Top 17 Good Excuses to Be Late to Work & Tips

Christina J Colclough

By Christina Colclough

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excuses to be late to work

Most companies have strict attendance policies to minimize absenteeism issues among their employees; excessive violations might result in salary cuts or even termination. 

Therefore, if you have no choice but to constantly sacrifice your punctuality at work for personal matters, giving your manager good excuses for being late for work is essential to sidestep unwanted consequences. Keep scrolling to learn how!

Top 17 Good Reasons for being Late for Work

Traffic jams, sickness, pets running away, lost keys/properties, bad weather, or plumbing problems are among the most believable excuses you can use to justify your lateness. Serious matters like death or house robbery also work; however, since keeping up with such lies can be extremely difficult, not to mention the ethical issues, I suggest only using them as genuine excuses. 

Office worker coming late to meeting

1. Sickness in Your Family

Caring for a sick family member is always a valid reason for late arrivals at work; most managers will be understanding and supportive. 

Nevertheless, to show your commitment to the job, it would be best to inform your manager as soon as possible. Even if the situation arises suddenly, try to tell him beforehand that you might be running late.

2. Looking for A Babysitter to Take Care of Your Kids

Call Out In Sick

Parents of toddlers or small kids need to find an all-time babysitter to manage household duties while they are away at work. 

Let’s say your nanny is sick or has to take her time off for personal emergencies; finding a replacement at the last minute is a huge headache-inducing issue that your boss will understand, especially if he also has children. 

That’s why he will likely let you get away this time. But again, remember to inform him beforehand so you can take your time off or work remotely if no babysitter is available.

3. Heavy Traffic

Hundreds (if not thousands) of people are on their way to school or work simultaneously, so chances of traffic congestion are understandably high. Both you and your boss have no control over such situations, so it would be unreasonable for him to question your lateness.

On another note, this reason is so commonly used that some people will not buy it; it would be best to be discerning with excuses like these so your boss can trust you whenever you bring them up. The more often they are used, the more it seems like you are lying.

4. Car Issues

Almost everyone commutes to work these days, so serious car breakdowns are a valid reason for being late to work.

Many issues could have occurred, ranging from punctured tires and broken belts to malfunctioning engines that cannot start. They tend to happen in the morning, right when you are about to go to work.

Any car owner should understand how much trouble those breakdowns might cause – and so does your boss. 

5. You Were Stopped By The Police

Legal involvement is among the most legitimate reasons for being late to work, as complying with a police officer’s instructions is a must. It also takes quite a lot of time for the police to explain why you are being pulled over, which causes further delay.

On another note, if you want to use this common excuse as a white lie, do not tell your manager you were stopped for passing the red light. Many traffic signals have built-in cameras to record vehicles, meaning your boss may ask you for proof!

Instead, tell him the police stopped you for random checks, misunderstanding, etc.. That way, you do not have to show any documentation or ticket to back up your explanation.

6. You Feel Sick

Mental Health Problems in work

Sickness is also a reasonable excuse to be late for work since there are almost no repercussions; who can predict his well-being, after all? 

So, on mornings when you do not feel like getting up at all and anticipate being late, telling your boss or supervisor that you are feeling ill will be the safest choice. Be transparent about your situation by mentioning some symptoms, providing an expected arrival time, or asking for some days off. 

Most of the time, employers will allow you to stay home until you are better, both for your health and everyone else in the office. They do not want other employees to catch your contagious sickness and disrupt their productivity.

If you are only late and do not want to take the entire day off, tell him you get up with a serious headache or nauseous feeling – and that you will have to wait a little to get better before going to work.

7. Your Pet Has Run Away

All pet parents know how devastating it must be when your dogs or cats grab your key and run out when you are about to leave your house. So, although the excuse might sound odd or even unprofessional, it will still work if:

  • Your manager is a huge dog/cat lover 
  • He already knows you own a pet
  • You often talk about your dog/cat at work

Telling him your pet gets lost or becomes sick is also recommended – since that means you have to skip work to take your pet to the clinic or print missing posters. 

8. Your Wallet, Purse, or Bag Is Lost

Let’s say you had your wallets/bags stolen when returning from work yesterday, or you accidentally left them on the train/cab and must go to transportation offices to trace where they are. 

These serious issues might disrupt your morning routine and cause you to arrive late to work, especially if you usually commute by taxi/bus and cannot pay for transportation due to the cards and wallets being stolen. 

You can report the situation honestly to your manager if this actually happened to you (and was not just a white lie); it would be even better to spread this news to another employee the day before so that they could tell your boss the reason you are absent that morning.

But what if you only want an excuse for your lateness? Then there’s no need to inform your manager that your wallet is missing, or you will have to give him constant updates to make the story seem plausible! Instead, say you have lost your car key or house key; these items are important, but not to the point that you have to report the case to the police or go any extra lengths to get them back.

9. Plumbing Problems

A plumbing problem is not something to ignore; the fact that it might happen anytime and anywhere makes this issue even more frustrating, especially if you have to handle everything by yourself!

Of course, you can still contact a handyperson or a plumber to fix it. But even then, you still have to stay home and wait for those people to arrive – a legit, classic excuse for being late for work since such circumstances are unavoidable. The same applies to other household problems like blocked driveways, roof holes, gas leakages, etc. 

10. Bad Weather Conditions

We all know nature is unpredictable; there might be sunshine one day and heavy rain the next! The road conditions and traffic will be severely affected as a result; worse, during storms, serious flooding or roadblocks might keep you from going to work on your usual route. That’s why using bad weather as your excuse will be a great idea. 

11. Someone Close to You Passed Away

Just like nature or sickness, death might creep up unknowingly. When involving someone we are very close with, the topic is even more sensitive, which explains why most companies allow employees to take their days off to heal and spend time with their families.

The excuse is dramatic for sure, but still valid; nobody will question anything since you need lots of support and sympathy during this period.

Nevertheless, for ethical matters, I suggest using it as a genuine reason instead of an excuse you throw at your superior just to get away with your unprofessionalism.

12. Your Properties Were Burgled or Robbed

A house getting robbed calls for legal intervention or enforcement, so only turn to these excuses when the robbery actually occurred! Making stories about such serious issues is like digging a big hole for yourself since you cannot catch up with those lies forever.

If the crime were from the night before, the police officers would arrive at your door very early in the morning to investigate the house and ask your questions, which takes up lots of time. You can phone your manager or email him to explain why you will be absent. 

13. Doctor Appointment

Health conditions are important for efficient performance and productivity at work; your employer will not complain if you must visit a doctor before going to work. 

Not to mention, doctor clinics likely have the same working hours as companies, so it’s understandable that your appointment coincides with the office hours. Some hospitals also have a very long waiting list!

But here’s one thing: most doctor appointments must be scheduled days or even weeks in advance. Therefore, you should not drop the bomb at the last minute. 

14. Car Accidents

As mentioned, many commute to work by car, so road accidents are always a looming threat. And even if you are not the driver yourself, the cab or bus you take might still get into crashes or collisions; that’s why using car accidents as an excuse for lateness is perfectly acceptable.

It does not have to be a serious or fatal accident; just tell your manager that you might have to check for injuries, handle the damage, help someone else involved, etc. 

15. You Are Called To Your Kid’s School

Sometimes, children might get into serious problems at school that require parental intervention, such as sickness, trouble learning, or incidents. 

No matter what happens, family must always be put above all else. That’s why your employer will unlikely complain or protest if you are late for work to take care of your child first.

16. Your Clothes Are Puddle-Drenched

Silly as it might sound, encountering this accident is not uncommon. If there was heavy rain the previous night, huge rainwater puddles might litter the roadsides, showering you with huge splashes when run over by inconsiderate drivers. There’s no choice but to return home and change to another outfit! 

17. Fire In The Kitchen

Fire accidents in the morning happen more often than you think, as most people have just been roused from their 8-hour sleep and are not in their best state of mind. 

Let’s say you were preparing eggs in the kitchen and carrying out your usual morning routine and suddenly realized the towel was set on fire! Nobody, even your employer, could question the validity of your story, especially if it’s well-supported by many small yet logical details.

How Many Minutes Late Is Acceptable for Work? 

The answer depends on your workplace and its policies. 5 to 10 minutes late is often considered acceptable if you are generally punctual. For those who break the rules too often, even showing up 5 minutes late can be seen as unprofessional and could negatively impact your job position. 

All in all, it is always best to check with your employer to determine their specific expectations. If you anticipate you will be late for work, notify your supervisor as soon as possible to avoid misunderstandings.

Can You Get Fired for Being Late Three Times?

Some companies fire their employees for being late more than twice. But again, note that the likelihood of termination also depends on numerous factors, such as your company’s policies, previous work history, and how much your unannounced absence/lateness affects the business. For instance, your employer may be willing to overlook a few violations if: 

  • The lateness is excusable or beyond your control.
  • You are constantly late but work extra hours to make up for it.
  • You deliver high-quality work and exceed expectations despite your tardiness.

How to Apologize to Your Boss When You Can No Longer Make Excuses

  • Seek a private and appropriate time to address your boss; avoid apologizing during busy periods or in public settings.
  • Begin by acknowledging your responsibility for the situation, and do not blame external factors or make excuses this time. I suggest using phrases like “I take full responsibility for my actions” or “I should have handled this better.”
  • Assure your boss that you are learning from your mistakes and will try your best to keep them from happening again.
  • Most importantly, ensure you follow through on your commitments. Your actions will strengthen the apology and further showcase your sincerity.

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Above are 17 common, legitimate late-for-work reasons that you can use anytime to explain your absence or lateness. 

Nevertheless, any good excuse will go stale if overused or thrown at the wrong place and time; the best bet is to always comply with the company’s policy and show them your utmost commitment to the job.

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Christina J Colclough

Christina J. Colclough

Dr Christina J. Colclough is an expert on The Future World of Work and the politics of digital technology advocating globally for the importance of the workers’ voice. She has extensive regional and global labour movement experience, is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach, and strategist advising progressive governments and worker organisations.

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