Excuses Not To Go To Work – Bulletproof Reasons to Avoid Going In

Searching for excuses not to go to work is very common. Life is hard. Every day we get up and go to work, giving our job the best version we can of ourselves. Hectic family lives get put to one side while we navigate through the working weeks.

There comes a point in everyone’s life when things get that little bit tougher. Sometimes, this means we feel physically or emotionally unable to turn up for work. However, there is always the worry of having that perfect excuse that gives you that breathing space you desperately need.

Mental health in the workplace is in crisis at the moment. Employers have a duty of care to take this seriously. Therefore, any request for mental health sick leave should be met with a sympathetic ear. However, in the event you are worried about an unsympathetic manager, we have some bulletproof excuses for needing a day or two to yourself.

Reasons to Miss Work on Short Notice

In an ideal world, you would give your boss a little notice of needing unexpected time off. But illnesses or emergencies can happen at any time. If you approach things right, there’s plenty of valid reasons not to go in to work at short notice..

Here are some examples of believable and genuine excuses to use when needed.

Personal Illness

We all know how quickly a virus can creep up on us at the most inconvenient of times. Things like covid or a stomach bug can happen with very little warning.

Therefore, this is a good way of getting some time off to look after your wellbeing. Should you need a few days then come up with something that takes a few days of recovery.

This can include having a migraine or food poisoning from last night’s takeaway.

Family Illness

Your child was sick during the night and is not able to go to school for 48 hours. No childcare means you can’t go into work as you now need to look after your ill child.

Even the most unsympathetic boss should understand this predicament. However, the right to take time off work to care for a dependant is enshrined in UK employment law. However, be aware that there’s no obligation for your employer to pay you.

You should also be aware that this type of leave doesn’t qualify for SSP, and may not be covered under any occupational sick pay policy your employer has. Check your company handbook to see what you’re entitled to.

Death Of A Loved One

This will depend on your conscience but if you are at the point of needing time off, this is is one of the best excuses not to go in to work.

Again, details can be kept very vague. A simple call to say there has been a death in the family so you are unable to make it in is all you need to say.

You Have An Appointment

It is an oldie but a timeless excuse for grabbing a much needed, last minute day off. You’ve woken up with an awful toothache and you are sitting by the phone until a dentist appointment comes up. 

Or, you think you have an ear infection and need to get some antibiotics. Employees can self certify for these types of illness for the first 7 days.

You Have Hurt Your Back

You moved too quickly and your back has gone into spasm. Now you have found yourself stuck in one position, unable to move.

You cannot possibly get in the car and drive to work so you are staying home with regular doses of ibuprofen. A bad back is good if you are unsure of how much time you need off as it is quite unpredictable in terms of healing time.

This type of problem can also be a very good excuse to work from home, if you feel able to work but can’t face the office.

Mental Health Crisis

You can opt to be somewhat honest and say your mental health needs your attention. Mental health should be taken as seriously as any other illness.

A call to the office to say you won’t be in due to mental health reasons should be met with no judgments.  Your employer may even offer a number of mental health days during the year.

Family Emergency Examples

Using the excuse of a family emergency is an effective way of calling in sick last minute.

You may want to have more of a story lined up though, so here are some common family emergency examples.

Hospital Visit Or Stay

A family member has taken ill and has been rushed to hospital for tests. Now, this could be approached in several ways.

You might be the In Case Of Emergency person (ICE) and therefore are needed. Or perhaps you are needed for childcare reasons now that the person is in hospital. There is scope within this excuse to tweak it to your own needs, and avoid the need to go in to work.

Your Child Has Fallen Ill At School Or Childcare

You were just about to leave the house and you got a call to say your child needs collecting.

This can be the perfect excuse because these things tend to happen with very little warning.

An Elderly Relative Has Had A Fall

You might be the first point of contact for a relative or neighbour and they have taken a tumble. This is absolutely a legitimate reason for missing work.

You may need to call an ambulance, go to A&E with your relative, or get them some medical attention at the local GP. This will buy you some much needed time to focus on your mental wellbeing.

A Dependent Is Having A Baby

A close relative has gone into labour unexpectedly, and you are needed to be there for moral support.

Your boss may be a little bemused that you have sprung this on them without having ever mentioned a close friend or relative who is pregnant, but it can be used as a last minute reason for being unable to go in to work.

Babies won’t wait for scheduled annual leave!

5 Excuses Not to Go When Called In To Work

It is a much needed day off and boy do you need this day to yourself. Cue a text from your boss asking if there is any chance you can work extra today as they are short staffed.

You are fully entitled to say no, especially if it is detrimental to your own state of mind. We help with some legitimate excuses for saying no to avoid your manager trying to guilt you in to work.

1. You Have Plans

Keep it simple and say sorry but you have plans today that cannot be changed. For example, you’ve already bought theme park tickets and they’re non refundable.

You are entitled to your time off and everyone has a life outside of work. Having time away from the office is absolutely necessary for our own sanity.

2. You Are Visiting Family And Are A Few Hours’ Drive Away

A slightly more elaborate excuse but you could say you are not in the area today as you are visiting family or are away on a mini break. No one can argue with this if getting there is logistically impossible.

Don’t use this one if you live in close proximity to work, or regularly bump into co-workers. Whilst you’re within your rights to say no, being caught out tellin

3. You Have Appointments All Day

Fitting in appointments during the working week isn’t possible so you have scheduled them all for your day off.

This is a great reason for being unable to go into work and do overtime.

4. You Have No Childcare

Working just isn’t possible as you have your child home with you as you do not pay for nursery on your days off.

Employers need to appreciate family always comes first and having a toddler hanging off your leg is reason enough to say no.

5. Saying No Is A Complete Sentence

You can just reply to a message saying no, sorry you cannot go in today. You do not need to pluck a reason out of the air.

This is your day off and you are free to do with it what you wish to. Saying something like “No sorry, I am not able to work today but I hope you find cover soon” is sufficient.

Calling in Sick For Personal Reasons

Citing personal reasons is also perfectly acceptable when you feel unable to work that day.

Don’t worry, we are here with some things that could be classed as a personal reason for needing a day to yourself. Personal reasons can leave a broad scope for making that phone call which is handy.

Your Car Broke Down

You are now sitting awaiting being towed and have no idea of the timescale involved. Therefore you will not be able to make it in to work today to get your car sorted.

Or you could say it wouldn’t start this morning and you are waiting for the garage or AA to get in touch.

You Have Frozen Pipes

Your pipes froze overnight and now one has burst causing extensive water damage. You are knee deep in puddles, while on the phone with a plumber and you need to deal with this today instead of work.

It goes without saying that this is not an excuse to use in summer.

Your Home Was Burgled

Your house was broken into during the early hours and you have lots to sort out today. The police will be arriving shortly and then you need to clean up the mess.

No one would expect to see you at work when something like this happens. An extreme excuse to miss work, but definitely effective.

Relationship Problems

A relationship breaking down or being in trouble is a valid reason for not making it to work.

Citing issues at home with your partner should be enough to get you some breathing space from work. It also gives some scope to stay home from work for a second day if you feel you need more time off.

Waiting In For An Important Delivery.

Another personal reason for not being able to get to work is that you need to wait for a delivery. There is a vague time of 8 am to 6 pm and there is no one else available to take the delivery for you.

This excuse is not a good one to miss work at very short notice. It should also probably only be used for very important one off purchases. Your manager is unlikely to be impressed at the urgent need to stay home from work to get your new ladyshave.

Good Reasons for Calling in Sick

The simpler you can keep your reason for being off sick, the better. If you want to say you’re unwell and use it as an excuse for not going in – don’t get carried away.

The more elaborate your story gets, the less believable it becomes. Sometimes, adopting a simple yet believable excuse is the way forward. Let’s list some of the most believable excuses that can happen day to day.

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Migraine
  • Toothache
  • Earache
  • Food poisoning
  • Stomach bug
  • Chronic illness
  • Flu
  • Covid
  • Back pain
  • Period pain

The type of excuses managers hear from staff calling in sick will commonly come from the above list. Get too elaborate and you may find you make an impression at work for the wrong reason.

Obviously Fake Sick Excuses

There are some real awful excuses for not going in to the office that have been heard by HR.

We don’t recommend using these as you might get into hot bother but they are fun to read, nonetheless! Here are some of the most ridiculous excuses that have been used to bag a sick day.

  • My goldfish looks a little off colour.
  • I fell out of bed, knocked myself out and missed my alarm.
  • I am stuck under the bed.
  • Someone tried to poison me.
  • My llama is sick.
  • My fortune teller said I needed to stay home today.
  • I accidentally got on a plane.
  • I poked my eye with my hairbrush and couldn’t see.

Calling in Sick With Fake Reasons – Potential Consequences

The more genuine your reason for needing a day off, the better. Not only will you sound more believable but it is also less likely that your boss will be suspicious.

Don’t forget that HR usually monitors absences and looks for patterns so don’t call in sick every Monday. Your employer may take things further if they smell a rat.

Being Asked to Provide a Doctor’s Note

Although you can self certify for 7 days, your boss can still ask for a doctor’s note.

They aren’t likely to do this if your absence is unusual and infrequent. However, if they spot a pattern emerging or your time off raises flags then they may need to ask for proof. They are within their rights to do this so it is best to tread carefully with your excuse.

GP practises also tend to charge for sick notes in situations where you’d normally self certify.

Return to Work Meeting

You might be asked to attend a return to work meeting. Again, this will happen if your absences spark any concern such as a pattern or the frequency of your sick days.

This will usually be done at the discretion of HR and your boss but it is something employers have in place. This is the first step usually when dealing with suspicious sick days.

Triggering Sickness Absence Thresholds

Many HR departments use a scale on which they measure staff absences. The most popular one is known as the Bradford factor.

This formula helps to calculate when sick days are over an acceptable threshold. It works by using a formula, usually over a 52 week period. Points are assigned depending on the number of days you have off during the qualifying period.

This can trigger disciplinary action being taken if you score highly.

Extension of Probation

If you are currently on probation at work then you might have your probation period extended.

This is the best case scenario because an employer who is suspicious of your sick days may decide to terminate the contract.

This is the whole reason for having this trial period for employees. They can fail your probation without having to start a whole chain of disciplinary processes.

Loss of Wages

You also need to think about the financial implications of taking a sneaky sick day.

Some employers may offer sick pay as part of the contract but not all do. If there is no mention in your contract then you will get SSP. This means you will not get paid for the SSP waiting days.

This is the 3 day period at the start of your SSP claim.

Avoiding Using Fake Excuses to Not Go to Work

The more honest you are with your reasoning, the less you have to worry about calling in sick.

Poor mental health is just as valid as a physical illness and should be treated as so. If you have reached a point in your life where you have that dread in the pit of your stomach on a workday, then you may need to get to the root cause.

Stress in the workplace is one of the main causes of staff absences.                              

It can be daunting but calling in sick and saying you need a mental health day is perfectly valid. Let’s not forget that with stress and anxiety, there are often accompanying physical symptoms.

Things like an upset tummy, headaches, feeling dizzy and a racing heart are all common side effects of poor mental health.

Speak to Your Employer

Sometimes honesty is the best policy. Having an open conversation with your employer can be a positive step.

Employers have a duty of care to all their employees and this includes mental wellbeing. Your boss should be willing to help support you in any way they can.

They might offer you some remote work in the interim so that you can still earn from home. Or flexible working might be another option that can be explored.

Seeking Help for Mental Health

It is important to remember that help can always be sought for mental health problems.

The sooner you do this, the better. When you are really struggling then a trip to your GP can help. They can offer you some support and offer to sign you off. This gives you time to focus on yourself for a while.

Employers should be doing all they can to support staff who are struggling mentally. There should be an open door policy for anyone needing support due to stress or another mental illness.

Our guide on how to get signed off work with stress may also help set your mind at ease.

Try to Request Time Off in Advance

Your boss will likely be more accommodating if you try and give advance warning of time off.

Granted, this can be difficult if your mental health takes a sudden dive. Sometimes though, there are warning signs of poor mental health that can give you that heads up.

If you feel yourself struggling on a Friday then approach your boss and ask if you can take Monday as a mental health day. Some workplaces allow a certain number of mental health days per year as part of the contract.

Request Flexible Working

It is always worth enquiring about flexible working when you are struggling. This can be in your boss’s best interests as well.

They will still be meeting the work schedule and won’t need to find cover. Since the pandemic, many employers are more open to working from home if need be.

Sometimes just having this breathing space can help put staff back in a positive mindset.

How to Call in Sick

From time to time, despite our best efforts, we need to make the call saying we won’t be in.

Make sure you handle this professionally and appropriately. This means following company protocol. If you aren’t sure what this is then check your contract. When you call in sick, keep the conversation short and to the point. Try to give as much notice as possible and sound apologetic at the same time.

In most cases, you can self certify for the first 7 days of illness. Therefore, if you need some time to deal with your mental health then take it.

If this isn’t long enough or you feel you are getting worse then your GP can sign you off for longer.


Does a doctor’s note excuse an absence from work?

A doctor’s note excuses an employee from all or some work duties, depending on the problem. A sick note is used when an employee has used up the 7 days of self certification and is still unwell.

Is anxiety a valid excuse to not go to work?

Anxiety is as valid an excuse for being off work as any physical illness is. Stress and anxiety are big problems in the UK and employers need to support staff in any way they can.

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