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What To Do When Employees Don’t Show Up for Work – Make an Attendance Policy

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The excuses employees give when they’re late or don’t show up for work can be a little hard to believe sometimes. Hearing them again and again can be tiresome too. Nevertheless, you should treat each case individually and with care because sometimes absences happen for good reason. Create an attendance policy that deals with tardies, excessive absences, and the dreaded no call no show.

Start With an Attendance Policy

Every company should have a policy for absences, especially if there is an abuser within the company. Your attendance policy should address guidelines for requesting time off and how to handle last minute absences. Whether employees should get a warning for a no call no show or be fired on the spot is up to the company but employees should know what to expect.

Your policy should cover some of the following attendance issues:

Paid time off

Employees should have an easy way to request and document time off. Writing little notes and sticking them to the manager’s computer screen a week before vacation probably isn’t a great practice. A better method is to use an online system where employees can request time off online. This is the most convenient and accountable method and the one that helps prevent many issues with time off. For more information on creating a time off policy, check here.

Sick time use and abuse

When people get sick, there’s usually a little warning. We feel feverish the night before or wake up early feeling unsettled before heading back to bed. At the onset of sickness employees should inform employers, rather than wait until the start of their shift. This should be documented in the policy.

If you suspect employees are using sick time when they’re not sick, you should have a talk with the employee and start asking for doctor’s notes. If the behavior continues and the employee cannot produce doctor’s notes, it is grounds for discipline. These are the types of rules that need to be outlined in the attendance policy. Even if your staff is all exempt, you should still have a sick time policy.

What to do about a no call no show

It may be tempting to get angry when employees don’t show up for work, but a manager should always try to be sensitive in case of the occasional calamity. The manager should always call employees that don’t show up for work. Just leave a message to the effect of, “Hi, you didn’t make it in for your shift today. Is everything ok? Please call me back and let me know.”

With a policy, you can set the expectations and consequences. Your no call no show policy might look like this:

  1. The employer will call the employee and leave a message.
  2. If the employee responds with a documented, legitimate excuse such as a death or severe injury, there are no consequences and the employee may use time off allotment.
  3. If the employee has no documented, legitimate excuse, the employee is put on probation and the day is unpaid.
  4. After the second offense, the employee is terminated.


Taking sick leave when well, no call no shows, and exhausting all available leave every month are all examples of bad leave-time behaviors. Depending on what you have outlined in your policy, you should issue warnings, reduce benefits, terminate, etc. But make sure you actually do what your policy outlines. If you are lax about the rules, there will inevitably be an employee that abuses privileges.

Do Employers Need to Pay When Employees Don’t Show Up for Work?

Some instances of absenteeism must be paid by the employer. It depends on the type of absence and the classification of the employee. You can detail this in the attendance policy.

Hourly employees

Hourly employees that don’t show up for work can either take their accrued sick time, their vacation time, or an unpaid day off. While employers don’t have to pay hourly employees for time they are not actually at work (except for sick time in some cities and states), it is customary to offer some kind of paid leave.

Exempt employees

Rules for docking exempt employees’ pay can be complicated, like in natural disasters. For a personal day or a no call no show, employers can deduct the time from the employee’s leave balance. This is why having a time off policy is a good idea.

Jury duty

If an employee has jury duty and the papers to prove it, employers in some states must pay the employee. Many states only require that employees not be discharged because of jury duty. Despite the laws, the majority of employers do offer jury duty pay.

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19 Responses

    1. Every situation is different joellene. I managed a corporate restaurant for 24 years. The best advice is to consult with your company’s human resource manager. They’ll walk you through the steps needed if termination is the correct course of action. HR managers are not only trained in federal laws,they are also well trained in state laws where a franchise is located.

  1. If it supposed to be two people working if the another person don’t come in its your covering there shift

  2. how do i write up someone who i know who is going to be terminated by my boss.this person is still on probation and never comes to work or calls

    1. If the employee never comes to work, it doesn’t sound like she still works there. A termination letter might be in order. You can find templates for these kinds of things online.

      1. It depends on the company, though. Probably more companies than not attempt to avoid terminating employees rather than tempting them to resign, so that they don’t have to cover any unemployment costs.

  3. Are you really allowed to call the employee & ask why they didn’t show up to their shift if they are a no call no show (not on the clock)? I heard from one manager that this is a form of harassment by simply calling & asking.

  4. Can I make it policy that a no show with no doctors note is a penalty of 25.00? This NOT a dock off pay, but a penalty the employee will agree too?

    1. Jim, did you ever get an answer to your question here? My boss has asked me to research this same issue and I’m not finding much. Please share what you have found out about this No Call/No Show “Penalty” if you don’t mind. Thanks!

  5. Hello,

    We had to terminate an employee today for absenteeism. We went through the progressive discipline process, issuing him verbal coaching, written warning, and a final warning, before it came to this point. The challenge is that the employee has made it clear that his reasons for not coming to work are related to his struggles with depression, and even though I (the HR Coordinator) offered to begin the ADA process with him on multiple occasions, he did not wish to start the process. We have tried calling him multiple times today, and for numerous reasons (to get some more information on how to correct his time card so we can cut his final check; to issue him the separation paperwork; and to see that he’s okay) but we have been unable to reach him. Is it appropriate for us to visit his house to make sure he’s alright? I have already called his emergency contacts, and am wondering if we need to contact the local police department. Thanks for your advice.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      This is a sensitive issue. I imagine this must be difficult. I think a counselor might be better person to ask but from what you’ve said, I would probably ask a police officer to visit his address if I were in your shoes. You don’t know if he is suicidal but if he is, seeing a face could change things for him during the difficult time of losing a job.

  6. Hi, I have a question. If you’re a no call no show, but you send a drs note to your work stating you can’t work that same day and so on. BUT received the note the same day from the hospital.. can that accumulate into a point?

  7. Can someone still be required late if they don’t get a call or text from management saying their late at least an hour after their shift?

  8. We have had an employee punch out and walk off the job. He has not returned in two days. When he first started with the farm the agreement was that his work hours were from between 7 – 8 am till 5 pm, with half day on Saturdays. When he is not needed he does not work on Saturdays. Our question is: Can we terminate him on these grounds?

  9. Is a manager legally required to call an employee if they do not show up?

    An employee didn’t show up for work Thursday then came in Friday and was really confused when asked why he didn’t show up. He swears he did not know he had work since he usually does have Thursdays off.

    The manager did not call him when he didn’t show up. No attempt was made to get in touch with the employee.

    Employee is a good worker but is late a lot.

    Should the manager have called when the employee didn’t show up?
    Or is the employee completely in the wrong?

  10. What are the rules on a new employee, works one day then never calls or returns. They don’t come in for a check? Are you required to mail them the money?

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