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How to Deal With Employee No Shows

How to Deal with Employee No ShowsHow to Deal with Employee No Shows
min read
August 21, 2023

When an employee is scheduled to work for your business, you expect them to show up. And if they can’t show up (for example, if they’re sick), you expect them to let you know.

But things don’t always work out that way—and at some point, your small business is probably going to have to deal with an employee no call no show.

But how, exactly, do you deal with no shows? How do you prevent them in the first place? And how can you protect your business and keep no shows to a minimum—while still giving your employees the benefit of the doubt if the reason behind their no call no show is a legitimate emergency?

Have a clear no show policy

If you want to keep no call no show situations to a minimum, you need to have a clear policy in place on how your company plans to deal with employee no shows—and then you need to make sure every employee understands the policy and how an employee no call no show could impact their employment.

Your policy on employee no shows can be a part of your employee handbook, your company attendance policy, or a standalone document. However you decide to structure it, the important thing is that it clearly outlines your company’s policies on no shows, including any disciplinary measures that may result from employee no shows. 

For example, at what point is tardiness considered a no show? Is a no call no show immediately considered job abandonment and cause for termination—or do they need to no call no show for three consecutive days? If an employee had a legitimate reason for not showing up for work, do they need documentation to support that reason—and, if so, what kind of documentation? The more detailed you can be with your company policy on no shows, the better. 

Once you’ve written out a detailed no show policy, distribute it to both new hires and existing employees and have them sign a document confirming that they’ve read and understand the policy. Getting everyone on the same page—and having each employee sign-off on the policy—can help prevent any issues, disputes, or misunderstandings on your company’s approach to no show situations down the road.

Create an on-call schedule to protect your business

No show employees can cost your business significant time, money, and resources—so it’s important to have an on-call schedule in place to protect your small business in the event one of your workers doesn’t show up for their scheduled shift.

When you’re creating your employee schedule, make sure you also have a list of on-call workers you can reach out to in the event you have a no call no show. You can build your on-call list from contractors who work with your company and are open to on-call work, employees looking for extra hours, or a combination of both. The point is, you want to have a roster of people you can call if someone no shows for work; that way, you can make sure you always have the workers you need to get the job done—and that your business doesn’t suffer because someone decides to no show.

(Just keep in mind that if non-exempt employees are covering on-call shifts, you’ll need to comply with any federal and state employment laws regarding overtime pay and on-call shifts.)

Call the employee to find out the reason behind the no show

If you have an employee that’s a no call no show, you want to get to the bottom of why they didn’t show up for their scheduled shift—and you also want to make sure they’re ok. And the only way to find that out is to get in touch with the absent employee.

Once an employee qualifies as a no call no show under your attendance policy (for example, two hours after their scheduled start time), give them a call.

The important thing here is to approach the situation from a place of concern. While you might be angry or upset that an employee didn’t show up for work, they may have a legitimate reason (like a medical emergency or a scheduling mix up)—and lashing out at them isn’t going to help the situation.

If you get them on the phone, let them know they missed a scheduled shift and ask if everything’s ok. If it goes to voicemail, leave a message saying the same thing and asking them to give you a call back.

Finding out the reasons behind an employee no show will give you better insights into how to move forward. For example, if your employee didn’t have the shift on their schedule, there could be an issue with your employee scheduling software that you need to look into on the back end. If your employee is dealing with an emergency, you can offer support and reschedule their other upcoming shifts. If an employee doesn’t have a legitimate reason for not showing up for work, you can take disciplinary action in line with your no show policy.

The point is, there are a number of different reasons an employee might no call no show to work—and before you decide how to handle the situation, you need to call the employee to find out their reason.

Enforce your no show policy equally…

A no show policy (or any company policy, for that matter) is only effective if you enforce it. So, if you find yourself dealing with an employee no show, it’s important that you enforce the rules, regulations, and disciplinary action outlined in your policy—and that you enforce them equally for all employees.

So, for example, if your no show policy states that the penalty for a first-time no call no show is a write up that’s kept in an employee’s human resources file, you need to issue that written warning for any employee who no shows for a shift for the first time—whether that employee is your business’ top performer or someone with a history of tardiness.

Enforcing your no show policy across the board will ensure that all of your employees are treated fairly and equally—and can protect you from any accusations of favoritism or discrimination.

...but understand there may be extenuating circumstances behind the no show

Should you treat your employees equally when enforcing your no show policy? Absolutely. But it’s also important to keep in mind that not all circumstances that lead to a no call no show are equal—and while you may be tempted to take a “zero tolerance policy” approach towards no shows, it’s also important to understand that you might have to adjust your policy for extenuating circumstances.

For example, if an employee’s spouse suddenly passes away, calling to notify work they’re going to miss a shift might not be at the top of their mind. Or if they’re dealing with some sort of medical emergency (like a serious car accident), they may not be able to call in to notify you they’ll be absent.

When it comes to extenuating circumstances and how to deal with them, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; you’ll have to use your best judgement. You will, of course, want to be sensitive if your employee is dealing with some sort of emergency or challenging situation, but if you have doubts about the reason behind their no show, you can ask for documentation to validate their story (so, for example, if they claimed they were unconscious in a hospital, you can ask for a doctor’s note or documentation from the hospital confirming their stay). 

Handle employee no shows effectively with these tips

Employee no shows can wreak havoc on your business efficiency and productivity. But with these tips, you have the information you need to minimize no call no show situations—and effectively deal with them if and when they do happen.

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