Employee absences for sickness, traffic issues, or even hangovers are a part of life, but they can really mess up staffing on a workday.
If you're not prepared to document unplanned absences with a call-out log and don't have a policy requiring employee call-ins instead of just being a no-show, you could scramble to find someone to cover their shift, which can be a major headache.
That's why you need to document employee absences. It'll help you identify negative trends early on and even defend your company from legal issues if you fire an employee for continued absences and they sue you for wrongful termination.
Let's dig into what a call-out log is, how to create one, and some policies you can put in place to enforce it.
What Is an Employee Call-Out Log?
An employee call-out log is a document you use to track employee absences or instances when workers can't come to work as scheduled.
It helps you pay your employees accurately, identify patterns of absences so you can prevent them in the future, and document issues if you need to fire someone later.
You may also hear a call-out log referred to as an employee attendance tracker or a call-off log.
Employee Call-Out Log Template
Need help creating a printable Excel sheet template you can fill in whenever your employees are absent?
Here's a free employee call-out log you can edit for your business. Just click "Make a copy" to customize your own.
As you edit the Excel template or create your own employee call-off log template, make sure to follow the tips below so your employee attendance tracker is accurate, up-to-date, and useful.
- Use a clear and concise format to make the log easy to read and understand.
- Use consistent terminology to make it easier to find the information you need later on.
- Store the call-out log in a secure place where only authorized people can access it.
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What Are the Key Components of a Call-Out Log?
The key components to include in your attendance tracker include:
- Employee's name
- Date and time of absence
- Reasons for absenteeism
- Employee's contact information
- Alternative contact information
- Approval status
Besides these key components, you may want to include other information, such as the employee's job title, department, and supervisor's name. You can also add a notes section to record any extra information about the absence.
For example, you might have a field for full details of the absenteeism reason to understand why the employee is absent and whether the absence is excused or unexcused. An excused absence might be taking care of a sick family member, while an unexcused absence might be waking up late because of a weekend hangover.
These are just the general elements every call-out log should have. The specific details you include in the log will depend on your company's needs since every business has different attendance policies.
Bonus tip: Why use paper logs? Use software like Hourly to track your team's hours automatically and see it all right on your phone ASAP. You can also run payroll, get a clear picture of your labor costs, and see your payroll taxes and workers' comp insurance in real-time.
Why Is It Important to Maintain a Call-Out Log?
Maintaining an employee attendance tracker can be valuable for payroll, scheduling, and performance evaluation.
For example, if an employee is entitled to sick days or other paid time off (PTO), the call-out log can help track how much sick leave or time off they've used so you can adjust payroll accordingly.
Let's look at why you should have a call-out log in more detail.
Helps Ensure Employees Comply with Company Policies
One key reason to have an employee attendance tracker is to ensure workers comply with your company's attendance policies.
A good way to do this is to review the call-out log with them to ensure they understand how the call-out policies work, so they can follow them and avoid the consequences of non-compliance.
After that, if an employee consistently misses work without a valid excuse, you can use the call-out log records to hold them accountable. The log could help provide evidence, which can help you justify disciplinary action, such as a warning or suspension.
Track Employee Attendance and Identify Trends
A call-out log can also help you identify any trends in employee absences so you can follow up on why they aren't coming to work.
For example, you may find out that a specific employee calls out more often on Mondays or Fridays with the same excuse. The issue could be that the worker isn't getting enough sleep on weekends or managing their work-life balance effectively.
In that case, you can discuss the issue with them, give them the support they need, and create a plan that helps them and other team members deal with it.
Helps You Prepare Accurate Payroll
An employee attendance tracker helps you monitor how many hours an employee has worked and how many they've been absent so you can correctly pay them—especially if they're hourly workers.
For example, if an employee frequently calls out, they may wind up using more time off than the PTO policy allows. And that can lead to payroll errors, as you may pay them for hours beyond what policy allows. The call-out log can help you identify these employees so that you can investigate and correct any errors.
Ensures Team Members Have Proper Documentation for Insurance
A call-out log documents the reason and length of an employee's absence. They can use these records as proof to ensure they receive benefits.
For example, suppose an employee gets injured or becomes ill and can't work for several months. In that case, they can use the attendance tracker records as part of their statement to file a claim with their short-term disability insurance company.
Protects Your Business from Legal Troubles
You can use records from the call-out log as evidence if you decide to fire an employee for continued absences or tardiness.
If the worker files a lawsuit against your company for wrongful termination or discrimination, the attendance tracker can help provide proof of the pattern of absences.
Are There Any Legal Requirements for Employee Call-Out Logs?
You want to avoid infringing on your employees' rights and finding yourself on the wrong side of the law. So some general principles to consider when keeping attendance records include:
- The right to privacy: Don't collect or store more information than necessary. For example, you generally don't need to know what an employee's diagnosis is, only that they are sick. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require employers to keep medical information about employees private, and you can cover your bases by making sure the log is confidential.
- The right to correct errors: Your workers should be able to fix mistakes in their call-out log details. Like access to information, several states have laws governing this right. The CCPA is one such law.
Since state laws may vary, it's important to look at the specific legislation in your state. Or consult your attorney to determine the laws that apply to your business.
Now that we've covered how and why you should maintain a call-out log let's look at some policies you can put in place to ensure employees use the attendance tracker correctly.
How Do You Create a Clear Call-Out Policy?
A call-out policy outlines how employees should notify their employers if they can't come to work. The policy typically specifies how much advance notice is required, the information the employee should provide, and who they should notify so the call-out form can be filled out.
This helps you hold all employees accountable for their absences while also being flexible for workers who need to take time off for unforeseen situations.
Generally, a call-out policy will include:
- Definition of what "call out" means: Here, you need to explain the criteria used to excuse absences. For instance, you might permit an employee's absence due to family or medical emergencies. However, you wouldn't excuse call-outs that don't have a legitimate reason or notice.
- Set deadlines for when employees can call out: What's the latest time an employee can call out before their shift begins so you can excuse them from work? Can they call out 10 minutes before work begins? Do they need to give a six-hour notice?
- The process of submitting a formal call-out request: Set up the channels employees should use to submit call-out requests. For example, phone calls through a hotline, an employee app, email, or SMS. Also, indicate if the employee needs to provide documentation, like a signed doctor's note.
- Consequences of breaking the policy: Highlight the disciplinary actions for violating the policy. For example, how many unexcused absences can lead to getting a warning or suspension, and how many result in being fired? For instance, if they miss work for three consecutive shifts or days without notice, will you consider it job abandonment and fire them?
Make Sure Your Policy Follows Any Relevant Employment Laws
We've already looked at some employee rights protected by specific laws, but you also need to take note of any applicable employment laws that may impact your call-out policy.
If such workers don't show up during their shifts and without following the call-out policy, you may need to consider their reasons if it's directly related to FMLA or ADA. Or they may be able to take legal action.
Communicate the Call-Out Policy to Your Workers
Start by meeting with all employees to discuss it and answer any questions they have. After that, have each worker sign a document saying they understood the policy, then add it to their employee file.
You can also include the call-out policy in your onboarding process or employee handbook so new employees become aware of it as they join your company.
Employee Call-Out Logs Help You Be Proactive
Nobody wants to be late or absent from work if it means losing their job, even if they have a valid reason. But you also don't want employees coming to work with health or family issues. That can affect their ability to heal and their productivity.
Employees would never have to call out if we were in a perfect world. But in reality, things do happen. So it's important to have an attendance tracker to document employee absences for payroll, scheduling, and performance evaluation.
The biggest perk? A tracker can help you proactively address any attendance issues that crop up with your team members. That way, you can keep everything running smoothly.