How To Call Out of Work (With the Best Excuses)

How To Call Out of Work (With the Best Excuses)

Everyone needs a day off of work now and then. You might need to interview for another job, take care of yourself or someone in your family, or just have a few hours to yourself to deal with the details of life.   

But getting that time off can be a challenge. The U.S. has fewer worker protections than most other wealthy nations. Under federal law, workers are only entitled to unpaid leave—and only if their employers meet certain qualifications.

For most U.S. employees, calling out of work requires a little planning. Here’s what you need to know in order to do it without alienating your boss.

Tips For Calling Out of Work

Check Company Policy

Many employers have established guidelines about how and when employees can call out of work. These guidelines are typically published as part of a company leave policy. You can often find them in your employee handbook or website.   

Company leave policy usually covers how many days off you’re entitled to take, the conditions under which you can take them, and whether or not you’ll be paid. You might also be required to provide a doctor’s note or other documentation, such as a jury duty summons.

Know the Law

Federal law doesn’t require paid sick leave or vacation time, but some states have enacted their own provisions. For example, Maryland state law requires companies with 15 or more full-time employees to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. This leave can be used for mental or physical illness, injury, preventative healthcare, caregiving responsibilities, parental leave, or leave related to domestic violence or assault. Maryland also prohibits asking employees to provide a doctor’s note unless they’re out for two consecutive shifts.

Pay Attention to the Culture

Company policy is the letter of the law when it comes to calling out of work, but it’s not the final word on how to ask for time off. Company culture also comes into play. If you’ve been at your job for a few months or longer, you’ve probably noticed how people deal with days off. Maybe they send an email to the team or post an away message on Slack. Follow the custom.

Note that you should notify your boss before you post any away messages. The first person who needs to know that you’ll be out is always your manager.

Put It in Writing

If you have an office job, chances are that you “talk” to people in writing more than you do in person or on the phone. However, even if you’re working at an in-person business like a restaurant or retail store, it’s a good idea to put your request in writing via email. That way, you’ll have a digital paper trail that shows you followed company policy.

Don’t Snitch on Yourself

Regardless of why you’re calling out of work, be mindful of appearances. Don’t post beach photos on social media when you’re supposed to be out sick (and don’t show up with a sunburn the next day of work). If you’re interviewing for a different job, keep that information to yourself until you have an offer in hand and are ready to give notice. Most U.S. workers are

5 Best Excuses To Miss Work


About 86% of private-sector employers offer at least some paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re sick, you should use it.

What counts as being sick? The answer depends on state law, company policy, and company culture. However, the trend is toward more expansive definitions of illness. If you need a day off for mental health, preventative care, or taking care of a child or family member, you’re more likely to meet with sympathy from an employer today than a few years ago. As always, follow company policy and culture—and don’t feel the need to overexplain. In most cases, it will be sufficient to say that you’re taking a sick day.

Personal Day

Some employers also offer personal days, no explanation necessary. Again, policy and culture will be your guide here. If personal days are acceptable at your organization, you’ll know it from the trail of emails from your colleagues.

Jury Duty

State law in all 50 states requires employers to allow workers to be absent from work for jury duty. Many states also require employers to pay workers for time off for this reason. Keep in mind that you will likely have to provide evidence, such as a jury summons, in order to prove to your employer that you’re required to serve.

Caregiving Responsibilities

This is a tricky one. Ideally, all employers would understand that human beings have responsibilities toward one another and provide support for caregiving, including paid leave. Legally, your rights in this area are outlined by state law. In some states, employers will be required to allow you to stay home without penalty in order to care for a sick child, for example. Employers may also choose to be reasonable about caregiving responsibilities in order to boost their company culture and employer brand.

Home Repairs or Services

Someone needs to let the cable guy in, even if the “cable guy” is now more likely to be the internet guy who makes it possible for you to stream Netflix. Although they’re likely not legally required to do so, many employers will be flexible about allowing workers to call out for a few hours to let in repair technicians.

5 Worst Excuses To Miss Work

Job Interview

Never tell your employer you’re missing work for a job interview, even if you’re tempted to let them know that you’re on the way out. You can negotiate any counteroffers once you have a new job offer in hand. Bringing your current employer into your thought process before that will only endanger your job.

Don’t Feel Like It

Everyone has had a day when they’d like to call in due to a lack of interest. However, managers are unlikely to be sympathetic to this excuse for obvious reasons.


You’re sick—because you made yourself sick. Don’t include that detail in your sick note. Your boss doesn’t need to know that you overindulged on margaritas or chocolate cake or stayed up too late watching your favorite TV show.

Pet Is Sick

This one might be OK at some organizations, but unless you see a lot of emails from co-workers who are calling out to take care of their pets, don’t risk it. Never be the first person to use a new excuse.

Personal Struggles

Again, in some company cultures, it’s OK to take a day to tend to your mental health, personal issues, or other struggles. But you also don’t owe anyone private information about your life. If you need time off and you have time on the books, you are entitled to use it.

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  • March 19, 2023