for leave caused by a direct family member being on active duty

Start the process of taking FMLA by contacting your Human Resources Department.

Read this guide to understand the most common FMLA violations by employers. You’ll learn to identify different ways companies knowingly or unknowingly deny your FMLA requests.

Summary: Good excuses to leave work

As you can see, family medical emergencies, sudden family deaths, illnesses, and childcare are all reasons to leave work early. You should prioritize your family’s health and well-being over your job.

All you have to do to leave work early is ask your boss for the time off. Give a brief explanation, without going into too many details. Try to have your work covered before you ask your boss as a professional courtesy.

To avoid getting in trouble, you should have a valid reason for leaving work. Your boss can try to stop you from leaving early and can terminate your position for leaving early without permission.

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.