Once in a while, you need a good excuse to miss work on short notice — a believable excuse that won’t cause alarm and won’t land you on the chopping block. A sick day, doctor’s appointment, and family emergencies are some of the common excuses (and valid reasons) for missing work.
A good excuse to miss work is a real one. OK, I will withhold judgment temporarily. If you know that missing work is inevitable for reasons you don’t want to share, here is a sample list of the best excuses from which you can choose to call off work at the last minute (without getting fired):
1. Vehicle or Transportation Problems (Traffic Jam, Missed Bus)
Here’s an obvious one that works only if you are not currently in the office and if you commute to work. Everyone knows that machines fail, usually at the most inopportune times, and the result is often beyond your control.
“Hi Boss, I’m stuck in traffic; I’ll be available to answer phone calls but won’t be in the office for a while yet.”
2. Family or Personal Emergency
Here’s a general excuse that works for everyone. The key is to not share too many details. Plus, your employer doesn’t really care WHY you’re not there, they want to know when they can expect you back to work and, depending on your job, who will be covering your responsibilities.
“I’m taking personal leave today.”
“I’m sick today.”
3. Picking Someone Up from Airport or Bringing Them to an Appointment
If you live somewhere that doesn’t have Uber or some other car-sharing service, this excuse can work. Or if you’re picking up an elderly relative or someone unfamiliar with your town or city, missing work to meet that person at the airport is understandable. Performing delivery services for elderly community members and relatives might even get you promoted….
“My partner’s elderly parents are arriving today and now I have to go pick them up at the airport.”
“My elderly neighbour needs a ride to their appointment today, and they don’t have family nearby.”
4. Pet Emergency
Any excuse, from my pet had a seizure to is barking all day, could work. Everybody who has a pet can relate to the pain of hearing about a pet emergency (especially if your supervisor or boss is also a pet owner).
“My child fell on my dog, I need to take her to the vet.”
“My cat is acting weird and not moving, I need to take her to the vet ASAP.”
5. Child Care Needs: Doctor’s Appointment, Dentist, Vaccinations
If you have a kid, you never need to make up any excuse; kids demand a lot of time and attention and nobody is going to object to you missing work to attend to your child’s needs.
6. Appointment to Buy a Home or Car
These big purchases don’t happen everyday. Leaving work on short notice to meet a realtor with a hot deal, or to buy a used car that can’t be seen at any other time, could be reasonable excuses for leaving work on short notice.
7. Doctor, Checkup, Therapy, Vehicle Licensing Appointment or Driving Test
Sometimes a wait-listed or cancellation list appointment opens up at the last minute.
8. Food Poisoning, Sudden Illness or 24-Hour Flu
Nobody wants to know the details of this one.
“I think I have a 24-hour flu.”
“I should not have had that sashimi.”
9. Leaky Pipe or Hot Water Heater Leak
If you own a home or manage rentals, you’ll be forgiven for skipping out on work to prevent water damage.
“My building is calling me about a leak upstairs, gotta go / wait for the plumber / make sure my toilet isn’t leaking!”
10. Furnace Shut Off in Winter, Pipes Might Freeze
Home-related emergencies — if you have a house, you can have home-related problems: shower faucet spraying water, kitchen pipe rotted through, water leaking from the upstairs condo, whatever.
What to Say If You Miss Work and Don’t Call
This one is personal. My brother has a reputation for flaking out and not going to work on Mondays, and not bothering to call to let anyone know. How does he keep his job? I have no idea. I think there are very few good workers left in certain fields and of a certain generation, and employers are desperate for anybody, so they tolerate more than employers of the past did.
But. If your employer has higher standards, then these suggestions are for you. If you choose not to show up AND you don’t give your workplace the common courtesy of calling to let someone know, you are making things difficult for yourself.
I will give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume that you really wanted to call but were somehow prevented from doing so, in which case, take the high road and call your employer ASAP and tell them what happened, how your behaviour and lack of integrity affected everyone’s day, what you will do to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and what you are going to do now to restore integrity. Easier said than done. Do it anyway.
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