How to deal with no call, no shows the right way

As a local business owner, what would you consider your Achilles Heel? Many Homebase customers we talk to are quick to mention no call, no shows.

Employee no-shows wreak havoc on a well-staffed shift.

Essentially, a link in your customer service chain is suddenly missing and the employees who did show up are left to piece it back together.

Not only is this missing link disruptive to your operations, it’s simply frustrating, to put it nicely. Venting to your other employees could hurt your credibility and an immediate termination may put you in legal quicksand, so think professionalism first, as difficult as it may be.

We’ve thought out some professional ways and preventative approaches to deal with employee no-shows here.

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know before firing no call, no show employees, what to do when it happens, and best practices for the future.

To start off, let’s first see what no call, no show even means.

What is a “no call, no show”?

A “no call, no show” is when an employee fails to report for work without notifying the employer.  

This situation happens with restaurant, bar, and shop workers often. Someone doesn’t call or write in to give any notification that they will be missing work.

It’s very frustrating since it leaves you to operate with fewer employees than you were expecting. This means that the remaining team members will have to do extra work and more customers will have to wait longer for service, and that’s not fair to anyone.

This can be even more frustrating if you are running a small business with only a few employees.

The trouble is, it’s not uncommon for employees to flake out on their shifts. 

It could be because they don’t like working there or because they have other priorities. Maybe they just don’t want to go through the hassle of telling their boss that they won’t be working, or maybe they know that you won’t be able to find a replacement on short notice. 

The problem with all of these excuses is that it ends up making it harder for the business, and harder for other employees who don’t get to work an easy shift.

With this in mind, let’s go over what you need to know before firing someone for a no call, no show.

What do you need to know before firing someone for a no call, no show?

The first question you may have is “Can I fire so-and-so?”

The answer is not always.  

Typically, a worker is not automatically fired for a no call, no show.  

It is considered an unacceptable excuse for not showing up to work, but keep in mind, not all employee no-shows signal job abandonment.

Often employees miss shifts due to serious illness or a death in the family. Or, as Rebecca Mazin of Recruit Right Consulting found, “they may think a vacation was approved or they were not scheduled to work.” She states that certain instances, such as serious injury, “could result in eligibility for time off under the FMLA and do not require advance notice.”

It’s also important to note that some states have employment laws protecting against termination for quitting on short notice, so be sure to check your state’s laws before firing an employee for a no call, no show.

Therefore, it’s essential that you have a written procedure of your own in place for dealing with this issue. One great way to do this is through a company handbook. 

Having all of your policies and procedures in place makes it easier for you and your employees to stay on track. One policy you’ll want to have in the handbook is a  “no call, no show policy.” 

No call, no show policy is a document that details the protocol for dealing with employees who do not show up to work without giving prior notice. This policy should be revised and amended whenever needed, and once your company is established you can use it as a reference to ensure that all of your employees are following it. 

You may want to include some of the following:

  • What counts as a call or show (e.g., showing up to work late or last-minute could be considered not showing up at all) )
  • What happens after an employee has had several no calls, no shows
  • What to do in case a medical emergency or a member of the employee’s family is in critical condition
  • Disciplinary actions that will be taken per no call, no show
  • Questions to ask yourself before firing someone for a no call, no show.

Another useful thing you might want to have is employee scheduling software. It will automatically send an alert to the person who is on duty if the employee who was supposed to work didn’t show up, so you can fill in for them.  While you’re at it, also have a backup person on duty just in case someone doesn’t show up.

In general, it’s a good idea to have an employee handbook. And not just because it’s protective from lawsuits.

It’s also a great way to show your employees that you care about them and how they work. A handbook makes the company’s policies clear to everyone, it can even deter employees from quitting on short notice if they know the company has a plan in case they do.

Now let’s talk about how to deal with no call, no show employees.

How to deal with a no call, no show 

When it comes to dealing with no call, no show, there are two situations you might find yourself in: 

  • Dealing with first-time offenders 
  • Dealing with repeat offenders

Dealing with first time offenders

The first thing you should do in this situation is to call your employee. They may have been involved in a car accident or had another legitimate problem on the way to work. You won’t know for sure until you’ve talked to them.

If the reason behind their absence is truly a legitimate one, talk to them and explain that you appreciate everything they do for the company. You want to help them solve the problem and want them to come back as soon as possible.

It’s important that you talk with your employees and let them know that it’s not acceptable to miss work for no good reason. Also, make sure to ask questions, is it a scheduling issue? Or, is there a deeper problem that needs to be addressed? And if so, what is it?

If there’s a scheduling issue you can assure them that no one on the team will be unhappy if they need to change their schedule.

Another thing you should do is to keep a record documenting the steps you took. For example, some managers address first time no-shows with a verbal warning. Document the conversation and ask your employee to sign it. You’ll want to keep a copy in your employee’s file to avoid future HR-related problems.

Dealing with repeat offenders

Assuming you’re in an at-will employment state, you can immediately fire your employee. Though, grounds for termination also depend on your attendance policy.

According to, a common policy says an employee has voluntarily quit if they are absent without explanation for three consecutive days.

If you decide the next step is to terminate your employee, mail them a letter stating your reasons for the termination and clearly outline every attempt you make to contact them. Occasionally, managers will take a no-show employee off the schedule but fail to follow a termination procedure, leaving them exposed to potential employment claims.

After you’ve given your employee a chance to reconsider and they still refuse to work, you need to fire them.

When terminating an at-will employee, make sure to have a supporting written statement detailing the company’s attendance policy, the track record of the number of days the employee is absent, and your attempts to contact them (written warnings).

Also, make sure you have a copy of your employee’s handbook and their signature showing they received it. And if they signed an attendance policy as part of their employment application, that’s good too.

Best practices for the future

One of the best pieces of advice to deal with no call, no show employees is to be proactive.

Curb the no-call, no-show issue with an attendance policy. Write one and introduce it to your employees during training or onboarding for new employees. Other ways to prevent no-call, no-shows are also addressed through your scheduling practices and employee morale. Some things you’ll want to look at:

  • How employees communicate their availability
  • If attendance rules are enforced consistently
  • How schedules are made
  • If employees are certain of their schedules
  • Management/employee relations

There is no doubt about it, no-call no-shows are infuriating. They put undue stress on you, your managers and other employees. They devalue the customer experience and even your workplace culture.

While you may have put together a long string of choice words for the culprit, the reality is there’s a certain way these instances must be handled. It is understandable you’re angry, but reign in your anger enough to make the best choices for your business.

What kinds of policies have you implemented to cut down employee no-shows? Let us know in the comments below!

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