20 Believable Excuses to Call Out of Work Last Minute

We’ve all been there – the alarm goes off for work and you realize you desperately need a day off. Maybe you’re feeling under the weather, have a family emergency, or just need some mental health time. But calling out last minute can feel anxiety-inducing if you don’t have an excuse your boss will believe.

This blog covers 20 excuses you can use to convincingly call out of work at the last minute. I’ll provide tips on selling each excuse and making even the most dubious reasons sound plausible. With the right approach, you can take a needed day off without professional consequences.

20 Good Excuses To Miss Work

You’re sick

One of the most common excuses. Claim you woke up with flu-like symptoms – say your throat is scratchy, you have chills, body aches, a fever, etc. Sound as pathetic and sickly as possible when calling in. Downplay it and insist you can probably work from home if pressed.

Family emergency

Explain a family member is suddenly very ill, got into an accident, etc. and you need to be with them at the hospital or help with urgent arrangements. Apologize profusely but say family comes first. If questioned, say you don’t have all the details yet and will update when you can.

Transportation issues

Car troubles are very believable. Say your car won’t start, you have a flat tire, the battery is dead, you’re waiting on a tow truck or Uber/Lyft. Or blame public transit – the train was delayed, the bus didn’t show up. Act frustrated by the situation.


We’ve all slept through the alarm accidentally. Sheepishly explain you somehow managed to sleep through multiple alarms and just woke up. Apologize excessively and take full responsibility. Promise it won’t happen again.

Childcare fell through

Kids get sick and daycares close at the last minute. Explain your babysitter bailed, the daycare is closed, your child’s school called a snow day, etc. Say you have no childcare options and need to stay home with them.

Waiting for an important delivery

Say you’re waiting for a food, appliance, or furniture delivery that was scheduled for today. Make up a reason why you absolutely cannot reschedule it – the store is now closed, it’s a third party delivery service, the appliance is needed immediately, etc.

Doctor or dentist appointment

Claim you made a routine doctor, dentist, or other medical appointment that can’t be rescheduled last minute. Apologize for the short notice and offer to provide documentation if needed.

Migraine headache

Migraines are extremely debilitating and you will not be questioned. Explain lights and sounds are intolerable, you’re in intense pain, and will be useless at work. Say you need to go lie down in a dark room all day.

Stomach bug

Vomiting and diarrhea symptoms mean you definitely should stay home. Mention you’ve been up all night in the bathroom and feel too ill and dehydrated to leave the house.

Bad weather

Check the forecast. If there is rain, snow, ice, or another severe weather event, use it to your advantage. Explain you do not feel safe commuting in hazardous conditions and will work from home if possible.

Mental health day

If you have an understanding workplace, consider being honest. Explain you’re feeling burned out and having mental health struggles, and sincerely need a day to recharge. Offer to make up the time if necessary.

Pet emergency

Pets suddenly falling ill or getting injured are a believable reason. Say your dog or cat became very sick or injured overnight and you need to get them to the vet immediately.

Computer or internet issues

Technology fails us when we need it most! Claim you have no wifi and can’t log into work systems or access needed files. Or say your computer completely crashed. Apologize for the disruption this will cause.

Waiting for a service provider

You have to wait home for appointments like a cable technician, electrician, plumber, handyman, appliance repair, etc. Make up a reason why it’s urgent – say the issue is making the home unsafe for your kids.

House emergency

Plausible crises include a broken pipe flooding your home, a failed appliance like oven or refrigerator, power outage, locksmith coming to replace your lost keys, etc. Act stressed when calling in.

Pet sitting

Say you agreed to watch a friend or family member’s pet last minute, but the owner got stuck out of town on business or due to a family emergency. Apologize and take full responsibility for the situation.

Car trouble

Even if you don’t drive to work, claim your car won’t start, you have a flat tire, the battery died, or any number of issues. Say you need it towed and repaired immediately.

Home sick

If you recently took a sick day, call in again saying you tried to return too soon and are still very ill. Explain you have lingering flu symptoms, a pervasive cough, feel feverish, etc.

Waiting on a package

You have to wait home to receive a time sensitive document or item that you absolutely cannot reschedule. Make something up related to your job to sound convincing if you need to provide details.

Overslept because you were up with a sick child

Combination excuse! Say your child was sick all night with a fever, cough, vomiting, etc. so neither of you got any sleep. You eventually overslept because you were so exhausted from being up tending to them.

How to Call Out of Work (Text & Example)

Calling out of work at the last minute can feel stressful and anxiety-inducing. You don’t want to lie to your boss or damage their trust in you being a reliable employee. The key is having a compelling, believable reason and calling in the right way.

Text to Manager:

“Hi [manager name], I’m so sorry but I won’t be able to make it in today. I woke up with a terrible migraine and can’t get out of bed with the pain and sensitivity to light. I should be better by tomorrow. Please let me know if there’s anything urgent I can still help with from home today.”

Email to Boss After Calling Out:

Subject: Apologies for Missing Work Today

Dear [boss name],

I want to apologize again for having to call out of work today on such short notice. My daughter woke up with a high fever and vomiting, so I had to stay home to take care of her. I felt just awful leaving you shorthanded, especially with that big project deadline coming up. Please let me know if there is any work I can complete from home today in spite of the situation. I appreciate you being so understanding. I look forward to being back in the office as soon as my daughter is well again. Please pass along my apologies to the team as well.

[Your name]

Pick a Solid Excuse

First, choose an excuse from the list that reasonably prevents you from coming in. Think through details to have ready if asked follow up questions.

  • Sudden illness (yours or family member)
  • Childcare or school cancellation
  • Transportation problems
  • Home emergency
  • Important appointment
  • Dangerous weather conditions

Avoid vague excuses like “I don’t feel well” or “something came up.” Be prepared with a specific explanation.

Call at the Appropriate Time

Don’t wait until right when your shift starts to call if you know earlier you can’t make it. Call your boss or manager at least 1-2 hours before your scheduled start time so they can make arrangements to cover you.

For a same-day call out, shoot for calling the night before if you know in advance you’ll need to take the day.

Use the Right Tone and Language

Match your tone and language to your excuse. Sound frustrated for transportation issues, resigned for a sick child, or exhausted if you’re ill.

Use expressions like “I’m so sorry” and “I feel awful about this, but…” Convey that you wouldn’t call out unless absolutely necessary.

Provide Details (but Not Too Many)

Your boss may ask clarifying questions, so be ready to briefly explain further. But don’t overexplain in a way that gives openings to doubt your excuse.

Stick to the key details and offer to provide any documentation like a doctor’s note. Reiterate how much you wish you could be there.

Follow Up After the Fact

Once home, email your boss reiterating your apologies for being out and appreciation for their understanding.

Provide any documentation you offered to send. If relevant, give updates on the situation and when you expect to be back.

Calling out last minute can’t always be avoided. With the right approach, you can take needed time off work while maintaining your professional reputation.


With this list of 20 believable last minute call out excuses, you can take necessary mental health days or handle surprise emergencies without sabotaging your career. Just be selective in using them, sound convincingly regretful and sincere, and take steps to make up missed work when possible. With the right approach, you can take care of yourself without professional consequences.