5 Steps on How to Call Off Work

Chris is an employee at IHOP. One morning, he wakes up to water dripping on his face. He looks up to see a growing wet patch on his ceiling, and when he gets up for closer examination, notices that the entire ceiling is caving in. Just as he lunges out of the bedroom, the whole ceiling collapses, as the bathtub from the upstairs bathroom crashes down onto his bed. It turns out that his wife left the water running while she was blow-drying her hair, and the house’s foundation was already violating several building codes. Chris calls his boss at IHOP and explains that he has an emergency to address, and he will need to use a day of his paid time off (PTO) to hire a contractor and dry off the family cat.

By: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Now and again, and employee will run into situations where he or she needs to miss work. Generally, employers understand when one of their workers needs to clock out early or miss a day on account of personal affairs, medical problems, or emergencies. While taking time off is okay and expected, there are ways to do so without antagonizing one’s employer or colleagues.

1. Reasons for Calling Out of Work


An employee can call out of work if sick with a cold, the flu, or a stomachache. Especially if contagious, it’s important for an ill coworker to stay home in order to keep the office healthy. Medical reasons for calling out of work also include injury or doctor’s appointments.

Example: Harry has come down with a bad cold. He has been treating it with TheraFlu and cough drops, and by Monday morning, he thinks he is okay to work. When he steps into the office, his boss sees his pale, clammy face and hears his wracking coughs that startle the other employees. His boss strongly encourages him to go home and rest by taking a sick day. Even though Harry would like to avoid missing work, he knows that it is the best decision for everyone in the office that he isolate himself.


Sometimes an employee will need to call out of work for a non-health related emergency. Non-medical emergencies include home repair or death of a relative.

Example: Guinevere lives in Calabasas. When an autumn fire rips through the hills and burns down her house, she takes time off work to talk to her insurance company and salvage items from the wreckage with her two dogs, Arthur and Lancelot.


An employer might offer his employees personal days. These are days that an employee can use throughout the year for any reason. They may be used, for example, to do necessary personal tasks or simply to rest at home.

Example: Eunice has been working hard for the past few months and feels like she needs a break from the office. On Friday, she calls into work and tells her boss she would like to take a personal day to rest. Her boss agrees. Eunice takes a five-hour nap and then goes to a Slipknot concert, as she is perfectly entitled to do on her personal day.

How to Call Out of Work

1. Choose a Good Method of Contact

Depending on the workplace, some employers have preferred methods of contact. Restaurant managers or barbers, for example, may not use email often. For them, contact by phone is probably best. An office manager would be best reached by email, conversely. The exception to this is if a workplace has a standard method of calling out of work. For instance, a manager prefers to be contacted by text because he always has his phone on him.

2. Let the Employer Know in Advance

It is good practice to let an employer or supervisor know about a planned absence as soon as possible. For example, if an employee catches a cold on Friday and knows that he will not be coming into work on Monday, he should call, email, or text his employer, letting he or she know that he will be absent from work. Similarly, if an employee is planning to take a day off to attend her child’s school graduation, she should let her employer know a week or two ahead of time, to allow her employer time to accommodate her absence from the office.

3. Be Brief

An employee should keep it brief when explaining to an employer why he or she will miss work. For instance, when calling out sick, an employee does not need to give his boss a rundown of his symptoms or how he diagnosed himself using WebMD. All he needs to say is that he is sick and staying home to get better. It is also good practice to show an interest in getting back to work soon.

Example A: At breakfast time, Ian sends a message to his employer saying, “Hey boss, I think I have an infection. I have a fever and some kind of fungus growing on my toe. I looked it up online but can’t identify it. Reddit doesn’t know either. Anyway, I’m going to head to the doctor to get some meds and have a sample taken from my toe. Maybe it’s just a wart. Will let you know.”

Bad. TMI, Ian.

Example B: Gillian sends an email to her boss the night before work saying, “Hi Kerry, I’ve come down with a fever and am not feeling too well, so I won’t be in the office tomorrow. I’ve talked to Gemma and she knows what to do on the project until I’m back in.”

Good. Gillian is brief and considerate.

4. Have Solutions Ready

If an employee takes time off during a busy period, or if there is work to be completed in his or her absence, it is a good idea for the employee to plan ahead. He or she should make sure that responsibilities are under control and if needed, someone can cover his or her shift.

5. Prepare to Return

It is important that even while away, an employee stays in contact with his or her team. Staying in touch and keeping up to date with information will make one’s absence less impactful on the workplace.

When an employee returns to work, it’s important that he or she catches up on any missed work and puts in extra effort to not fall behind.

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