How to Handle & Prevent Employee No Call No Shows

Sep 24, 2019 2:48:59 PM / by Jacey Lamb

Many shift based industries such as restaurants, retail stores, and hotels (just to name a few) have a problem with employee no call no shows. These dreaded last minute dropped shifts usually leave managers in a frantic state of trying to get the shift covered while also handling all other normal responsibilities. It can be overwhelming to say the least. Keep reading to learn what to do when experiencing an employee no call no show AND how to prevent them for the future. 

What is a No Call No Show? 

A no call no show is when an employee does not give prior notice before missing a shift. Meaning the employee doesn’t inform management that he or she isn’t going to show up to work that day. 

This often leaves management stressed and frantic to fill the open shift on the spot. During busy seasons, no call no shows can be detrimental to a business - affecting sales and employee morale.

Every manager has been there - thinking Jane is just a couple minutes late. It’ll be fine. She probably got stuck in traffic. 

...Okay, it’s been 30 minutes. 

Now it’s been an hour, she obviously isn’t showing up. 

Customers are starting to file in since it’s a busy friday night. Crap. Now what. I need to find someone to cover this missed shift ASAP.

So what do you do about it?

The best way to deal with no call no show employees is to be PROACTIVE. Try to stop the problem before it even happens by creating a no call no show policy. Yes, you’ll probably still have the occasional incident. But, if you have a policy in place - you’ll have a protocol to follow, know what disciplinary actions to take, and other employees will understand that a no call no show absence is NOT okay.

employee no call no show free guide

Define Your Expectations 

The first thing you need to do is define your expectations for attendance. These will be unique to your business since all industries have different expectations. 

We all pretty much know what no call no show means - but regardless, you still need to define it. Also keep in mind not all missed shifts or absences are no call no show. Everything related to absences needs to be clearly defined so there’s no miscommunication or excuses due to a lack of understanding.

Things to define related to missing work:

  • What a no call no show means

  • What is considered an absence

  • What is considered being tardy

  • What kind of absences are excused or unexcused

  • Will you require documentation for excused absences

Defining your expectations will ensure every single employee is on the same page as you. After you decide on what everything means - you can create a no call no show policy fairly quickly. 

Create a No Call No Show Policy (& Make Sure Everyone Understands It)

Whether you have an employee handbook or not, you definitely need a no call no show policy in place so employees (and managers) know the rules and consequences beforehand. Since you’ve already defined your expectations, creating a policy will be easy.

Here's what you'll do:

  1. Outline the expectations and definitions that you’ve decided on (listed above)

  2. Decide on the consequences for tardies, unexcused absences, and no call no show absences

  3. Explain the proper way to request time off

  4. Explain how to call in and what types of scenarios warrant calling in

It’s a good idea, though not necessary, to have an employment lawyer look over your policy to ensure you’re legally covered if you have to deal with any of the mentioned circumstances. 

After you complete the no call no show policy, print it out! Tape it in the breakroom or anywhere that employees will be reminded of it. Email it to them. Have a team meeting explaining the new policy and guidelines for handling absences. During this meeting, handout a waiver for employees to sign, acknowledging that they have read and understand the policy.

Communication is key for best results. Explain your reasoning for the policy, and the effects that no call no show absences have on the business and employee morale. 

Enforce the Policy

Whether you’ve decided to have a zero tolerance no call no show policy or have specific consequences - stick to it! 

Be consistent in your discipline. Apply the consequences to everyone - even if/when your best performing employee is no call no show one day. 

It’s also important to set realistic disciplinary actions. If you can’t feasibly fire an employee for a first offence no call no show, then don't write that in the policy! Many businesses follow a “3 strike” process - meaning an employee has three chances before they’re terminated. 

Here are some tips for enforcing your policy:

  • Meet with the employee privately for a discussion about the no call no show and reasoning for it. Explain how no call no shows affect the business and even employee morale.

  • Explain how each and every employee is important to have a successful shift.

  • Remind the employee about the policy rules (whether that means you have a right to fire them now, or you’re simply writing them up for a “strike”). 

  • Ask the employee to explain what happened. Was it an emergency and it wasn’t possible to call in? Or was it deliberate? Is there anything you can do - schedule wise - to help?

  • Follow through with your consequences defined in the no call no show policy. Document every incident and write up for explanation if necessary. 

The main point is to enforce your policy equally to all employees and management. This sends a message that you will not tolerate no call no shows, for anyone. 

Make Scheduling Easier

One huge factor for absences, tardies, and no call no shows is employee scheduling. If you improve your scheduling process and make things as easy as possible, no call no shows and other scheduling conflicts will be reduced!

Here’s a few things to consider about your scheduling process:

  • Is it easy for employees to actually view the schedule when it’s convenient for them?

  • Is it easy for employees to set their availability? And change it (with approval)?

  • Is it easy for employees to request time off?

  • Is it easy for employees to ask for shift coverage and shift changes (with approval)?


If the answer to one or more of these questions is no, then some employees will simply skip work rather than try to work with you because it’s easier. 

Employees should be able to see exactly when they work so there’s no more scheduling mix ups or excuses for no call no shows. Getting a scheduling software that sends text or email shift reminders to employees is also a great way to reduce scheduling conflicts.

There should also be an easy process for requesting time off. Since the world is basically going digital, it makes sense that employees should be able to request time off through their phones. Having a scheduling software with an RTO feature is the easiest and fastest way to accept or deny RTO in one organized place. Making employees write out their dates on sticky notes, that end up getting lost, is not efficient or effective.  

Lastly, employees should have a simple process for communicating with each other for shift coverage or shift swaps. Again, a scheduling software that has a feature for this is your best option. An employee no longer has to text 10 different other employees to get a shift covered. Instead, the employee can just drop the shift and other employees will be notified that there’s an open shift for pick up. This saves so much time and is easier for the employee to find coverage. Of course - everything needs manager approval in the end and the employee dropping the shift isn’t off the hook until it’s covered. 

Teach New Employees

It’s vital for new employees to understand your no call no show policy from the get go. Setting new hires up for success right away helps ensure that they’ll be reliable and make your policy guidelines a habit. 

One way for making sure new employees have all the information they need is to host a little orientation on their first day or at least have a meeting to review your expectations and policies (remember to have them sign your policy waiver). During this process, teach new employees how important it is to show up for scheduled shifts. Make sure they learn how to properly request time off, call in, and get shifts covered. If you use a scheduling software - teach them how to use it so there is never any confusion.

Teaching new employees during their first few shifts will ensure that they know the policy AND understand your reasoning behind it. You’re setting them up for success!

Improve Team Communication

There’s usually a build up of factors that contribute to a no call no show employee. Getting to know your employees can help prevent these absences. 

Remember, a no call no show employee could be having personal problems relating to school, family, friends, or stress in general. Or it could be a work related problem with another employee. Either way - you’ll never know what’s going on if you don’t foster team communication. Once you talk to your employee and have a better understanding, you can do your best to help them and avoid further no call no show absences. 

Does the employee need to go from full time to part time? Or change from a morning shift or evening shift? Or have a certain day off every week?

It’s important to know when an employee is having problems at work, otherwise the employee may feel underappreciated or unimportant.

Not understanding and knowing your employees will lead to poor team morale and will result in unexcused and no call no show absences more often. 

Let your employees know they can come to you with problems or scheduling issues - and then work them out together. This is effective team communication that will improve employee attendance and morale!

Stay Calm & Follow Your Plan

Despite all of your hard work trying to prevent no call no shows - they will still happen from time to time. What do you do in the moment? Stay calm, don’t freak out! 

Remember that your employee knows the rules - so there could be a legitimate reason they couldn’t call in (like an emergency). Never jump to conclusions and assume the worst. Give your employee the benefit of the doubt. Because, sometimes life happens and the employee could have a really valid reason for missing work without calling. 

What you need to do when a no call no show happens is focus your energy on finding someone to cover the shift. A great way to be prepared for a no call no show is having an on call list of employees that always want to pick up extra shifts and hours. That way you already know of a few good employees that may be available to cover the shift. If you’re using a scheduling software, you can broadcast an open shift to all employees available and eligible to cover it! This feature makes finding a replacement effortless. Sometimes it's a great back up plan to even schedule an on call employee. Ask them to be ready to work and call in 30 minutes after the last person is scheduled for the shift to see if they're needed - if you're still waiting on a late employee or dealing with a no call no show, have your on call employee replace them for the shift.

Next - call the no call no show employee after you find coverage. Ask if they’re okay - figure out what happened. Go into the call like you’re trying to help in case they’re hurt, in trouble, or dealing with a real emergency and simply forgot to call in. This behavior will show that you care about your employees and will strengthen your manager-employee relationship.

However, if the employee doesn’t have a good reason - you simply plan a meeting for their next shift and go over the consequences (whether it’s a write up, termination, or whatever your policy outlines). 

Benefits of a No Call No Show Policy

While creating a no call no show policy takes time - it’ll be worth it in the long run of your business. 

With less no call no shows you’ll see:

  • Better employee morale 

  • Increased employee productivity

  • Better communication between managers and employees

  • Improved company culture

  • Improved scheduling and organization 

Not to mention you’ll be less stressed when a no call no show does occur - since you already have a plan of action in place!

Just remember - employees will still get sick, have emergencies, or just need specific days off from time to time. But they’ll know that a no call no show is unacceptable and should make every effort to inform you before missing a shift. 

Now you have all the tips to creating and implementing a no call no show policy, so stop reading and start doing!


Jacey Lamb

Written by Jacey Lamb

Jacey is the Inbound Marketing Specialist for ShiftNote and is passionate about helping businesses grow. She loves all things digital marketing - especially social media. She makes sure to continue learning every day to build on her knowledge. Outside of her career, she enjoys going to the gym, eating delicious food, and spending time with friends and family (and pets, of course).

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