Good Reasons to Call Out of Work – Is it OK to Call In Sick?

You’re not feeling well, and the thought of the office turns you cold. But what to do? Is it OK to call in sick? In theory, anything wrong with you that will prevent you from performing your usual job role is a valid reason to call out of work.

We say in theory though, because often it is not as easy as this. You might be a little anxious about ringing in sick or even embarrassed. Some illnesses or issues are not glamorous and you may not want the world to know.

Our guide takes a look at good excuses for calling out of work and how to handle the situation. Everyone has sick days, we are all human after all.

What Are The Biggest Reasons Employees Call in Sick?

According to ONS statistics, the biggest reason employees call in sick in the majority of years is categorised under “Minor illnesses”. That includes conditions such as stomach bugs, ear infections, cold and flu symptoms and allergies.

In 2021, minor illnesses accounted for 21.9% of workplace absences. In this year “Other Conditions” was the biggest reason for employee absence. However, this was driven by absences related to Covid.

The “other” category also includes problems such as accidents, and poisoning, and those indirectly affected by the pandemic. This includes people required to self isolate, and those who were sheilding.

Let’s take a look at the official statistics on why people called out of work sick in 2021:-

  • Other conditions made up 26.9% of the absences reported in 2021. Illnesses such as COVID 19 and diabetes fall within this category. It also includes accidents, infectious diseases, skin problems and poisonings.
  • Next, at 21.9% came illnesses labelled minor including; stomach bugs, ear infections, cold and flu symptoms and allergies.
  • At 13.4% came musculoskeletal problems which can mean back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and tendonitis.
  • Mental health conditions made up 9.8% and included problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression.

These figures demonstrate that there are many valid reasons to call off work sick.

Did You Know? Average days off work sick per worker in the UK in 2021 was 4.6.

Source: ONS sickness absence in the UK labour market.

See Also: Average Number of Sick Days Per Year – Our analysis of the UK’s low sick days compared with many other European countries.

Common Reasons to Call Out Sick – How Valid Are They?

Let us now focus on some of the most common reasons workers use to call out sick. 

We look at just how valid they are as sick excuses for work, and any potential issues that could arise from using them. Being ill is nothing to be ashamed of but the whole calling in sick thing can be very daunting for many employees.


Nausea is a valid reason for needing time off, no one is up to working when those waves of sickness hit.

Many companies have a 48 hour policy for sick bugs so be prepared to potentially lose a few days’ pay. Also, if you are calling in on a Monday after a Sunday night sesh with friends then be mindful of who may have seen you out. It’s all fun and games posting on social media while out but if you then ring in sick, well, it is not going to look convincing.

Of course, your sickness may well be genuine and may be for a sensitive reason such as early pregnancy. You are completely within your rights to keep this information to yourself until you are comfortable sharing it.


Piles are one of those conditions that no one talks about but are very common.

They can be nasty too, causing a lot of discomfort when sitting down. If you are comfortable enough to share this information with your boss then go for it. Haemorrhoids are definitely a valid excuse to call out of work.

Most people wouldn’t use this as a made up excuse, so its unlikely to make your manager feel your sick day reasons are insincere. This type of discomfort would also be a valid reason to work from home until things ease up.

Headaches & Migraine

Many people call in with a headache or migraine excuse because it is not something that can be proved or disproved. However, migraines are a very real and can be classified as a disability if they are sufficiently debilitating.

If you suffer from migraines, it is a valid reason to call in sick. Migraines tend to linger for a few days, making you feel grotty.

There is nothing worse than a bad headache or migraine. You do not want to be stuck staring at a screen all day as that will worsen the pain.


Calling in sick due to fatigue is very much a case of looking at the bigger picture when deciding if its a good reason to stay off work.

What is causing the fatigue? If it is too many late nights due to watching your favourite Netflix series then chances are you shouldn’t call in sick. Instead, grab some early nights and you’ll feel better.

On the flip side, fatigue can be a huge problem for people with chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. This is a different level of tiredness where you feel too exhausted to get dressed, let alone show up at work. Flares in conditions can heighten the already hard symptoms such as tiredness. On the proviso you suffer from extreme tiredness then your boss should be made aware of this.

Mental health can cause exhaustion too. Your body is constantly in flight or fight mode which is an exhausting process. So, whether to call in sick with fatigue depends on the reason behind the tiredness. Be open and honest with your boss.


If you have woken up flushed with a fever then chances are you are coming down with something.

Calling in with a fever will depend on how you feel within yourself. It will also depend on how high the fever is. A slightly raised temperature is normal if the body is trying to fight off a virus such as the common cold.

Your boss will likely ask you how you feel otherwise and the fever in itself may not warrant a day off. However, if you feel rotten with other symptoms you may well be best staying home.

You should also consider whether spreading your illness around your colleagues might cause more productivity issues than you just taking a day or two off to recover.

Insomnia and Lack of Sleep

Insomnia is brutal and often comes hand in hand with chronic illnesses and mental health problems.

The odd bout of insomnia is quite common and affects many people. Often, it is something that fixes itself and work isn’t affected. However, chronic insomnia can mean you struggle to function normally. This is when you might be able to take some sick leave.

If this problem is long term then your boss may ask that you get medical advice and address the reasons for not sleeping.

Too much time off can lead to welfare meetings or potential disciplinary procedures so it is important to actively seek professional advice.

PMT & Menstrual Issues

No one enjoys PMT related issues but some women suffer far more than others.

Problems such as endometritis, for example, can heighten symptoms felt during a woman’s cycle. The pain can be debilitating and can render the person immobile through sheer agony.

Things like this are accepted as a good excuse for calling in sick. Your boss should accept menstrual issues as easily as something like a sickness bug.

Stress or Mental Health Issues

In a time when mental health problems are at an all time high, bosses should accept this as a reason for calling off work.

If you suffer from panic attacks and anxiety then those in themselves can leave you feeling wiped out. You might be under a lot of stress, work related or otherwise, and this is a very real reason for taking time off sick.

You should try and have an open and honest conversation with your employer about this. The more they know, the more they will understand and offer some flexibility. They may suggest some remote working to ease the pressure or flexible working.

They will also expect you to go to your GP if the problem persists. If your mental health is severely impared, you may end up being signed off with stress or other conditions affecting mental wellbeing.

What’s The Best Reason to Call Out of Work?

When it comes to the best reason for calling out of work sick, honesty is the best reason for calling out sick.

Your boss cannot argue with a plausible and valid reason for needing the day off. If you are genuinely ill then keep it simple, to the point and honest. If you are needing a minute to yourself and cannot face work, pick an excuse that buys you that day without any problems.

Our Top 3 Reasons To Call Out of Work are:-

  1. Headache or migraine. It’s simple, to the point and a valid reason for needing time off.
  2. Nausea or vomiting. No one will want you at work if you are hugging the toilet.
  3. Mental health reasons. Stress, anxiety and depression are valid reasons for calling in sick.

What to Say When Calling Out Sick

Now, you have your reason but how to word it? We share some of our top tips when calling out sick.

No matter how long you have been in your job, it can be nerve wracking calling in. This is more so if you just need a day off and have no proper reason why. It is important to remember that employers deal with sick days all the time and will cope without you for a day or two.

When you make that call:-

  • Follow the company procedure for calling in sick – do not text if a phone call is required.
  • Check your contract for this procedure or the sickness policy.
  • Keep the call professional and to the point.
  • Apologise for the inconvenience and keep them posted on your recovery.
  • Remember you don’t need to be specific – you can just state you don’t feel well.

See also:What to say when calling in sick – our guide to navigating your absence professionally.

If You Need Support For Mental Health

Mental health problems are very real and prevalent in the UK workplace. Your boss should have things in place for supporting mental health.

These days, mental health is as valid as any physical illness and should be treated with respect and understanding. Should you need some time off to take care of your mental wellbeing then this should be acceptable.

Staff wellbeing is hugely important to many businesses, happy staff are more productive. Many employers are putting measures in place to support mental health and positive team relationships at work.

Have the Conversation with Work

If you are struggling mentally because of your work situation, then you must raise this with your manager. Employers have a legally binding duty of care for staff mental health at work.

If your mental health is being affected, you should discuss some reasonable adjustments that will help you continue to do your job. It might be that you need to go on long term sickness, reduce your hours or do some of your weeks remotely. Your boss should have an open door policy for anyone struggling mentally.

Should your stress or anxiety be impacting negatively on your health, you may need to seek support. A visit to the GP can help open those lines of communication and put you in touch with the mental health team. You can also get medication for the problem which can be of massive benefit. You can be signed off due to poor mental health until you feel stronger.


Do you have to give a reason for calling out?

You can keep the reason for calling out quite vague, citing personal reasons or not feeling well. This will be acceptable for the odd day off but you will need to be more specific if you will be off for longer.

Can you be signed off work for stress?

You can be signed off with stress and the GP will do this on your behalf by providing you with a sick note. You can also self certify for mental health issues.

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