Workplace Culture

5 tips to reduce employee no call no shows (2023)

By Megan Johnson

May. 4, 2023


  • No call, no shows are damaging to businesses.

  • High no call, no show rates could suggest problems with company attendance policies.

  • Employers can use software to reduce employee no call, no shows.

The Society for Human Resource Management reports that unscheduled absences (also known as no call, no shows) cause a 36.6% loss in productivity. This loss in productivity can not only have a big financial impact on the business, but it can also place a strain on other employees. However, continuous employee absenteeism could reveal issues in company policies that are up to leadership to address. While fully preventing 100% of no call, no shows is virtually impossible, employers can use the following tips to reduce employee no call, no shows.

1. Make sure staff are made fully aware of their shifts

One of the reasons why staff might not show up is that they are not aware of their scheduled shifts. This can either be because of a miscommunication, or they simply forgot. It’s important to give your employees the benefit of the doubt — one-off no call, no shows are not a huge cause for concern. However, continuously missing work without a good excuse is a warning sign of job abandonment.

But it’s still important to make sure all staff are aware of their shifts. This can be done by having a clear schedule, where employees always know which shifts they are working.

Employers should also do the following:

  • Communicate shifts to employees clearly. Having an employee schedule where staff can easily see their shifts eliminates confusion.
  • Remind staff about upcoming shifts ahead of time. You can do this by emailing staff, or if you have workforce management software, by enabling push notifications on a scheduling app.

2. Require staff to accept their shifts with management

To avoid the typical “he said/she said” excuses from absent employees that might sound like “The manager said I could have today off” or “I didn’t know I was supposed to be working today,” require staff to accept their shifts with management, so there is no confusion. Both staff and management will know who is scheduled to work.

Employers should:

  • Make sure shifts are confirmed as soon as possible by employees in a timely manner while also complying with predictive scheduling laws.
  • Make sure that accepted shifts are recorded in a place that is visible to both employees and other management staff. This could be a physical printed copy of a rota in the staff break room, or for a more direct approach, it could be an employee app.
  • Make sure that any open shifts (when employees have not accepted shifts) are clearly visible on the schedule. Employees who are looking for extra shifts should be able to claim some.

3. Address any employee scheduling problems

If you have an employee who has a high track record of no call, no shows, this could expose a scheduling issue. Employers should work with employees to address any scheduling problems.

  • Does your schedule work for all employees? Consider sitting down with employees who have the highest no call, no shows and asking if there are any scheduling challenges leading to these no call, no shows.
  • Work with employees to address any scheduling problems. It’s possible that some staff live too far or have difficulties with other arrangements like childcare. If possible, make changes to this employee’s schedule that will reduce no call, no shows.
  • Consider using smart and automated scheduling systems that collect data on employee attendance. For instance, AI-assisted scheduling can recognize when employees most commonly miss shifts, and it will adjust future schedules accordingly.

Tackle employee scheduling problems with shift replacements

One way to tackle employee scheduling problems is to allow shift replacements via a mobile workforce management app. This is where employees exchange scheduled shifts with managerial approval. Instead of the responsibility of finding a replacement falling squarely on a manager, shift replacement software streamlines the whole process, automatically picking the best fit employees as replacements – all a manager needs to do is approve the swap. Managers can also post open shifts in a centralized location where qualified employees can receive notifications about available shifts.

Presenting employees with flexible shift options like this leads to fewer no call, no shows.

Create an on-call list

On-call lists should be used as a last resort for last-minute spontaneous absences when there is no time for shift swaps. Make sure that the on-call list is well planned and handled by management to eliminate further confusion.

At the beginning of each week (or whenever you are shift planning), ask employees if they are available to be on an optional on-call list for each day.

Make sure employees know what the on-call list is and how it works. Think of ways to incentivize staff to be on the on-call list. You could offer a few dollars an hour extra for workers working on-call shifts.

Outline a clear procedure for the on-call list. It could look something like this:

  • If an hour and a half have passed and an employee scheduled to work has not arrived and hasn’t reported their absence via a phone call, this is a no call, no show.
  • Management will call other team members who are on the on-call list and ask if they are available to cover the shift. It is important to give on-call members enough advance notice. For example, it’s not reasonable to call employees at 10 am to come in at 10:30 am.
  • If another member of staff is available, they will come in and cover the shift.

4. Evaluate your attendance and absence policy

Loads of no call, no shows could indicate issues with your employee attendance policy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a service worker in the service industry has an average absence rate of 4.2%.

If your employees have an absence rate higher than this, it’s possible that your employees are not familiar with the attendance and absence policy.

There are a few things to consider:

  • Have you clearly indicated what absences (PTO or sick leave) employees are entitled to? It’s possible that employees are committing no calls, no shows when they should be using their PTO or sick leave.
  • It’s also possible that staff may have family members to look after, and this is has caused a lot of no call, no shows in the past. If this is the case, the employee may be entitled to absences under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the employee should have notified management. It’s important to note that if the employee did not apply for FLMA leave and does not show up, despite the family circumstances, it is still a no call, no show.
  • Do your employees know how to request time off? Sometimes, employees aren’t aware of their PTO and may not show up and not call.
  • Do your employees know how to report absences? Is the information about company policies in the employee handbook?

Absences could also be due to unusual circumstances (medical emergencies, car accidents, etc.), and it’s important that your attendance policy accounts for unexpected occasional absences.

5. Create a fair no-call, no-show policy

Creating a formal no-show policy that has consequences such as disciplinary actions or written warnings will reduce no call, no shows. When employees realize there are repercussions for their actions, it can make them reconsider their conduct.

However, it’s important that the no-show policy is fair; having a zero-tolerance policy (one strike and you’re out approach) for no call, no shows is ineffective. You might end up risking high-quality employees over one mistake, and it is already challenging to attract quality workers in today’s job market.

Instead, consider an approach like this:

  • An employee has missed work for three consecutive days. The first two days, the employee reported the absence as per the company policy, but the third day they did not show up. This employee should be given a verbal warning. However, if the no call, no shows persist, the employee can be given a write-up — including the dates of the absences and further consequences.
  • On a separate occasion, the same employee has had repeated no call, no shows spanning a three-month period. This employee should be given a formal disciplinary review with a chance to fix their attendance. If the employee does not fix their attendance within the agreed-upon timeframe, terminating their employment may be the next step.

Companies should make sure no-call, no-show policies and the consequences stay in line with labor and employment laws.

Use no call, no shows as an opportunity to refine your scheduling

Identifying potential problems and taking actionable, preventative steps will help reduce employee no call, no shows. can assist you with this by optimizing your shift scheduling and timekeeping requirements to best mitigate unforeseen employee absences. Master your attendance and contact us today to reduce the damage no call, no shows can have on your business.

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