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18 Totally Valid Reasons to Call Out of Work

You don't need to feel guilty for taking a day that you need off.

The U.S. workforce places a heavy emphasis on attendance. Even after the pandemic, employees continue "pushing through" illness, making efforts to arrive at the office no matter their circumstance or how they're feeling. But just because we aren't always encouraged to take time off doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of valid reasons for doing so. Obviously, avoiding the spread of illness sits right up there at the top of the list, but there are lots of other good reasons to call out of work. Even the occasional mental health day constitutes a totally legitimate excuse to stay home and out of the office. Keep reading for more totally acceptable excuses, along with a few tips on how to explain your absence to your boss.

RELATED: 41 Funny Out-of-Office Messages to Break Up the Work Week.

Key Takeaways

  • Health-related absences, such as sick days and mental health days should be taken into consideration to prioritize one's health.
  • Family matters, medical appointments, and jury duty are valid reasons for taking time off work with prior notice given to your employer.
  • Communication with management is essential when calling out of work as a way to demonstrate dependability.

Health-Related Absences

sick man blowing his nose on the couch

1. Personal illness

Preventing the spread of illnesses and giving yourself enough time to recover aren't just valid reasons to take time off work, they're also incredibly important to public health. Back in 2014, the American Society for Microbiology found that viruses can affect up to 60 percent of workers just hours after contaminating a single doorknob or tabletop. It's this type of immediate, in-office spread that has led organizations like the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF) to declare paid sick leave a vital piece of public health strategy.

Of course, the right to take a day off due to illness also applies to remote workers. After all, it's not easy to perform well when feeling under the weather, even if you don't have to commute to an office. A 2022 study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior also found that a failure to utilize sick days has been linked to burnout and sadness among people who work from home.

2. Mental health day

In 1992, the World Federation for Mental Health and the World Health Organization declared Oct. 10 "World Mental Health Day." More than 30 years later, the term has become a regular part of our vocabulary, particularly as it applies to the workplace.

Prioritizing mental health is synonymous with investing in overall wellbeing, which can actually lead to increased productivity after returning to work. Reduced feelings of burnout, isolation, and anxiety are just a few additional benefits to keep in mind.

Ways to spend a mental health day can include consulting with a therapist, engaging in outdoor activities, or simply taking time to relax.

3. Physical exhaustion

Physical exhaustion can obviously affect work performance, especially if you're tasked with manual labor. It's also an important consideration for commuters who drive themselves to work. If you're feeling tired to the point where it's difficult to concentrate or stay alert, you should seriously consider calling out of work. Regular rest and recuperation are key to preventing physical exhaustion and preserving overall health and wellbeing. It also contributes to the safety of those around you.

RELATED: If You Work From Home, You Can Now Live in Spain as a Digital Nomad.

Family-Related Reasons to Call Out of Work

woman taking her sick child's temperature
Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock

4. Family emergency

Life can be unpredictable, and family emergencies are no exception. When an unforeseen occurrence impacts the wellbeing or security of a family member, you may be called on to provide immediate attention and support.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to avail up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition or to tend to their own serious health issues.

Keep in mind that you may be asked to provide an update on the situation upon returning to work. The key is to be professional and provide your employer with as much advance notice as possible.

5. Caring for a sick relative

Caring for a sick relative may also require taking time away from work. You may be called on to transport them to medical appointments, help them out with daily activities, or offer emotional support. It's important to be cognizant of their needs so as to not overextend yourself. You should also inquire about any legal or financial considerations that may be necessary.

6. Important family events

Important family events such as weddings or graduations warrant time off with proper notice. Most employers will understand the need to attend these gatherings, so let your supervisor know as soon as possible that you'll be away. Remember, there's a reason why most employers offer both sick days and paid time off (PTO). One accommodates illness, while the other allows you to call out for much more personal reasons.

Appointments and Obligations

woman waiting at the hospital for an appointment
Roman Kosolapov/Shutterstock

7. Medical appointments

While you may try to schedule your appointments outside of work hours, it's not always possible. Going to a doctor's appointment is a valid reason to take time off from work, especially if it's for a serious medical condition or follow-up care. Be sure to inform your manager in advance and provide a doctor's note if required.

8. Jury duty

Jury duty is a legal obligation that employers are required to accommodate. Federal law mandates that employers provide unpaid time off for employees who are called to serve on a jury. If you receive an official summons, be sure to promptly notify your employer and provide them with a copy. Your employer should give you the necessary time off to fulfill your civic duty.

9. Religious holidays

Taking time off to observe a religious holiday is justifiable, and employers should respect their employees' rights to practice their faith. You should inform your employer in advance of any religious holidays that may require time off so that they can make any necessary accommodations. Specifics differ from state to state, but there are federal regulations in place demanding employers "reasonably accommodate" religious beliefs.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Be More Productive in Your Home Office, Experts Say.

Household and Technical Issues

person experiencing bad internet connection during a zoom call

10. Internet outages

Internet outages can prevent remote workers from completing tasks and may require taking a few hours or even a full day off of work. Contact your employer as soon as you detect a problem and find out how quickly the issue can be resolved. Of course, you should first explore other alternative solutions before calling out, such as using your phone's hotspot or visiting a local café that offers free WiFi.

11. Power failures

Power failures can disrupt work performance and can also necessitate some time away. It's pivotal to inform your employer and explain the situation if an outage impacts your ability to work. They may be understanding and allow you to take the necessary time off or suggest alternative solutions, such as:

  • Working from an alternate location
  • Using a generator or backup power source
  • Rescheduling deadlines or tasks
  • Adjusting your work schedule to accommodate the outage

12. Home repairs

The need for home repairs, such as fixing a leak or dealing with an emergency, can come up without warning. In these situations, it's important to address the issue promptly to prevent further damage. Again, let your supervisor know as soon as you can that you're handling a problem. If you can, offer to work remotely or make up the time later in the week.

Unforeseen Circumstances

a road covered in snow
Thomas Martin–Creuzot/Shutterstock

13. Transportation problems

Transportation issues, such as car trouble or public transit delays, can prevent employees from reaching work on time. If you find yourself unable to get to work due to a transportation problem, contact your employer immediately. Be prepared to discuss potential solutions, such as finding alternative transportation or doing your work from home.

14. Severe weather conditions

Severe weather conditions can make travel unsafe and may require employees to stay home. If you're unable to get to work safely due to inclement weather, inform your employer and discuss potential solutions, such as working remotely or taking a personal day. Remember, it's always important to prioritize your safety and wellbeing above all else.

15. Accidents

Employers should be understanding of any accidents that might prevent you from being able to work and provide the necessary time off to facilitate recovery and healing, as well as attend to any legal or financial matters that may arise. Contact them as soon as you safetl

RELATED: 6 Bedtime Habits of People Who Never Get Sick.

Pet-Related Concerns

man hugging his dog

16. Sick pet

Anyone who's ever had a pet knows how upsetting it is when your best friend is sick. They also know that certain situations require immediate action. While most employers understand the need to care for a sick pet, it's important to be professional and adhere to company policies when requesting time off.

17. Veterinary appointments

Regular veterinary appointments are also essential for the health of your pet. And you may not always be able to schedule these appointments outside of work hours. Have a conversation with your employer if you need to take some time to attend to your pet's health.

18. Pet emergencies

Pet emergencies, such as a missing or injured animal, can arise without warning. Your workplace will most likely be empathetic to the need to search for your pet or to locate emergency care for them. As always, it's key to let them know as soon as you can what's happening and how much time you need.

Tips for Calling Out of Work

Close Up of Woman Texting
sergey causelove/Shutterstock

Communicate with management.

When calling out of work, it's essential to communicate with management promptly, adhere to company policies, and be truthful about your reasons. By maintaining open lines of communication and providing as much notice as possible, you can help minimize any disruptions in the workplace.

Follow company policies.

Adhering to company policies when requesting time off indicates that you take your job seriously and that you're a dependable, committed employee. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your company's policies regarding time off and follow the appropriate procedures when calling out of work. This will help you maintain a positive relationship with your employer and avoid any potential misunderstandings.

Be honest.

Honesty is always the best policy when calling out of work. Be candid about the reason for your absence and avoid fabricating explanations or providing misleading information. (However, note that it may not be necessary to provide detailed, personal information about your health.) Employers are more likely to be understanding and accommodating if you are upfront and honest about your circumstances.

Excuses to Avoid

business man looking suspicious of his employees
Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock

You're "hungover"

Being hungover is not an acceptable excuse for missing work, not even (or especially not) after a lively company get-together. Of course, overindulging in alcohol can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Still, calling out of work for this reason comes off as irresponsible and may reflect poorly on you as an employee. Instead, be mindful of your alcohol consumption, especially on nights before workdays.

Conveniently-timed food poisoning

Repeatedly using food poisoning as an excuse to miss work can be seen as dishonest and may raise suspicions with your employer. While real food poisoning is a legitimate reason for missing work, be honest about the cause of your absence and avoid using the same excuse repeatedly.

Your grandmother died (again)

Of course, the death of a loved one is more than reason enough to miss work. However, there are only so many family tragedies you can expect to get away with within a certain time frame. If somehow you're suffering the loss of your fifth grandmother, it may be time to revisit your commitment to the job, or even your ability to come up with a good enough excuse for missing work.

Bonus tip: Stay off social media

This one isn't so much of an excuse as it is a warning: Stay off of social media when calling out sick—especially if what you're doing there runs contrary to whatever excuse you gave the boss when arranging your time off. If you're off with friends, make sure they know the deal. You don't want to be found out through a third-party connection.


What are good reasons for calling out of work at the last minute?

Typically, we aren't able to predict reasons why we may need to miss work. Not feeling well, needing to take care of a sick child, or even an ill-timed doctor's appointment are all valid reasons to call out of work. Just try to give your employer as much notice as possible and discuss how you can make up for the time lost.

How do you call out of work when you aren't sick?

Calling out of work due to a personal or emergency matter is acceptable, as many companies allow their employees to use personal days throughout the year. Some employers are also supportive of their employees taking a mental health day now and then, so long as it doesn't interfere with any major work commitments and they are given plenty of advance notice.

Wrapping Up

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to call out of work, including health-related absences, family matters, appointments, household issues, unforeseen circumstances, and pet-related concerns. By effectively communicating with management, following company policies, and being honest about the reason for your absence, you can maintain a positive relationship with your employer and ensure a healthy work-life balance. Remember to prioritize your wellbeing and that of your loved ones, and always be upfront about any issues that may require time off.

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Carrie Weisman
Carrie Weisman oversees all SEO efforts at Best Life. She specializes in content optimization and editorial marketing. Read more
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