Top 10 Good Excuses to Call Out of Work on Short Notice

By Mike Simpson

Many professionals hesitate not to go to work, especially if the decision is relatively last minute. While leaving your employer understaffed isn’t ideal, it’s crucial to recognize there are good excuses to call out of work on short notice.

In some cases, not calling in could be a health or safety issue for you or other employees. As a result, it can be better to call out last-minute than put others at risk. However, there can also be other legitimate reasons to call out to work, even if you aren’t giving much notice.

If you’re trying to figure out what are good excuses to call out of work on short notice, here’s what you need to know.

Calling Out of Work

Before we dig into the list of good excuses to miss work on short notice, let’s take a second to talk about what calling out involves and why the decision matters.

Generally, calling out of work means contacting your employer and saying you won’t be able to make it in for a scheduled shift or workday. Essentially, you’re announcing an unplanned absence.

In some cases, calling out of work is actually a good idea. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially risky. Most employers are at least a bit frustrated when an employee isn’t able to arrive for a scheduled shift, and typically with good reason.

In the United States, the absence rate is near 3 percent. While that may seem low, being short by even a single employee can be devastating, depending on a company’s or team’s workforce size and the nature of the role.

Estimates suggest that the cost of unscheduled absences – often due to lost productivity – comes in between $2,660 to $3,600 per employee per year. That’s a big deal to companies who want to remain profitable.

Does that mean that there aren’t any solid excuses to miss work? Of course not. It simply means that your employer likely won’t be happy about the decision, even if your reason is legitimate. Sure, they may be completely understanding, but they could be annoyed or stressed about it at the same time, especially if you call out at the last minute.

When you don’t offer much notice, your employer may end up scrambling. If your position can’t remain empty, they’re going to have to frantically call in another employee to cover. If leaving it vacant for the day is an option, it’s still going to put extra pressure on your team. Ultimately, there’s fallout because of your callout.

In most cases, your employer will simply deal with it if you don’t miss work that often. However, if short notice absences become a pattern, they may view the situation differently. Even if you’re offering decent reasons to call out of work, doing so repeatedly makes you seem unreliable and could cause them to fire you.

MIKE'S TIP: It’s important to note that some kinds of absences – even if they are short notice – are protected. For example, any absence related to a situation outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is protected by federal law. However, you do have to follow specific rules or guidelines for protection under those laws, so you’ll want to make sure that your absence qualifies and that you’re using the right approach when communicating with your employer.

Before you decide not to go to a scheduled shift, it’s wise to consider your attendance record. Additionally, check the employee handbook to review the company’s policies about unplanned absences. That way, you can make sure that calling out won’t cost you your job.

Tips for Calling Out of Work

If you’re going to miss any scheduled work, it’s best to use the right approach. First, you need to choose the proper contact method. In some cases, what you need to do is outlined in the employee handbook. If not, then use common sense.

When calling out, your goal should be to ensure that your employer is informed quickly. In many cases, that means calling them on the phone. However, using email, text, or a messenger could be appropriate, depending on your workplace.

Next, contact your company or manager as soon as possible. Every extra minute of notice you can offer is worth giving, especially if the company is going to have to find someone to cover your shift.

Also, be clear and concise. Let your employer know why you’re calling out without digging into too many details. You can also discuss anything you’ll be providing them that supports the reason you gave as being valid, such as a doctor’s note.

It’s also wise to express your interest in getting back to work as possible, as well as mention that you’ll assist those impacted by your absence once you get back. Similarly, if you can help the company immediately – such as by assisting with finding coverage or logging in remotely to handle a critical task first – discuss that right away.

If you can give your employer a timeline for your return, that’s ideal. If that isn’t possible, schedule times to check in with your employer or manager, ensuring they are in the know when it comes to your status.

Communication and cooperation really are keys when it comes to minimizing the impact of your absence. So, make them priorities from the beginning, increasing the odds that your employer and colleagues will have the easiest time possible while you’re away.

Top 10 Good Excuses to Miss Work on Short Notice

If you’re looking for excuses to get out of work, it’s essential to understand that you should only miss shifts when it’s genuinely necessary if it’s last-minute. Your absence creates a hardship for the company and your coworkers. Plus, making a habit of missing work can potentially cost you your job.

Still, that doesn’t mean there are solid excuses to not go to work even if you can’t provide much of a heads up. Here are the top 10 good reasons to call out of work on short notice.

1. You’re Sick and Possibly Contagious

When it comes to missing work, there are a few good excuses to call out, like being ill and potentially contagious. If you head into your workplace and infect your colleagues, productivity could grind to a halt if multiple employees all start calling out together. Plus, with COVID-19 still being relevant, even having mild symptoms should be enough to make calling out justified.

However, you should check your employee handbook about calling out due to illness. Some companies may want a doctor’s note or, in the case of COVID-19, a negative test. Make sure you’re prepared to follow the procedure. Otherwise, your absence might not be excused.

2. You’re Caring for an Ill Child or Family Member

If you have a child or provide care to an ailing family member, them being sick can be a justifiable reason to call out from work. Usually, this applies if your child has to stay home from school or daycare and can’t provide themselves with proper care or if your family member needs support due to their illness, age, or long-term medical condition.

However, like your own illness, make sure you know what you’ll need to provide – if anything – to support that decision or ensure you can return. Usually, any required steps will be outlined in the employee handbook.

3. There’s a Family Emergency

Certain kinds of family emergencies are good reasons to call out of work without much notice. If the family situation demands your attention and assistance, and the potential consequences or outcome are dire, it could fall in this category.

Let your employer know the basics of the situation and keep them updated as the situation unfolds. That way, you can make plans to return or arrangements for a prolonged absence.

4. Home-Related Emergency

If you’re the victim of a fire or break-in, have a burst pipe, or a similar situation that’s damaged your home, that’s a solid excuse not to go to work. Again, you’ll want to let your employer know what happened and whether you believe you’ll miss more than one shift to handle everything. That way, the company can prepare.

5. Loved One’s Death

Generally speaking, the passing of any loved one is a reason to call out to work. Whether you’re simply grieving or responsible for arrangements, you probably won’t be able to focus on your responsibilities, so staying home can be best.

You’ll want to let your manager know as much about the situation as possible, including whether you’ll need time to handle specific tasks or attend a service. It’s also wise to check your employee handbook for information about any bereavement policies, ensuring you know how much time you can take off without harming your standing at work.

6. Car Trouble

A car not starting may make missing work unavoidable, so you may have little choice but to call in at the last minute. However, this is something that may not be considered justified for more than one shift. The company likely expects you to get the issues fixed promptly or to make alternative transportation arrangements.

If this happens to you, let your employer know what’s occurred and how you plan on addressing the problem. Then, look into other ways to get to work for your next shift, such as public transit or carpooling. That way, you’ll be able to make it without an issue moving forward.

7. Weather-Related Challenges

In some cases, the weather could make getting to work impossible. For example, a substantial snowfall could make driving unsafe, especially if your road isn’t usually cleared by the city or county.

Many companies have “bad weather” policies in the employee handbook, so make sure to review them. However, whether your employer does or doesn’t, call in promptly and give them an overview of the situation, ensuring they have a clear picture of why driving in isn’t an option for you.

8. Pet Illness or Injury

If you have a pet and they are unexpectedly injured or fall ill, calling in at the last minute to attend to them isn’t a bad reason for calling out at the last minute. Just be prepared that, depending on policies, your company may ask for proof, such as a note from a vet’s office.

9. Arrival of Package You Need to Sign For

While it may not seem like the arrival of mail is one of the better excuses to miss work, it can be if it requires a signature and the delivery date changed without prior notice. Usually, this one is a better option if you already informed your workplace that a signature-required package was on the way. However, even if it’s short notice – as some urgent shipments can inherently be – this could be a solid reason.

10. Mental Health Day

While this isn’t always a solid option for calling into work last minute, some companies do understand that employees may need the occasional mental health day. If your employer focuses on wellness and has policies that allow for these kinds of absences without repercussions, it could be a workable reason.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, all of the options above are potentially good excuses to call out of work on short notice. Many of them focus on health and safety, and a few are simply unavoidable situations that can arise.

However, it’s important to understand that company policies can vary regarding unplanned absences. As a result, there can be consequences for calling out, especially if you make it a habit. Make sure to review any information about absences in your employee handbook, allowing you to anticipate how calling out may affect you.

Good luck!

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.