Excuses for Not Going to Work: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Don’t feel like going to work today? You’re not alone!

According to new CareerBuilder data, 40 percent of workers have called in sick in the last 12 months when they weren’t, compared to 35 percent in 2016 and 38 percent in 2015.

Many of us have felt the temptation to call in sick when we simply don’t want to go to work. However, while it’s an easy excuse to get out of work, it’s important to bear in mind the repercussions of faking an illness to get time off. At the end of the day, if you’re found out your professional reputation will be damaged, and your job may even be put at risk.

What are good excuses for not going to work?

Acceptable excuses for missing work may include:

  • Personal appointments (doctors, dentist, accountant, etc.)
  • Medical procedures
  • Childcare problems
  • Having an issue with your car
  • A death in the family
  • Illness (including mental health)
  • A family emergency (sick family member)
  • An emergency at home (burst pipe, boiler repairs, etc.)

“Life is busy – and occasionally taking time off is necessary in order to show up to work mentally and physically prepared to have a positive impact on productivity,” said Rosemary Haefner, CHRO of CareerBuilder. “Your reputation is very important and you should always be upfront and honest with your boss about the time you need off. Outlandish excuses for calling off work can raise red flags and can lead to trust issues, so avoid them at all costs.”

The worst excuses for missing work

Employers have heard some pretty terrible excuses that are certainly not acceptable, including:

  • “A bear was in my garden and I was afraid to come out.”
  • “My phone exploded and I have an injured hand.”
  • “I ate a toothpick in my food at a restaurant.”
  • “I broke my arm wrestling a female bodybuilder.”
  • “My uniform won’t fit because I’m too fat.”
  • “My dog has swallowed my car keys so I’m was waiting for them to come out.”
  • “I have to attend the funeral of my wife’s cousin’s pet because I was an uncle and pallbearer”
  • “I don’t have enough gas to get to work.”
  • “I had to re-schedule a new manicure because some of my artificial nails fell off.”
  • “I’m not sure how the solar eclipse will affect me so it would be safer to stay home.”

How to give your excuse

If you need time off work and are explaining this to your boss, then you should deliver your excuse concisely and honestly. Long, elaborate excuses are more likely to raise suspicions. You should give you manager as much notice as possible, but if it’s a last-minute request, it’s better to call and speak to them rather than sending an email if possible.

Your company may have policies in place for how you should call in sick or request time off so be sure to follow those too.

Watch out your social media doesn’t give you away

If you haven’t been completely honest about why you needed time off work, be careful that your social media doesn’t reveal the truth. According to CareerBuilder’s survey, 43 percent of employers surveyed have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking their social media. Indeed, some companies will check their employees’ social media if they are suspicious, or if you are connected with colleagues things can easily get back to your manager.


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