How To Get Out Of A Work Shift (Without Judgement)

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Business owners will automatically be offside with the headline of this article! But having to take time off of work is inevitable. Some employees may go months, even years without having to take a day, but a day will come. Whether it is because you are sick mentally or physically, or you have some sort of family emergency – taking time away from work isn’t always a bad thing (even though it has a bad reputation at times). So, how can you get out of a work shift the right way, keeping both you and your employer in a good headspace?

To get out of a work shift, be honest and give as much notice as possible. Effective communication with your employer goes a very long way. Typically, accepted reasons include sickness, stress / burnout, a family emergency or car accidents. Forgetting, social events or being tired are normally frowned upon.

Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself, at the end of the day you come first! But there is a correct way and an incorrect way to go about getting out of a shift. You need to do it the right way, that way you are not looked at differently by your employer – we’re guessing that you still need your job, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. So what’s acceptable or a reason that is cutting it fine – keep reading to find out more! 

Honesty is the Best Policy

When it comes to calling off work just keep one thing in mind – do not lie.

This of course sounds highly cliche, but I’ll say it anyway, honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. We are big believers in that when you lie, it always comes back on you. So operating under the mind-frame of not lying is always the best route.

Also, lying is just morally wrong. From the time we can speak we are taught to not lie. Lying will get you nowhere.

You are constantly having to remember the lies you tell and eventually, you will slip up and let the truth out.

So, why not just start with the truth? It’ll save you a lot of time and a lot of heartaches. Plus, it will go a long way to keeping you from losing your job. Most workplaces do not tolerate liars. It speaks to your work ethic and it speaks to you as a person, and when it speaks – it’s not painting you in a positive light. So, try to refrain from it altogether. 

Most workplaces fully understand that their employees will have to miss work occasionally. So, don’t be afraid to let them know when you need a day or two off. Communicating openly with your boss is the best thing you can do in this situation. Let them know what exactly is going on. Tell them the amount of time you are going to need off and then handle the situation accordingly. 

Give as Much Notice as Possible

I cannot stress this enough – give your employer as much notice as possible! At the end of the day they still have a business to run, so having your shift covered is essential to their success.

Providing them with a notice gives them a chance to call in another employee to cover your shift. 

We’ve all been there, annoyed because someone called in and now your employer is blowing up your phone to get you to come in within the hour. It can be very irritating for some people. So, try your hardest to not let that happen to your coworkers.

As soon as you know that you are not going to be able to make it to work, you need to let your employer know immediately. If it becomes a common thing with you constantly calling out right before your shift, not only does it put a bad taste in your employer’s mouth, but your coworkers as well. This can potentially create a hostile work environment, and nobody wants that. 

Acceptable Reasons to Get out of a Work Shift

Now, you know as well as I do that many reasons are acceptable to call out of work. You still want to maintain your employment status, so you need to remain on good terms with your employer. From sickness to a family emergency, there are tons of reasons that your boss would / should understand. After all, we’re only human. Let’s dive into some acceptable excuses! 


This is the main one your employer is going to understand. If you are sick, especially if you are contagious, please stay at home! You are putting not only yourself at risk, but also colleagues and customers.

Sickness, especially these days, can spread at an alarming rate. Once one person comes in sick, everyone catches it and you have a never-ending cycle. Your boss will certainly understand if you cannot make it to work because of an ailment. If you come into work and get your coworkers sick, that means your boss can potentially be down multiple employees or worse, have to close the doors due to a lack of staff.

So, for the betterment of yourself and the company, stay home. This may require a doctor’s excuse or certificate, but if you are truly sick that shouldn’t be a problem. 

Stress / Burnout 

Using this one too habitually can get you into trouble, so only use it if you are truly stressed out. Stress and burnout can impact your health and ability to be proficient in your job. So, if you are feeling too stressed out and feel yourself entering the beginning phases of burnout – talk to your employer. That way they can work with your schedule and hopefully get you some extra time away from the office, or put conditions in place to reduce that added stress. Your employers hired you and hope you are an asset to them, so it’s in their best interest to take care of those who’ve had time and money invested into them.

Family Emergency

So, typically this excuse only applies when an emergency is occurring within your immediate family. Your immediate family typically includes your spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.

Many different scenarios could be considered a family emergency. From the death of a family member to a severe car accident. No one family is the same, so emergencies differ from family to family. Unfortunately, something you may see as a family emergency may not be what your boss sees as an emergency. So, don’t bank on being able to just take off for a family emergency. This excuse isn’t easily acceptable to everyone. So, it all just depends on how understanding your employer is.

Car Accidents 

Accidents are hardly ever planned unless you’re just doing some illegal activity – let’s assume that you are not. So, your employer should be inclined to give you the day off. Especially if you are in a wreck on your way to work. This is not something you could have helped with and the accident pretty much ruins you mentally for the remainder of the day. You will more than likely be no help to anyone that day because it weighs heavily on your mind.

Of course, if the wreck is severe enough and you are injured then you may need to take more than just a day off. Just make sure you communicate that with your employer. 

Related post: How to Stop Falling Asleep While Driving After Night Shift​

Unacceptable Reasons to Get out of a Work Shift

Listen, I get it. Sometimes there are days when you wake up and just do not feel like dealing with work. However, just not wanting to go is not an acceptable reason to not show up.

When you accepted the job you agreed to work a specific schedule and if your employer is holding up their end of the bargain, you need to do everything in your power to reciprocate that. Most employers operate as at-will employers. Meaning they can let you go for any reason, and you can quit. So, if you find yourself calling out a lot then reevaluate whether or not the job is right for you.

Now let’s get into the reasons that are not acceptable. 

You Forgot

I cannot stress this enough, forgetting you have to work is not a good excuse and will likely end in termination.

Please never use the excuse that you just simply forgot about your shift. This immediately puts a bad taste in your employer’s mouth when thinking about your work ethic. If you work a normal work schedule, there is no reason to forget. It’s something that you do constantly so knowing that you need to be at work should be embedded in you at this point.

If you pick up an extra shift, it is your responsibility to set any needed reminders it takes to get you into the workplace.

Related post: 10 Best Shift Work Calendar Apps to Stop You Missing Out

Social Events 

I can assure you that calling out to attend a social event is not going to pan out in your favor. I know that you want to go to whatever event it is, but that’s what vacation time is for. If you know in advance that the event is happening, let your boss know immediately. That way you can work something out to be off on that day. They are more inclined to give you the day off if they can figure something out with a lot of time to spare.

Finding someone to cover your shift is very difficult the day of. People have a life of their own life, they may have an event to go to and they are entitled to that considering it is their scheduled day off. Think about it, would you want to go to work for someone who called out just to attend a social event? 

No Care for the Job

This one I’ve never really understood. If you don’t care for the job – it’s probably time you look for something else. There are so many jobs out there that you could be happy at or at the very least, content with. If you are constantly calling out of a job because you don’t like it you are wasting your boss’s time, as well as your own. You know the phrase, time is money. You not wanting to work there because you don’t care is one hundred per cent, not a good excuse, because you signed the paperwork agreeing to work your scheduled shifts. If you are unhappy – leave. This allows you to find happiness in a job and allows someone else to find happiness in your current position. Just because you are unhappy there, it doesn’t mean everyone will be. Happiness is very subjective. 

Related post: How To Motivate Shift Workers: 8 Secrets to Staff Retention

Simply Tired

We’re all tired. I can promise you that everyone you work with is just as tired. Not only is everyone having to juggle the pressures of working a job, but everyone has a home life they are juggling as well.

Don’t get me wrong, being tired is highly uncomfortable and can make it difficult to get through the day. However, calling in just because you are tired makes it look like you can’t manage your own schedule.

Now, tiredness can be a symptom of some other ailment that you may have. So, it’s best to evaluate why it is you are feeling tired and get the adequate rest or help you need outside of work hours.

Tired? Get some sleep aids to help you out.

At the end of the day, nobody knows what’s best for you better than you do. So, if you feel that you need to take the day off, take it. Now, this is not us telling you to just take the day off and say, “The Other Shift said it’s okay.”

There needs to be a valid reason behind your absence. Each employer is different when it comes to taking time off. So, follow your company’s policy. Make sure you are effectively communicating with your boss. They are more inclined to work with you if communication is going smoothly. Finally, take care of yourself. You are no good in your personal life or work life if you are not looking after number 1. That’s no good for anyone. 



Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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