No Call, No Show: How to Handle Them and Create Your Own Policy

No Call, No Show: How to Handle Them and Create Your Own Policy

no call no show

As a business owner, you’re constantly juggling a number of tasks. From Monday to Friday and beyond, there’s strategic planning, financial management, operations, marketing, and much more. No matter the hour, there’s always some task that needs your attention. 

Thus, it’s incredibly frustrating when an employee simply neglects to honor his or her simplest professional responsibility: to show up. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the disruptive phenomenon known as a “no call, no show,” exploring its impact on workflow, productivity, and the overall dynamics of the workplace. As we navigate through the reasons behind this behavior and its consequences, we aim to shed light on the strategies organizations can employ to mitigate the nuisance and foster a more reliable and communicative work environment.

The phrase no call, no show is derived from an individual’s inability to communicate his or her absence (no call) and simply not being present for his or her shift (no show). While there is no definitive legal definition, we’ve compiled three different takes on the term from three unique sources.  

Law Insider deems a no call, no show as absenteeism from scheduled work without calling or showing up for work. 

The Academy to Innovate HR says a no call, no show refers to when an employee fails to show up for his or her scheduled shift without notifying his or her employer.

Greenwald Doherty, LLP, a New York-based law firm that offers counsel for employers, says a no call, no show refers to an employee’s absence from work without notifying his or her employer.

Tip: Using an online time tracking system will instantly alert you to unreported absences, allowing you to quickly handle no call, no show situations.

What the Law Says About No Shows

In The U.S., there is no federal policy relating to no calls, no shows. Any potential consequences must originate from the company itself. 

A man looks frustrated sitting next to an unused red rotary phone, symbolizing a no call, no show situation.

A No Call, No Show Impacts Both an Employee and the Employer

A no call, no show is a violation of workplace attendance policies and can have negative consequences for both the employee and employer. 

A no call, no show may indicate a lack of responsibility or commitment on the part of the employee. This event breaks workplace norms and policies and, depending on the severity or frequency, may jeopardize an employee’s future with the company. If the company incorporates disciplinary measures, including a suspension or termination, the employee may experience a loss of income. Additionally, the employee’s reputation may be damaged, straining his or her relationship with superiors and further limiting his or her career advancement opportunities. 

For the employer, a no call, no show can be a major disruption in workflow, creating difficulties for colleagues and supervisors. 

In the short term, an unexpected absence can increase the workload of others, as colleagues or team members may need to take on the responsibilities of the absent employee. Additionally, depending on the employee’s role, this may create customer service issues, which could negatively impact the company’s ability to execute its vision. 

In the long term, no call, no shows may negatively impact team morale and motivation, as team members may feel frustrated or demotivated if and when they need to fill in for colleagues. Additionally, if the employee occupies a critical role, the company may need to incur additional costs to offer emergency coverage, leading to unexpected shifts for other employees and/or overtime wages for those who do fill in.  

The negative effects of unscheduled absences are summed up in a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report, which states such vacancies, including no call, no shows, can cost businesses an average of 36.6% in lost productivity. 

How to Deal with No Call, No Show Cases

Make a Solid No Call, No Show Policy

Preparing a policy to address no call, no show incidents is essential for maintaining a productive and reliable workforce. Here's a step-by-step guide on how an employer can create such a policy.

  • Define Expectations: It’s imperative that you clearly outline your expectations regarding attendance, punctuality, and communication in writing. Specify the standard working hours; the importance of regular attendance; and the impact of no call, no show incidents on the organization.
  • Communication Protocol: Establish a clear protocol for how absences should be reported/communicated. Specify how and when employees should notify supervisors if they’re unable to attend work. Include details about who to contact and acceptable communication methods (i.e., phone calls, emails, text messages, etc.).
  • Reporting Timeframe: Define specific parameters for which employees must report an absence. This timeframe could be on the same day as the absence or well in advance, depending on the nature of the job and the industry.
  • Documentation Requirements: Clearly state any documentation requirements for absences, such as a doctor's note for a medical-related absence. Be specific about the format and timeframe for submitting documentation.
  • Consequences for a No Call, No Show: Clearly articulate the consequences for no call, no show incidents. This may include disciplinary actions, such as verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, and, ultimately, termination. Be consistent in the application of consequences.
  • Progressive Discipline: Consider implementing a progressive discipline approach, where the severity of the consequences increases with repeated violations. This can provide employees with an opportunity to correct their behavior before facing severe repercussions.
  • Establish an Appeal Process: It’s important for employees to plead their case, thus an appeal process allows employees who believe they were unfairly penalized for a no call, no show incident an opportunity to share their side of the story. This provides a mechanism for addressing potential misunderstandings or extenuating circumstances.
  • Educate Employees: Ensure all employees are aware of the no call, no show policy. Conduct training sessions or orientation programs to communicate the policy and provide written copies for reference.
  • Be Consistent: Make sure all employees are being penalized equally. Avoid making exceptions unless there are clear and justifiable reasons for doing so. Consistency promotes fairness and discourages favoritism.
  • Review and Update: Regularly review the policy to ensure its effectiveness and relevance. Update the policy as needed to address any changing circumstances or legal requirements.
  • Legal Compliance: Ensure your policy aligns with relevant labor laws and regulations. Seek legal advice to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws.
  • Support Mechanisms: Consider offering support mechanisms for employees who may be facing challenges that contribute to no call, no show incidents. This could include employee assistance programs, counseling services, or flexible work arrangements.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Incorporate positive reinforcement strategies to encourage good attendance and punctuality. Recognize and reward employees who consistently meet or exceed attendance expectations.

Talk It Out With Your Employee

When an employee ditches work without warning, it’s important, as a manager, to approach the situation constructively. Here are a few steps to consider when addressing such an incident. 

  1. Gather all relevant information regarding the absence. Familiarize yourself with any pertinent attendance policies. 
  2. Choose an appropriate setting, preferrably a quiet, objective location, that allows for open conversation without fear of judgment. 
  3. Remain calm and objective. There are two sides to every story. Hear your employee out and make sure you understand the reasons behind the absence. 
  4. Start with a neutral opening, such as, “I noticed you were not at work on Monday, and we missed having you here. I was hoping we could discuss what happened, so I can gain a better understanding from your perspective.”
  5. Allow the employee to explain his or her side and listen without judgment. Ask open-ended questions, such as, “Can you help me understand what happened?”
  6. Review company policies with the employee. Ensure the employee fully understands the attendance policy, the communication protocol for reporting absences, and the consequences of any related incidents. 
  7. Work collaboratively to explore alternate solutions or preventive measures. This may include discussing ways to improve communication, using paid time off for absences, or addressing any underlying issues. 
  8. Document the conversation, including any key points that were discussed and the employee’s explanation. 
  9. End on a positive note, expressing confidence in the employee's ability to meet attendance expectations moving forward. Reinforce the value the individual brings to the team and how optimistic you are that this conversation will not bear repeating. 

Track Time With an App

A time tracking app can be a valuable tool in helping to address and mitigate no call, no show incidents. Time tracking apps can automate the process of recording employees’ work hours, offering accurate and real-time attendance data. This instantaneous insight allows employers to take prompt action if and when a no call, no show occurs. 

Some time tracking apps, such as OnTheClock, offer geolocation tracking, which allows employers to verify an employee’s location when he or she is punched in. This ensures employees are where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there.  

Modern time tracking apps may also restrict when and where an employee can punch in, preventing unauthorized work hours and the argument that an employee “was working the entire time.” Additionally, notifications and reminders can be sent to employees when it’s time to clock in, helping to reduce inadvertent no call, no show occurrences. 

Finally, time tracking apps offer a definitive record of hours worked, settling any potential attendance disputes.

Keep Everyone in the Loop With Chat Apps

Communication features can be integrated within many modern time tracking apps. For example, OnTheClock facilitates easy and quick communication between employees and supervisors using its internal chat option. Managers can use this feature to share company announcements, attach photos, broadcast schedules, alert employees as they approach overtime thresholds, disperse companywide surveys, and much more. Team members can use the chat feature to share internal messages or notes, allowing a safe place to conduct all work-related communication. 

Reward Good Attendance

One good way to minimize no call, no shows is to honor those with good attendance records, recognizing the importance of punctuality and reliability. This can occur through public acknowledgment, such as an employee of the month program. Employers could also potentially reward consistent attendance with remote work days, flexible work arrangements, monetary incentives, extra paid time off, professional development opportunities, etc. Those who fail to comply with the company’s attendance policies should be disqualified from receiving these incentives. 

Crafting Your No Call No Show Policy

When crafting a no call, no show policy, it’s helpful to identify objectives for the protocol and ensure your program is achieving these goals. 

Defining the Policy's Purpose

A no call, no show policy exists to set parameters when it comes to employees’ attendance and how absences must be communicated. The document outlines procedures employees must follow if they are unable to fulfill their employment obligations. Such a guide provides employers with a clear record that establishes rules and expectations regarding attendance, which can be critical if and when a legal challenge is presented. 

Identifying a No Call, No Show Event

Your policy should clearly define what constitutes a no call, no show event. Use the definitions provided earlier in this article to help you craft a precise definition.

Outlining Your Policy Structure

It’s a company’s job to ensure a no call, no show policy is comprehensive, clear, and legally compliant. Ensure all terms are clearly defined and easy to understand. Try to minimize or eliminate “gray areas” that may be misinterpreted. A legal review is crucially important to ensure your company is protected. 

We’ve created a few templates, available below, free for you to use. Additionally, organizations like the Academy to Innovate HR offer templates of their own. 

Acceptable Excuses for Absences

Be mindful that there may be occasions – i.e., medical emergencies, family emergencies, natural disasters, transportation issues, etc. – where an employee is unable to communicate an absence in advance. Employees must report these occurrences as soon as possible, following any established notification procedures outlined in the company's policy. Managers may require documentation (such as a medical certificate or police report) to verify the legitimacy of the excuse.

Policy Communication Strategies

Once your policy has been finalized and approved by your legal team, it’s important to communicate its existence to employees through multiple channels, including training sessions, orientation meetings, annual reviews, employee handbooks, etc. 

Regular Policy Review and Updates

It’s important to review your no call, no show policy to ensure it remains relevant, effective, and compliant with any changes in laws or regulations. A review should occur annually or whenever external factors (i.e., technology upgrades, legal compliance, etc.) or internal factors (employee feedback, changes in the company’s structure, etc.) necessitate an update.

Legal Considerations for Your Policy

Implementing a no call, no show policy requires careful consideration of legal implications to ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations. 

  • Ensure your policy aligns with local, state, and federal labor laws. Review the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and make sure your policy protects all employees’ federal rights and that reasonable accommodations are made for employees with disabilities.
  • Clearly outline expectations and ensure the policy is reasonable and provides employees with a fair opportunity to communicate unforeseen circumstances. 
  • If employee contracts are in place, ensure your no call, no show policy is consistent with the terms outlined in these contracts. Seek legal advice, if necessary. 
  • Apply the rules equally to avoid any claims of discriminatory practices. 
  • Have a documentation process in place to record any attendance policy violations and the disciplinary actions that follow. Proper documentation is essential to demonstrate the company has acted consistently and fairly. 
  • Have a plan in place to protect yourself from retaliation or any legal ramifications that may arise, such as employees filing lawsuits, taking protected leave, or reporting workplace violations. 
  • Any attendance-related issue must remain confidential. Avoid sharing sensitive information without an employee’s consent. 

Of course, it's advisable to consult with legal professionals or human resources experts to ensure your no call, no show policy meets the specific legal requirements of your jurisdiction and industry. 

Implementing the No Call, No Show Policy

Once you’ve developed your policy and it’s been reviewed and approved by your legal team, it’s finally ready to distribute to your team. 

Leveraging Technology for Compliance

Technology can significantly enhance your ability to monitor and ensure attendance compliance at work. Utilizing an automated time tracking system, such as OnTheClock, that uses biometric data, geolocation tracking, and other foolproof clock in and out protocols, can help to reduce the risk of errors associated with manual tracking. OnTheClock also offers numerous other options to help simplify attendance concerns, including real-time reports, overtime alerts and trackers, attendance records, and much more. 

As previously mentioned, OnTheClock also features a chat feature, which allows internal conversations to remain in one central location. This serves as a great place to communicate with team members. 

Promoting Open Communication with Your Employees

Promoting open communication with employees is essential for fostering a positive work environment, building trust, and improving overall employee satisfaction and engagement. This is especially true when dealing with an incident that may threaten an employee’s standing and, ultimately, disrupt company morale. 

To promote employee communication, managers should openly and honestly communicate the company's goals and strategies, encourage an open-door policy, check in regularly, hold team meetings to share important information, offer anonymous feedback channels, provide constructive feedback, etc. 

By implementing these strategies, you can create a workplace culture that values open communication, trust, and collaboration, leading to increased employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. 

Absence Management Strategies

One way to minimize no call, no shows is to implement an effective absence management strategy. This can be achieved through the promotion of a healthy work-life balance, offering employees flexible work arrangements and/or more time off; the implementation of employee assistance programs, which provide resources and counseling services to help employees overcome any personal and professional challenges; incentives for perfect attendance, which could include bonuses, extra time off, or other recognitions; and to lead by example – reliable managers who are punctual foster an environment that supports the company’s goals and culture. 

No Call No Show Policy Template

[Company letterhead]

No Call, No Show Termination Letter

Dear [Employee]

This letter serves as a formal notification of the termination of your employment with [company], effective [date].

This action is being executed in response to a violation of [company’s] attendance policy, as written in the employee handbook, which you signed, acknowledging receipt and understanding. Employees are required to immediately report unexcused absences to their managers. Failure to do so is considered a violation of company policy.

[if applicable:] Despite previous warnings and/or actions, including [previous incident], your failure to properly report on [date] and inform your manager of such an absence is considered job abandonment, which has led us to take this action.

Please communicate with your manager to arrange a date when you can turn in your company equipment, keys, etc. Please aim to have this completed by [date]. Your final paycheck, which will include all accrued and unapplied leave time, will be sent to the address we have on file, [mailing address].

If you have any questions regarding anything, please contact [HR director] at [HR director phone number].

We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

[Manager name]


[Company name]


Addressing and managing no call, no show incidents within the workplace is crucial for maintaining productivity, morale, and a positive work environment. Such incidents impact both employers and employees. By implementing clear communication protocols, establishing solid policies, leveraging technology for compliance, and promoting open communication and absence management strategies, businesses can mitigate the disruptive effects of no call, no show incidents. Moreover, recognizing and rewarding good attendance can incentivize employees to adhere to established protocols while fostering a culture of reliability and accountability.

The addition of reliable time tracking software, such as OnTheClock, allows employees and employers to accurately monitor employee attendance. The use of real-time alerts, documentation, and analysis tools help minimize attendance-related issues, including no call, no shows, resulting in a more reliable and accountable workforce. OnTheClock is available for you to try, for free, for 30 days. Download the app today to learn how and why OnTheClock is trusted by more than 12,000 companies and 150,000 individuals.

OnTheClock Employee Time Tracking

Written by

Herb Woerpel

Herb Woerpel is a copywriter with OnTheClock. He has 17-plus years of professional journalism experience working for community and national media outlets.

Do you want to know more about how OnTheClock works?

Leave Your Thoughts...

(required, will be shown)
(required, will not be shown)