When (and How) You Can Ask to Miss Work or Leave Early (2023)

In an ideal world, you’d be able to come and go as you pleased at work. Should something pop up in your personal life, you’d have the option to leave the office to handle it, so long as your work looked good and was done on time.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, which means our workplaces often constrict our availability. It’s true that many companies are embracing flexible hours and unlimited paid time off (PTO), allowing their employees to work on a schedule that best fits their lifestyle provided their productivity doesn’t falter. However, it’s still commonplace for employees to be required to work from 9 to 5 (or some other set hours), five days a week, unless they come up with a valid excuse as to why they’re unable to.

For those folks, having to duck out midday or call out of work for a personal matter can be a tricky thing to navigate. How do you justify needing the time away to your manager?

Just like you’re entitled to a certain amount of vacation time, you’re not never allowed to miss a part of the workday or leave work early. You just have to be strategic about it.

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When Are You Allowed to Miss Work, and for What Excuses?

There are plenty of good excuses to miss work. To name a few:

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  • You have travel plans, either work or non-work related
  • You have a doctor’s (or vet, or some other) appointment
  • You have a religious commitment
  • You’re attending a conference or industry event
  • You want to attend your child’s school event, recital, or game
  • You’re dealing with a family matter
  • You’re dealing with a health matter
  • You’re moving or need to wait for an important delivery or service provider (the plumber, the internet installer)
  • Something urgent and unpredictable came up—the nanny is sick, your apartment started flooding, there’s a snow day at school

You could look at this list and say some excuses are better than others. But “it is very individualistic,” says Nneka Craigwell, who works in people operations at Namely. And it’s not up to your co-worker or your boss to decide if you have a good enough reason to bail. It’s up to you to prove to them that it is (but more on that below).

Unfortunately, being tired or bored or simply wanting to go home without finishing out the day is not a great excuse (sorry). If you’re feeling that way, don’t even bother approaching your manager. You’re better off doing a number of other things: finding something productive to work on until you can clock out, helping out a co-worker, talking to your boss about your workload, or even asking for a personal day instead.

What’s the Best Way to Ask to Miss Work?

So you want to ask your boss for some time off during the day—whatever the reason. Follow these important steps to ensure you get a “yes!” and leave the office on the best possible note.

Set Expectations Early

Craigwell emphasizes that in a lot of instances, making the case to miss part of the workday starts way before the day you actually want to leave. In fact, it starts when you and your manager first get to know each other.

Take the trivial example of someone who needs to duck out of work to take care of their dog. At first glance, it may seem silly. But context matters. If this person notified their boss early on in their relationship that they had a pet, and that sometimes this pet would need them during the workday, their boss would probably be a lot more understanding than a manager who’s hearing about this animal for the first time.

This also applies to someone who’s a primary caregiver, or is dealing with health issues, or has some other commitment outside the office that may, from time to time, require them to be pulled away from work. When your supervisor knows very distinctly what’s important to you outside of work, it’s easier to persuade them to give you what you need.

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Maybe you have a great boss who takes genuine care in getting to know your life outside of work. But if your manager’s tougher to connect with, remember that “there’s accountability on both sides,” says Craigwell.

You don’t necessarily have to get into the nitty-gritty details of your situation. But, says Craigwell, “if there’s something going on with you, let people get a glimpse into that, so if that smoke arises then people can help you put that fire out.”

Tell Them as Soon as You Know

The most important step you need to take, regardless of whether it’s a serious situation or not? “If you know in advance, tell someone in advance,” says Craigwell. As soon as you know you’ll need to miss work, she advises, “tell your supervisor, tell your team, tell whoever it’s relevant to.” Scheduled that doctor’s appointment for two weeks from today? Tell your boss now. Know the exact date of your nephew’s christening a month ahead? Bring it up in your next check-in.

When you do this, you make your boss’ life (and yours) a heck of a lot easier. If they know in advance, they have time to prepare, whether they need to find someone to fill in for you, push a deadline or meeting, or rework their own calendar to make up for the loss. On the flip side, if you don’t say anything until the last possible minute “and then one or two other people can’t make it that day or [there’s] an increased call volume or whatever the case may be for your business, there is a negative impact,” says Craigwell. “And one of those things at a minimum could have been prevented” had you just been proactive.

Allow Room for Discussion Later

Sometimes you’ll need to ask for time off at the last minute—for example, if you completely forgot you put an appointment on your calendar or your dog walker locked herself out of the house. When it’s down to the wire and you really need your manager to give you the green light to leave, be sure to reopen the conversation later so you can better explain yourself and assure your boss they can trust and count on you to be a reliable teammate.

Here’s how: After you’re back in the office, pull them aside at an appropriate moment and thank them for being flexible. Then, if it makes sense, explain further why this time outside the office was important to you, how you plan to give more advanced notice next time (if you’re able to), and how you’ll handle your workload to compensate for lost time.

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With last-minute requests, there’s always a strong possibility they’ll say no—because you’re needed, because your boss doesn’t approve last-minute requests, or because it would set a bad precedent for the rest of the team. So accept that this may be the case if you run out the clock before asking them, and try as best you can to be proactive moving forward.

Have a Plan to Do the Work

Whenever you ask your boss for some amount of time off, always be prepared to answer the question, “How will you make up for it?” Maybe you’ll work remotely while you’re out, or respond to emails when you get home that evening, or come in early the next morning, or get stuff done the day before.

Whatever answer you give, actually follow through on it. Nothing stops your boss from letting you skip a chunk of work faster than missing a deadline or doing the bare minimum.

Don’t Make It a Pattern

You don’t want to become the person everyone in the office always expects to miss work. If you keep forgetting about appointments or ducking out last minute, your whole team is going to see you as someone who’s flaky, unreliable, or even high-drama.

More importantly, you don’t want to become the person who’s always missing work and doesn’t make up for it. Colleagues will resent you if they have to pick up your slack while you’re out. Plus, your boss will be less likely to say yes to any future requests.

So take chunks of time off cautiously and when it truly makes sense, and find ways to balance out your work with your outside work priorities. For example, if you know you want to be able to take time off for your child’s various school events, maybe schedule your other appointments before work or during lunch. And if you’ve talked to your boss about missing work frequently for a more serious personal reason, make sure you’re meeting expectations as much as possible.

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How Do You Make Your Ask?

How exactly do you state your case? These templates can help in bringing it up appropriately and respectfully.

If You’re Doing It in Person

In your next check-in or one-on-one meeting, you could say the following:

“I wanted to ask you if it would be possible to take off [date] from [time] to [time] for [reason]? To make up for the missed time, I plan to [what you plan to do to make up for it]. I also know we have [meeting] scheduled during that time, and was wondering if it would be possible to reschedule. If you prefer, I’m happy to take the entire day off, but figured since I’m available part of the day I could easily come in and still get [projects you’re working on] done.”

If You’re Doing It Over Email

While in person is always better, if your boss prefers email or you can’t seem to get them in a room, try using this email to make your request:

Hi [Boss’ Name],

I was wondering if I could take off [date] from [time] to [time] for [reason]? I can still work [date] from [time] to [time], and plan to [what you plan to do to make up for missed time]. However, if you think it makes more sense for me to take the entire day, happy to do that as well.

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Please let me know if you have any questions about this. Happy to discuss further in person.

Thanks so much!
[Your Name]


How do you ask if I can take leave? ›

7 ways to ask for time off just the right way
  1. Choose your time wisely. ...
  2. Be specific and give relevant details. ...
  3. Get caught up with all of your work. ...
  4. Be fair with the rest of your team. ...
  5. Make sure you ask, not tell. ...
  6. Offer to help plan for when you're away. ...
  7. Request your time in writing.
10 Feb 2022

Should I ask to leave work early? ›

Be mindful of when you're asking to leave early. If it's a slow week, your request is more likely to be granted. Try to avoid asking to leave work early when your supervisor or team is stressed, overworked, or busy with an important project. Provide documentation if required.

What's a good reason to leave work early? ›

Sick Child

This can be totally understandable and can be a good reason to leave work early because you need to care for your sick child. It could be to take them to the doctor, administer their medication, or be with them during their dance or baseball game.

How can I convince my boss to let me early? ›

Clearly, communicate the desired last working date

Ideally, the resignation letter should clearly mention the desired release date or last working date. It's important for your manager to know that you want to leave the company earlier than what your notice period demands.

How do I ask for permission from work? ›

The subject line mentions the purpose of the letter followed by the greeting or salutation. The body of the letter should explain the reason for which you are seeking permission. Mention the signature, name and designation of the sender while closing the letter.

How do I ask for permission to leave a day? ›

How To Write A Leave Application For One Day
  1. Greet the recipient. ...
  2. Include an appropriate subject line. ...
  3. Mention the reason for the leave. ...
  4. Include the date of absence and date of joining back. ...
  5. Mention the name of your replacement at work. ...
  6. State your availability and mode of communication during the absence.

What is a good excuse to miss work? ›

The best last-minute excuses to miss work include personal illness, family emergency, doctor's appointments, child care, mental health challenges, death of a loved one, and household problems. In fact, any unforeseen circumstance that requires your attention is among the best last-minute excuses to miss work.

How do I tell my boss I want to leave? ›

Approach your direct manager or supervisor that you report to before putting in a formal application. Tell them the dates when you are planning to take leave and say that you just wanted to check with them if this is all right and that it will not disrupt workflow.

How do you say you can leave politely? ›

Be calm and considerate of their feelings. You could say, “Though we had some good times living here together, it's no longer working out. I'm sorry, but I need to ask you to move out.” If the person is on your lease and refuses to move out, you may need to get the police involved.

How do you ask to leave simple? ›

I'd like to take my leave between the following dates: [dates that you want off]. I'll be away for [number of weeks], which is in accordance with the company's annual leave policy. I have discussed my absence with my team and [name of co-worker] has agreed to cover for me during this time.

What is the best reason for leave? ›

Perhaps you are sick, have other personal reasons, family emergencies or work commitments that require you to leave early. Whatever your reason, convey it honestly to your manager and make sure that you request time off only if it is crucial.

How early should you leave for work? ›

Even if you're on a strict hourly wage, giving yourself enough pre-work time to hit the ground running is only fair to both your employer and your co-workers. Allowing yourself 15-30 minutes gives you a little leeway on your morning commute, relieving the stress of delays or rushing for connections.

Can you take a leave early? ›

Make your request as soon as you can

Try to request to leave early as soon as possible. The sooner you alert your employer, the better. Letting your employer know early can ensure they have time to prepare for your absence. This can help your colleagues to complete tasks on time.

How do I ask for an early release? ›

You can give your employer letter request early release and pay in lieu of same if they accept then you can be relieved. You can inform your employer that you re ready to compensate the salary amount for the 20 days notice period that may be waived.

Would I have your permission to leave the office early? ›

I would like you to please allow me to leave the office by 4.30 pm considering the medical situation at my end. I am willing to compensate for the time by staying late for the remaining week so that my work doesn't get effected. I would look forward for your response at the earliest.

How do you ask to leave your boss in chat? ›

Instead, politely and concisely say, “I need to take the day off for personal reasons. I'm so sorry. I'll be in tomorrow.” Use the “personal reasons” explanation if you want a mental health day but don't feel like your supervisor will respect your needs.

What is the most polite way to ask for permission? ›

Using 'May' (Present) Using 'may' is a very polite and formal way to ask for permission for something or to do something. So, this is a suitable way to ask for permission from the one who has authority over you, such as your boss or teacher.

How do you ask to leave today in office? ›

How To Write A Leave Application For Office
  1. Review your company's leave policy. ...
  2. Know the right person to authorise your leave. ...
  3. Begin with the date. ...
  4. Write the name and address of the recipient. ...
  5. Include a subject line. ...
  6. Add a salutation. ...
  7. Make a formal request for leave. ...
  8. State the work plan in your absence.

How do you ask to leave one sentence? ›

One-day leave application: Sick leave

Kindly grant me leave for a day on {date}. In case, I need to take extra days to recuperate, I will inform you at the earliest. Please feel free to contact me at my personal phone number in case of any questions or clarifications about ongoing work at the office.

How do I tell my boss I miss something? ›

Use the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologize." Consider using these exact words so the other person knows the purpose of your communication. Avoid saying things like, "I didn't mean to miss the meeting," and instead use, "I sincerely apologize for missing the meeting." Apologize privately.

How do I get an excuse to leave office? ›

So let's start with the list of excuse and see what are the most often and good looking excuse you can use.
  1. 1) Sir, I am not well today. ...
  2. 2) I have an dentist appointment. ...
  3. 3) Family member is not well. ...
  4. 4) Parent's doctor appointment. ...
  5. 5) Virtual relative's death. ...
  6. 6) Stuck in traffic! ...
  7. 7) Adverse House Situations.
6 Aug 2016

What to say when you wanna leave work? ›

How to tell your boss you're leaving
  1. Set up a one-on-one meeting in person (or via Zoom) ...
  2. Be direct about your decision at the front of the conversation. ...
  3. Outline the reasons why you're leaving. ...
  4. Express gratitude and appreciation. ...
  5. Provide the appropriate two weeks' notice. ...
  6. Help put together a transition plan.
12 Jul 2022

How do you tell someone to leave early? ›

Instead, make an effort to look like you're having a gas, and when it's time to make your exit your host won't feel like it's because of the atmosphere. Say something along the lines of, “I'm so sorry to have to leave early. This is such a wonderful party!”

How do you say can I leave office? ›

May I leave? (asking permission, if allowed to leave early). (Good)bye! I'm all done; heading home.

How do I tell I want to leave? ›

How to tell your boss you're resigning
  1. Request an in-person meeting. ...
  2. Outline your reasons for quitting. ...
  3. Give at least two weeks' notice. ...
  4. Offer to facilitate position transition. ...
  5. Express gratitude. ...
  6. Provide constructive feedback. ...
  7. Provide your formal letter of resignation.

How do you ask for permission and request? ›

To give permission, use the modal verb 'can'. To refuse permission, use 'can't'. When you make a request, you ask someone for something or ask them to do something. The simplest way to ask for something is to say 'Can I have...?'

How do you professionally ask for something at work? ›

People always resent being ordered around so make sure to avoid using imperatives when making requests. Saying, “Give me some time off” will never please your boss. Instead, start your request politely, for example, “I'd like to request some annual leave” or “I'd appreciate it if you could give me your feedback”.

How do you politely ask for professionally? ›

Here are some better phrases to make polite requests in English:
  1. “Do you mind…?.”
  2. “Would you mind…?
  3. “Could I…?”
  4. “Would it be ok if…?”
  5. “Would it be possible…?”
  6. “Would you be willing to…?”

How do you request professionally? ›

Consider the following steps for how to write an email requesting something:
  1. Organize your request. ...
  2. Write an approachable subject line. ...
  3. Begin with a formal salutation. ...
  4. Express your request. ...
  5. Include benefits for the recipient. ...
  6. Conclude with a call to action.


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