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20+ Believable Excuses for When You’re Running Late

Last Updated: June 26, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Brandy DeOrnellas, PCC, ESQ. and by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden . Brandy DeOrnellas is a Professional Certified Coach specializing in life and career aspirations and transitions. She also serves company founders and small business owners. She is a former attorney with more than three years of experience as a coach. Brandy holds a JD from Harvard Law School. She also holds a BA in Social Welfare and a BA in Political Science from The University of California, Berkeley. In addition to her formal education, she has multiple coaching certifications, including a Professional Coaching Certification from The University of California, Davis, and a Relationship Coach Certification from Prepare/Enrich. She is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coaching Federation. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 102,051 times.

Running late for work? We’ve all been late before, but sometimes, the real reason you’re late isn’t actually that good of an excuse. That’s where we’ve got you covered: we’ve got 20+ best excuses for being late to work that your boss will totally buy. Read through our list to pick out your favorite excuse today.

Things You Should Know

  • Use an excuse like traffic or car troubles to explain why you’re late.
  • Tell your boss you lost your car keys or had to spend time looking for your wallet or purse.
  • Say that your pipes burst or you had another home-related emergency.
  • Tell your boss that your pet was sick or got out, but that they’re fine now.

Email Template and Text Examples for Being Late to Work

good excuses for late to work

“I’m stuck in traffic.”

Use traffic as an excuse if you live in a busy area.

  • Make this excuse even more believable by naming highways or streets.
  • “Sorry I’m late, the 26 was really backed up today.”
  • “I got stuck behind that accident on the corner of Maine and 2nd street.”

“The bus broke down.”

If you take public transportation, blame it on your ride.

  • “The subway broke down in a tunnel, so I didn’t have any service to call you. Sorry about that.”
  • “The train was running late this morning.”

“I had car trouble.”

Use car trouble if your car is older or breaks down a lot.

  • “I got a flat tire on my way here. Thank god I had a spare in the trunk.”
  • “I had to get a jump start from my neighbor. I must have left my lights on last night.”

“I lost my car keys.”

If you tend to misplace things, losing your keys is a great excuse.

  • “My toddler loves to hide my keys. I had to spend 20 minutes looking for them this morning!”
  • “I couldn’t find my keys anywhere. I had to call my husband to bring me a spare key so I could leave.”

“I lost my wallet.”

If you have to drive to work, losing your license will make you late.

  • “I thought I lost my wallet this morning. Thankfully it was just in my car, but of course I searched my whole house first.”
  • “I forgot my purse and had to run back for it.”

“I got pulled over.”

Getting pulled over is a risky excuse, but no one can dispute it.

  • “Sorry I’m late, I got stopped by the police for the first time ever today.”
  • “I guess my tags were expired. Thankfully the cop let me off with a warning.”

“I was in a car accident.”

If you drive to work, a fender bender is the perfect excuse.

  • “Hey boss, I just got into a fender bender. Everyone’s fine, but I have to stick around to get some insurance info.”
  • “Sorry I’m late, someone rear-ended me.”

“The weather was really bad.”

If the weather is actually awful, blame your tardiness on that.

  • “I had to wait out that crazy storm this morning. I couldn’t see a thing!”
  • “Sorry I’m late, I had to dig my car out of the snow.”

“I overslept.”

You may make yourself look a bit unorganized, but sleeping in is a good excuse.

  • “My phone was dead so my alarm didn’t go off.”
  • “My power went out in the middle of the night so my alarm clock didn't work.”

“I had a dentist appointment.”

Say you had an appointment to excuse your tardiness with good reason.

  • “I had a doctor’s appointment.”
  • “I had to take my child to the dentist this morning.”

“I had to drop my child off at school.”

Use your children as an excuse if you need to.

  • “My son had a late start this morning.”
  • “I had to help my daughter carry in her science project.”
  • Let your employer know when you think you will be late. It can be as simple as, "So sorry I will be late this morning. You can expect me in at 10 am."
  • When you arrive at work, you can tell them why you are late.
  • You can share what you feel comfortable sharing. For example, your alarm did not work, the car did not start, or kids refused to get in the car for school.

“My babysitter was late.”

If someone watches your kids, blame your tardiness on them.

  • “My nanny had a family emergency, so I had to make other arrangements.”
  • “My babysitter didn’t show up today.”

“My child is sick.”

Use your child’s sickness as an excuse if you’re hours late.

  • “My daughter was sick and had to stay home today, so I had to call someone to watch her.”
  • “I was up all night comforting my toddler; he has the flu.”

“My pet is sick.”

Use your pet’s sickness if you don’t have a child.

  • “I had to run my dog to the vet. Thankfully, he’s okay.”
  • “I was up all night with my sick cat.”

“My pet ran away.”

If you have a dog, blame your tardiness on them running away.

  • “I spent an hour chasing after Baxter this morning. He sure can run fast!”
  • “I accidentally let Ralph loose this morning. Thankfully I managed to lure him back inside with treats.”

“I was sick.”

Coming into work after a sickness shows that you’re a strong person.

  • “I woke up with a migraine, but thankfully the medicine I took helped it subside.”
  • “I wasn’t sure I’d make it in today, but I feel a lot better now.”

“My water pipes burst.”

Use your home as an excuse if you’re a homeowner.

  • “There was a small fire in my kitchen this morning. Fortunately, everyone’s okay.”
  • “My ceiling started leaking, and I had to call maintenance.”

“I was robbed.”

A robbery is a solid excuse, but only if you can really sell it.

  • “I got mugged on the train on my way here, and I had to file a police report.”
  • “My phone got stolen so I couldn't call to tell you I’d be late.”

“My home was burglarized.”

Try out burglary as an excuse if you want some sympathy.

  • “The police took forever to get here. I had to leave 2 hours late.”
  • “I almost didn’t come in today. It was a terrible experience!”

“I had a family emergency.”

Try a family emergency if you don’t feel like explaining things.

  • “I had a personal issue.”
  • “I had to be with my family this morning.”

“I had a death in the family.”

Use a death in the family to excuse any tardiness or absences.

  • “My great uncle passed away last night.”
  • “My step-mother’s dad just passed away.”

Expert Q&A

  • Get in touch with your boss as soon as you know you’re going to be late. The quicker you tell them, the more they’ll appreciate your excuse. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 0
  • Try not to use excuses too often. After a couple of late mornings, your boss will probably stop being so forgiving. Do your best to stop running late and get to work on time. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 0
  • Don’t get too specific with your excuses. The more you explain your tardiness, the more it looks like you’re making things up on the spot. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 1

good excuses for late to work

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Expert Interview

good excuses for late to work

Thanks for reading our article! If you’d like to learn more about work tips, check out our in-depth interview with Brandy DeOrnellas, PCC, ESQ. .

  • ↑ https://nj1015.com/the-best-excuses-for-being-late-to-work/
  • ↑ https://tosaylib.com/best-excuses-for-being-late-work-reasonable-bosses/
  • ↑ https://positivewordsresearch.com/30-believable-excuses-late-college-school/
  • ↑ https://money.com/best-work-habits-late-office/

About This Article

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12 Good Excuses for Being Late to Work

good excuses for late to work

Anyone can be late to work at least once in awhile. When the boss asks for an explanation, it’s best to simply be honest and to apologize, instead of making up a strange story that could make everyone at the office question your credibility. However, some situations may demand more than a simple apology, and you will need to find suitable excuses for being late to work.

Here are 12 good excuses for being late to work that you can tell your bosses:

Excuse #1: I overslept

good excuses for late to work

Sometimes, the simplest explanations are the best excuses for being late to work. There are mornings where getting out of bed feels like a challenge. Maybe we are feeling sick, or simply too tired to get up. Maybe we forgot to set an alarm. Maybe we woke up in time, but decided our bed was too comfortable.

No matter the reason why they oversleep, many people use this excuse for being late to work. Just don’t make this a regular habit because it will reflect poorly on your time and attendance tracking at work .

Excuse #2: I had trouble with my car

good excuses for late to work

Car troubles are usually good excuses for being late to work. You’re lucky if you never got late to work because of car-related issues. Whether your car broke down, refused to start, or got a flat tire, you got a good excuse for being late. If this happens to you too often, however, your coworkers will start wondering what kind of crappy car you are driving.

Excuse #3: I got stuck in traffic

good excuses for late to work

Traffic jams happen quite often in the morning, and they are one of the more common excuses for being late to work . After all, everyone is on the road, trying to get to work on time, and perhaps having some problems with their vehicles. When we get stuck in traffic, there is nothing we can do but be patient, and call our boss to let them know we will be late.

Excuse #4: The bus or subway was late

good excuses for late to work

Those who don’t own a car can still be late for work because of commute issues. Once again, if your bus or subway is running late, there is not much you can do. If you are the one constantly missing the bus, however, try to leave your home a little earlier.

Excuse #5: I needed to take my kid to the hospital

good excuses for late to work

Family-related emergencies are often good excuses for being late to work. If you have kids, you know that they can pretty much get sick anytime. Worried parents don’t care about being late to work when they have to take their son or daughter to the hospital as soon as possible. If your boss also has kids, he or she will understand.

Excuse #6: I woke up with a terrible migraine

good excuses for late to work

If you’ve already had a migraine, you know how terrible it is. If the migraine lasts through the night, and only starts easing in the morning, it can be a perfect excuse for being late to work. If the migraine lasts all day long, it could even be an excuse for staying home.

Excuse #7: I thought today was Saturday

good excuses for late to work

Telling your boss that you are late because you thought today was Saturday and you didn’t have to go to work might make you look silly, but there are times when we have so many things on our minds we can get confused. Sometimes, we are so excited about the upcoming weekend that we wish we were there already.

Excuse #8: My babysitter called in sick and I had to find someone else

good excuses for late to work

If your babysitter is the one who is sick, and your kids are too young to be left on their own, you need to find a solution. Telling your boss that you are late because your babysitter cancelled at the last minute and you had to find an alternative is a good excuse.

Excuse #9: I had to pick up my parents at the airport

good excuses for late to work

Another good excuse is that your parents, who live far away, came for a visit, but that your brother or sister called you at the last minute to tell you they would not be able to go pick them up at the airport. There are times when we just can’t say no.

Excuse #10: I had an important appointment

good excuses for late to work

Of course, you should try to avoid scheduling appointments during your work hours. But what if you had a dentist’s appointment before going to work, and it lasted longer than you expected? Or perhaps you had a job interview because you are looking for a new job, but maybe you shouldn’t let your boss know just yet.

Excuse #11: I forgot something important and had to go back home

good excuses for late to work

If you forgot your phone or your lunch at home, maybe you will be able to get on with your day without it. But if you realized that you forgot an important document on your kitchen table, you should probably turn back to get it, even if that means being a bit late for work.

Excuse #12: I had a personal emergency

good excuses for late to work

There are moments where we have personal emergencies, and they can be so private that we don’t feel comfortable discussing them with anyone at work. If this happens to you, just be honest and tell your boss that you are late because of some personal and sensitive matter . Vague excuses for being late to work aren’t ideal, but they are sometimes effective in certain situations.

good excuses for late to work

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Good and Bad Excuses for Being Late to Work

We've all been late to work. It happens to everyone at some point. Usually, it's OK. People understand. But every once in a while, your boss will want an explanation, which may leave you scrambling for good excuses to call off work last minute.

Most of the time when people are late, the excuses are pretty common:

  • I overslept.
  • I had to get the children to school first (among many other family emergency excuses).
  • My cat has gone missing.
  • I got stuck in traffic.
  • The bus broke down.

No doubt your boss has heard a lot of excuses over the years, but your reputation at work can dictate whether you get the benefit of the doubt when offering up a unique explanation. Whether your boss believes you or not depends on your general work ethic and past experience.

But sometimes the story gets so strange it can make it harder to believe. Here are some of the stranger excuses for being late to work that employees have used in the past, according to Monster insiders:

  • I’m running late because I spent the night in urgent care after being beaten up and stabbed.
  • I’ll be late because I fell asleep on the train home and missed my stop, only to wake up three hours further down the track and not able to get back the same evening. This employee had been very drunk the night before, our source says. And the employee used that excuse not once, but twice.
  • I tried to cut my own hair and made a horrible mess of it, so I had to find a salon that was open and could fit me in to fix it.
  • My children locked me out of the house and wouldn’t let me in. I had to call a locksmith and get him to open the door, so I could retrieve the keys, get the children to school, and then come to work.
  • I was late because there was police activity and they made us stay in the house so I couldn't leave. (This one came from a CFO. Everyone at the company believed her but she forgot that there are so many apps about traffic and incidents and some employees decided to verify her story. Surprise: There was no police activity anywhere near her, but rather inspired creativity on her part.)

Is Honesty the Best Policy?

Everybody’s human and makes mistakes, so rather than inventing good excuses to call off work last minute, own up to your goof and move on. If you're late, be honest . Did you oversleep or forget to set the alarm? Did your kid make you run late? Integrity is key. When you lie, you break that trust and that will upset an employer even more.

It’s important to apologize as well. Acknowledge that you understand it sets a bad example and impacts the team, and that you are taking steps to address the situation. This is better than spewing out nonsense excuses. Let your manager know that you understand the implications and have a strategy to fix the issue. Besides, chronic lateness can end up hurting you in the long run.

Do the Reasons for Being Late Even Matter?

We at Monster have heard a lot of excuses why people are late to work, from menstrual cramps and carpool problems to car trouble and family emergency excuses. To some bosses, the reasons you're late for work are not important because sometimes completely legitimate reasons are also private, personal matters. And these reasons may cause an employee to lie so as not to share these intimate details.

Ask yourself if your boss maybe rather not know the reason and instead focus on whether your lateness is a chronic issue.

Wait, Why Are You Late to Work— Really ?

Maybe the real reason you're looking for good excuses to call off work last minute is because you don't like your job. It may be time to find a new job rather than a new excuse for your tardiness. Could you use help getting started? Make a free profile on Monster , and we can help you find a job you enjoy. Frankly, you've got no excuse not to.

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Late for work

10 of the best excuses for being late for work

Being late for work – we’ve all done it. roughly 590,000 workers are late every day. you run into a problem or get delayed, and suddenly you’re half an hour late to the office. managers usually understand a one-time occurrence, but multiple late entries to your job tend to rub them up the wrong way..

If you’re after an excuse for being late, you need a good one – something which is plausible and doesn’t irritate your employer any further. Ideally, you aren’t late in the first place because your productivity goes down and the number of tasks you can do falls with it, but if the situation is unavoidable, here are 10 of the best excuses.

1. Poor weather conditions

Bad weather can slow your commute and can happen a lot in winter. Icy roads, fallen trees due to storms, flooding; they’re all standing between you and the office. If you know you’re going to be late, ring ahead. It’s better to let your boss know before you’re meant to be at your desk.

2. Traffic jams

It’s just a sad fact that there are too many cars and not enough roads. Traffic jams happen all the time, especially in towns and cities. If you’re going to be stuck for half an hour, let someone know. This is the most common reason to be late, making up 41% of cases.

3. Public transport delays

Delays to public transport are an annoying fact; sometimes the bus breaks down or you can’t get out of gridlock. It’s the same solution, however: let someone know! Like traffic jams, this is a big one – it’s responsible for 29% of cases.

4. My alarm didn’t go off

Sleeping in is a completely believable excuse because to a degree you are actually accepting responsibility for being late for work. Unfortunately, if you don’t wake up at the correct time, this can often affect the rest of your working day.

5. Doctor’s appointments

If you’ve booked to see a doctor, you’ll probably need to step away from the office for an hour or two. If you wake up and need an emergency appointment, contact your employer. They can make arrangements to cover your work. If you book an appointment, let them know as early as possible.

6. Domestic emergencies

Picture this: you wake up to discover your house is two inches deep in water. You can’t go to work and leave things as they are. If you’ve got an emergency that requires professional support, it’s normal to be late. Ring and let your boss know.

7. Getting sick

Nobody likes being sick. If you’ve spent the night with your head over the bowl you’re either not going to be fit for work or you will be late as you struggle to recover. Ring and explain – 25% of all cases are due to sickness.

If the police stop you for some reason (random checks or speeding, etc.), it’s pretty understandable to be late. While employers won’t argue with you having been stopped by the police, if it happens more than once they may start to ask questions.

9. A personal crisis

This depends on the type of workplace you’re in, but some employers understand that life is messy, and occasionally you’ll be late for personal reasons. This excuse won’t work forever, though, so if you have a personal situation, you should really try your best to solve it before it impacts your employment.

10. The kids

If you have children and they’re sick, or you’ve been called into school, most will employers understand once or twice. Children are an important part of your life, and you can’t be penalised if you need to be around to look after them.

A coworking space makes the need for excuses a thing of the past. We’re not saying we recommend being late, we’re just offering a solution for those who might need a more flexible approach to their working week!

© H_Ko / Shutterstock.com

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7 Good Excuses for Being Late for Work

Should You Give an Excuse When Late?

How to handle being late, do’s and don’ts, final thoughts, 7 good excuses for being late for work.

Updated March 7, 2023

Melissa Reynolds

All products and services featured are independently selected by WikiJob. When you register or purchase through links on this page, we may earn a commission.

No matter how responsible you are, you will likely be late for work at some point in your life.

Being late not only affects your image at work and the trust of your employer, but it can also affect the productivity and working habits of others.

Regardless of why you are late, it is always best to be honest with your supervisor and sincerely apologize.

There are many reasons for running late and several ways to explain why.

Regardless of why you are late, your supervisor deserves some form of explanation and apology . They may have had to make other arrangements to account for your absence and productivity was likely lost.

The most important thing to do is to be honest about why you are late.

Being late, lying and being caught out in your dishonesty only makes the situation worse. It goes against integrity. All employers want employees they can trust .

When possible, let your supervisor know before you arrive at work if something is going to make you late.

For example, if the train you are on breaks down, email, call or text your work as soon as you can. This way, they are less likely to think you are lying.

If your reason is personal, let your supervisor know that. Tell them there is a valid reason why you are late, but it is personal and you do not feel comfortable discussing it, or that you will discuss it with HR separately.

Honestly and an apology will go a long way towards making things right.

7 Good Excuses for Being Late

While there are many reasons why you may be running late for work, there are generally a few that pop up the most often.

Here are some common reasons for lateness and some scripts for explaining them:

1. Public Transport Issues

If you live or work anywhere that relies heavily on mass transit, you may be late for work more than once.

There are many different reasons mass transit can be running behind schedule. These include:

  • Weather issues
  • Mechanical issues
  • Passenger misbehavior or illness
  • Traffic congestion or accidents

Expecting mass transit to not have any issues during its routes is asking a lot. Try to leave yourself room in your schedule to account for these potential issues, such as by taking an earlier bus.

Example excuses:

I am so sorry, the number 412 bus broke down several blocks south of here. There was not a replacement coming for a while, so I walked, which is why I am late.
I apologize for my lateness, a passenger on the subway became ill and needed medical attention. The subways were stopped while an ambulance came.

These excuses incorporate both a clear, simple explanation of the reason for your lateness, as well as an apology, which indicates you know you may have inconvenienced your supervisor, whether the delay was your fault or not.

If you live in a big city, traffic can mess up your commute in numerous ways. There may be construction, roads closed for various reasons, major events, accidents and bad general congestion.

In some cases, you can plan around traffic delays .

Check the news the evening before and in the morning before you leave for work. Look for announcements of construction, major events or road closures, then plan a different route to avoid them where possible.

Some car accidents that cause tailbacks can be planned around if they happen before you leave and you find out on the news. Again, changing your route to avoid these as much as possible is best, although if many other drivers are also trying to avoid the accident, the congestion may be bad on your alternate route.

Sudden car accidents cannot be planned around. If you can, and only if it is safe to do so and without breaking any traffic laws, use your phone to find an alternate route.

If you do get stuck in traffic, try to contact your supervisor and explain the situation.

Many phones can have hands-free operation set up so you can send a text or make a phone call with your voice. Set this up before you leave for work.

If you are driving, you should never use your hands to operate your phone, especially not to send a text or email that would require you to look away from the road.

Do not make a habit of arriving late to work due to bad traffic – if the congestion regularly becomes bad enough to make you late for work, this needs to be factored into the length of time you allocate yourself for commuting.

My apologies, but I am currently stuck on highway 80 and there is a big accident about a mile ahead that just happened. I will do my best to take a different route as soon as I can. I will call you back when I have a time estimate.
My apologies, I am running about 20 minutes late. I did not realize that today was open house day at the university and the roads nearby are packed with cars. See you very soon.

This first explanation begins with an apology, informs the supervisor of your plan to ameliorate your lateness, then promises future information to them.

This will help ease their anxiety and make you seem more competent at problem-solving and communication .

The second explanation does not offer this but explains the lateness is due to a situation entirely out of your control, one that the supervisor can verify.

Depending on where you live, weather can play a major role in your punctuality in the workplace. Heavy snowfall, ice, rain, fog, extreme cold or heat, flooding and even heavy winds can all play a part in your commute to work.

Sometimes these conditions come on suddenly and there is nothing you can do, but always let your boss know you are stuck and will be late.

Sometimes these events can be predicted, such as a snowstorm, and you can try to give yourself extra time or, if agreed with your supervisor, work from home .

I apologize for getting here late, the fog was so thick this morning, the traffic was crawling along.
I am so sorry, [major intersection] was completely flooded and traffic was diverted through the downtown area. It was very slow-moving, but I finally made it in and am ready to get to work. I will ensure I work my full hours.

Again, these scripts give a succinct reason for your lateness and an apology. Further, the second one emphasizes you are eager to get going with your duties and are willing to make up the time.

Excuses for Being Late for Work

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Illness can never really be predicted. Unless there is stomach flu running through your family, it can take you by surprise.

If you wake in the morning feeling sick, the best thing to do is call or email your boss with your symptoms and stating you will not be able to come in.

Most employers will be happy to keep sickness out of the workplace, especially if you work in the food or hospitality sector, as if you spread the illness to other workers or the customers it may cost the company a lot.

If your supervisor requires a doctor's note, check with human resources as it may not be required until several days are missed.

The time you take off for being sick or caring for a sick family member, whether partial or full days, may be unpaid. You need to check your contract and the local laws of your state .

It may not be your illness that is making you late, but the illness of a member of the family.

For example, sick children cannot go to school or daycare and need to be taken care of. While a babysitter may be an option, it will usually require time to arrange and will still mean you are late for work.

It also may be that your spouse is ill and so you may suddenly need to drop the children off at school or enable your sick spouse to have access to food and drink throughout the day. This may result in you being late.

I have woken up with a sore throat and fever of 102 degrees, I do not think it is a good idea for me to come into the office today, I do not want to spread this around. I will keep you updated on how I am feeling later.
I am sorry, I am going to be about 20 minutes late, my daughter is home sick and I need to wait for childcare to arrive.

These explanations cover the cause of your lateness, and the first one also offers a future course of action to keep the supervisor informed.

5. Losing an Item

Depending on what it is, losing or misplacing an item can really slow you down in the morning.

It could be something simple like your glasses, phone or even lunch. It could be you need to shuffle the kids off to school and they cannot find something such as lunch, homework or a special project.

It could be something more important such as your house or car keys that are missing. In these instances, you really cannot leave the house until they are found.

Simply email or call your boss and explain the situation, without failing to mention that you will be in as quickly as you can.

I apologize; I am going to be about 15 minutes late – I misplaced my car keys. But I have found them now and am headed out the door.
I apologize, my son misplaced his science project and we left for school a bit late this morning. I am on my way and estimate to be there in 15 minutes.

Both these explanations are ones you give once the item has been found and you have a more accurate estimate of how late you will be. Giving your supervisor more information like this enables them to plan around your unexpected absence more easily because they know how long it will likely last.

6. You Overslept

It can happen to anyone. Either you heard the alarm and simply hit the off button, you hit the snooze button one too many times or you simply forgot to set it.

Sometimes it can even be a matter of a storm in the night that knocked the power out.

Regardless of how it happened, everyone has slept in when they should not have. When you do awake to find you are late, let your supervisor know immediately .

Depending on the type of job you have, they may have already arranged for someone to cover you, or you may have to still go in.

I am so sorry; I must have turned off my alarm. I will be in the office within the next hour.
My apologies, the storm last night must have knocked out the power and the alarm did not go off. I am running about 20 minutes behind schedule and will get there as soon as I can.

It is important to let your supervisor know as soon as possible when you have overslept. While the second example here is due to an external factor beyond control, the first example is due to a personal mistake. Therefore, the explanation needs to have a genuine apology and not try to shift the blame to something else.

7. Needed to Arrange Childcare

If you have young children, you likely have school and childcare plans all set. But problems often arise, affecting your ability to get to work on time.

Your child may get sick and therefore cannot go to school or daycare. Or if you rely on a nanny, they may have become ill and so are unable to work.

Do your best to find some childcare and explain it to your supervisor. If you cannot find childcare, it may be an option to work from home or take annual leave.

Unfortunately, my child's nanny has woken up quite sick and cannot look after her today. I have called my sister who can babysit for the day and will leave as soon as she arrives. I will update you on times once she gets here. In the mean time, I am checking my emails from home if you need anything.
Both of my children woke up with a bad cold. I have a nanny who can come; she is due to arrive in 10 minutes. I will leave then and should only be about 30 minutes late.

Both these scripts give explanations of how you will solve the childcare problem, which helps give the impression that the unexpected situation is under control.

It is never good to be late, but how you handle it can make a big difference.

There are several steps you can take to make sure you make the right impression with your supervisor:

Step 1 . Estimate How Late You Will Be

It is not only a good idea but also necessary to give your supervisor an idea of how late you will be. If you work a job that someone else could do, they may need to look for a replacement if you are going to be extremely late.

Be realistic about how late you will be. While it may sound good to say you will only be 15 minutes, if you are not able to meet that time frame, do not promise it.

Habitually making promises you can not keep lessens people’s trust in you. Lay out what the issue is and why it will take you a certain amount of time to get to work.

Step 2 . Communicate Early and Directly

Do not wait until you are already late to contact your supervisor. Make contact as soon as you realize that there is a problem and it is possible to do so.

Do not rely on a co-worker to pass on the message either. It can get mixed up or forgotten. Make direct contact yourself to explain the situation.

Step 3 . Be Honest, Concise and Sincere

Even if you think a different excuse might sound better than the truth, be honest with your supervisor. They will appreciate your honesty and a sincere apology.

Conciseness is also important as your supervisor likely feels work time has already been wasted by your unexpected lateness. Therefore, do not say more than you need to or use the time to rant about the stituation.

Step 4 . Apologize in Person

Once you have arrived at work, make a point to find your supervisor and apologize in person.

Not only does it serve to let them know that you have arrived, but it shows you took the lateness seriously enough to apologize face-to-face.

Step 5 . Address Your Responsibilities

Any kind of lateness will likely affect the duties you need to accomplish in your job.

When you are late, it is important to assess what you are now behind on and prioritize what needs to be taken care of first .

It is also very possible that your lateness has affected the productivity of others.

Check with your co-workers to find out what they need from you and get it to them as soon as you can.

Step 6 . Communicate Future Intentions

You want to make sure your supervisor knows that this late incident will not become a regular occurrence .

Either speak directly with your supervisor or communicate by email that you are aware of the lateness and will do your best to make sure it does not happen again.

Briefly explain any plans to reduce the chances of future lateness.

Step 7 . Thank Them

Your boss is only obligated to do as much as the law requires, so if they are more understanding or lenient than that, be sure to show your thanks.

Step 8 . Follow Up

It can be a good idea to follow up with an email once you are back at work . A simple email that says thank you for understanding and you will do your best to not be late again. Also, if it is not possible to see your supervisor in person, this can let them know you have arrived.

Step 9 . Make up the Time

Any kind of lateness likely has an impact on your productivity and possibly others as well.

Ask your supervisor if they would like you to make up the time – if you were only 20 minutes late, they may not mind, but if it was more in the vicinity of two hours, they may want you to finish some work after you would normally leave for home.

This is not always possible, particularly if you rely on mass transit, but there may be other ways to balance it.

There are a few things that are important to remember when making your excuse:

Do be honest about why you are late. A lie simply makes the situation much worse.

Do not suck up to your supervisor by bringing coffee or treats to sway their feelings your way. In the worst case, this could be seen as bribery, which is illegal. In the best, it could damage their respect for you as it shows you do not believe in your explanation to be sufficient or perhaps even valid.

Do not distract the rest of the staff with dramatic renditions of why you are late or distrupt things by making a flamboyant or noisy entrance. They have work to do too. Save that for break times.

Do acknowledge that being late is your responsibility rather than passing the blame to someone or something else.

Being late for work is never ideal, but it happens to everyone. How you deal with it can easily make an awkward situation better.

First, remember to always be honest about why you are late. Explain your situation, give a clear estimate of how late you will be and acknowledge that you will need to catch up, so you do not affect the productivity of your fellow employees.

Following these steps and the others outlined above should help you deal with any lateness situation.

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How to Call in Sick to Work in 2023 (With Examples)

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Best and Worst Excuses for Being Late to Work

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Best Excuses for Being Late to Work

Don’t use these strange excuses, more bizarre excuses to avoid.

  • When Excuses Don't Work
  • Tips for Giving Excuses

Sometimes, you just can’t help being late for work. Stuff happens, things go wrong, and it can be hard to get out of the house to arrive at work in a timely manner. It happens to almost everyone at one time or another, so be prepared to handle it appropriately. Depending on your manager, it might not matter—or it could be a big deal.

There are lots of excuses for missing work , either for taking a day off or for coming in late. Some excuses are legitimate, such as when a babysitter cancels at the last minute, you or a family member are sick, or your car doesn't start. Other excuses, however, are just too bizarre.

Even if you’ve run out of excuses, there are some reasons that you shouldn’t use when you’re telling your boss why you’re running late.

A survey conducted by CareerBuilder finds that some excuses for missing work are more popular than others. Traffic, sleep schedules, and weather conditions are the top three. Being tired and forgetful round out the top five reasons for being tardy.

  • Traffic: 51%
  • Oversleeping: 31%
  • Bad weather: 28% 
  • Too tired to get up: 23%
  • Forgetting something: 13%

Other excuses that work well include having an appointment, a sick child, a school delay, car trouble, mass transit delays, a family emergency or illness, house problems, or waiting for a service person for repairs.

There were also some strange excuses in the latest survey. Even though they are creative, these excuses probably won’t work with your boss or manager.

  • It’s too cold to work.
  • I had morning sickness. (This was from a male employee.)
  • My coffee was too hot and I couldn’t leave until it cooled off.
  • An astrologer warned me of a car accident on a major highway, so I took all backroads, making me an hour late.
  • My dog ate my work schedule.
  • I fell asleep in the parking lot.
  • My fake eyelashes were stuck together.
  • I forgot I did not work at my former employer’s location and drove there by accident. (Note: the employee had worked for their current employer for five years.)

Other excuses reported in an earlier survey were as equally weird:

  • A zebra was running down the highway and held up traffic. (This one turned out to be true!)
  • I woke up on the front lawn of a house two blocks away from my home.
  • My cat got stuck in the toilet.
  • I couldn’t eat breakfast—I ran out of milk for cereal and had to buy some before getting ready for work.
  • I fell asleep in the car when I got to work.
  • I accidentally put superglue in my eye instead of contact lens solution and had to go to the emergency room.
  • I thought Halloween was a work holiday.
  • A hole in the roof caused rain to fall on the alarm clock and it didn’t go off.
  • I was watching something on TV and really wanted to see the end.
  • I forgot that the company had changed locations.
  • I got a hairbrush stuck in my hair.
  • I was scared by a nightmare.

What to Do When Excuses Don't Work

Even though you think it might be acceptable to be late once in a while, your boss might not agree. At some point, you may run out of reasonable excuses to use.

The majority of employers (60%) say they expect employees to be on time every day, and 43% have fired someone for being late, up from 41% the previous year.

If you’re late on a regular basis, figure out how you can change your morning routine so you can make it to work on time. It could be as simple as showering at night instead of in the morning, getting up 15 minutes earlier, taking a train that’s a few minutes earlier than you usually do, or packing your lunch the evening before.

Tips for Giving Excuses When You're Running Late

If you have run out of excuses, think twice before you decide to get creative. Keep in mind the following advice about giving excuses for missing work:

Let your boss know ASAP: If you know in advance that you will need to take a personal day, let your boss know in person or via email as soon as possible. If it is a last-minute decision, contact your boss as early in the morning as you can. If possible, offer to come in early or stay late to make up for some of the hours lost.

Be (mostly) honest: There is a good chance that a bald-faced lie to your supervisor, colleagues, or clients will come back to bite you. It's not always easy to remember what you said to whom, and getting caught in a lie is not good for job security. Some employers also follow up with employees to see whether they are lying. Therefore, if you can, be honest about why you are missing work or coming in late.

Don’t overshare: An overly detailed excuse might sound fake, even if it isn’t. And if you are missing work for a reason you cannot share with your boss—for example, if you are interviewing for another job —you can keep the interview secret without lying. A simple excuse—for example, saying you have an appointment (which you do!)—will be honest without raising questions.

While honesty is often the best policy, always keep your excuse simple, and don’t go into detail.

Use excuses sparingly: Things happen that are out of our control—we get sick, we get a flat tire, our child’s school cancels. However, try your best to excuse yourself from work only when absolutely necessary—otherwise, your employer and co-workers may consider you unreliable.

Be thoughtful about when you skip work: If it is at all in your control to select when you skip work —such as when you have a doctor’s appointment—try to plan a time when your absence will not be so perceptible.

You might try to make the appointment at the beginning of the day, or toward the end of the day, so you are still at work for a solid few hours. If you need to leave early, here are some excuses to use —and not to use. Whenever possible, try to come in early or stay late to make up for the lost time.

  • Good and Bad Excuses for Missing Work
  • Excuses You Can Use to Take Time Off for a Job Interview
  • Sample Absent Excuse Letters for Missing Work
  • Good (and Bad) Excuses to Leave Work Early
  • How to Call in Sick to Work
  • Sample Sickness Excuse Letters and Emails
  • Can You Get Fired for Calling in Sick?
  • 10 Things Managers Should Never Ask Employees to Do
  • Get a Female's Perspective of Air Force Basic Training
  • Sample Apology Letter for Being Late for Work
  • Sample Absence Excuse Letters and Emails for Work
  • Missing Work Excuse Email and Letter Examples
  • Top Department Store Mission Statements
  • Reasons Not To Lie During a Job Interview
  • 9 Tips on Returning From Maternity Leave
  • Ways to Rebuild Trust at Work

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