No Call No Show Policy: What to Do About Unexcused Absentees

Andrew Buck January 30, 2024

99.9% of people will need to take a day off work at some point. With a No Call No Show Policy, you’ll be able to limit the disruption that absences, particularly unexpected and unexcused absences, have to your business.

In this article we take a deep dive into no shows, and explain why you would want to create a policy to handle them. We’ll explain how this policy can help reduce unexcused absences, the damage these absences do to your business, and more tips to help reduce no shows or, ideally, cut them out entirely.

What is a No Call No Show Policy?

A No Call No Show Policy is a policy stating that if someone does not show up for their scheduled shift and doesn’t inform the appropriate person, their absence will be treated as a “no show”.

A no show is an unexpected, unexcused absence, and generally results in disciplinary action – sometimes leading to dismissal.

A no show is (and should be) a big deal, and how you deal with them should be vastly different from how you deal with an employee calling in sick or asking for a personal day.

Your No Call No Show Policy may not be the same as every other company’s; it’s up to you how you want to handle these situations. It’s also worth mentioning that the “call” in this sentence does not necessarily have to be an actual phone call – it could extend to mean any kind of advance notice, via text message or Slack, for example.

Why Do You Need a No Call No Show Policy?

The goal of the policy is to reduce (or eliminate altogether) no shows in your business.

A No Call No Show Policy is there to enforce the gravity of unexcused absences, set clear expectations with employees, and set a framework for how to deal with these situations.

Employees have to know that no shows are unacceptable. But you can’t assume they will. It’s the company’s responsibility (and the responsibility of those in leadership positions) to help employees understand what is and isn’t acceptable.

That’s why policies are important. They provide, in writing, clear expectations for employees, leaving less up for interpretation.

A policy also gives a clear, objective framework for managers or team leaders to follow, that makes accusations of bias or unfairness less likely.

Learn More: How to Create Your Employee Leave Policy

Are No Shows Ever Acceptable?

In most situations, no shows are unacceptable. You can’t allow employees to simply pick and choose when they’ll come to work. No business can operate with this kind of unpredictability.

That being said, you shouldn’t make a blanket statement that every single no show is cause for disciplinary action or dismissal.

Some businesses do just that, and they tend to be toxic working environments, with high turnover, low engagement, where the company doesn’t care at all about their employees.

Think about it – there are some cases when you cannot expect someone to call and let you know they’ll be absent.

It could be an emergency. They could be unconscious, or in no state to text or call anyone.

It could also be an emergency with a family member/loved one, and making a call to work is the last thing on their mind.

Ignoring extenuating circumstances means you have zero consideration for the health and wellness of your employees. They’ll remember this, and you risk losing the engagement of some really talented and valuable people.

The key when dealing with no shows is that;

  1. No shows, even with a valid reason, do not become a habit. They should only happen in very exceptional circumstances.
  2. Team members make a reasonable effort to inform their manager/supervisor if they’re unable to make it to work.
  3. No shows are treated seriously enough that employees don’t feel like they can game the system.

Learn More: How to Deal With Sick Leave Abuse in Your Company

What Your Policy Should Include

If you’re creating a No Call No Show Policy, here are some things that should be laid out in your policy:

Define “no call”

What does “no call” mean for the policy?

State whether you expect employees to physically call in and let their superior know they can’t make it, or whether other notification methods are acceptable (e.g. text message, Slack message or notifying via your leave management system).


“If you are unable to make it to work for your scheduled shift, you must notify a manager by phone call, Slack message, or by making a leave request in the Flamingo leave tracker app.”

Proper notification procedure

Expand upon the first point and make it clear exactly how employees should notify that they can’t make it in to work.


“Employees must only notify their department manager if they are unable to make it to work. Notification must be made at least 30 minutes prior to their scheduled shift start time. Their manager may request a doctor’s note upon the employee’s return to work.”

Valid reasons for a no show

Set out extenuating circumstances or valid excuses when a no call, no show may be accepted, and not treated as a violation of your policy.


“Extenuating circumstances may apply, including personal or family emergencies, or if the employee is seriously injured or unwell and therefore cannot notify their manager. These cases will be assessed at the manager’s discretion.”

Consequences/action taken for no shows

Set out what happens when employees fail to comply with the policy. Explain the next steps, such as disciplinary action.


“If an employee fails to notify their manager by the accepted procedure, they will be subject to disciplinary action. Their absence will be filed as a no show in the human resource management portal.

The first No Call, No Show will result in a verbal warning. The second will result in a final written warning.”

Threshold for termination/dismissal

A No Call No Show Policy should say that a no call, no show may result in termination, and ideally, set out a threshold stating how many no call, no shows will be grounds for the employee to lose their job.


“More than two no shows, without the employee making a reasonable effort to give prior notice of their absence, will be treated as job abandonment and may result in termination of employment.”

Legal & Compliance Considerations

An important part of your No Call No Show Policy is ensuring you comply with any relevant laws or regulations.

For example, some national or state laws may have specific guidance as to when an employer can fire an employee and for what cause.

In some places, it’s illegal to dismiss an employee if they’re sick, or if they have a family emergency.

In some, certain processes and documentation are necessary if you’re going to fire an employee (including, most likely, a clear policy that employees have read and understand, such as the No Call No Show Policy).

Yet in some areas, including many US states, employment is “at-will”, and employers don’t need a valid reason to dismiss an employee (and thus could say that any no show is immediate grounds for dismissal).

Make sure you know the laws that apply to your business, and ensure your No Call No Show Policy abides by these laws.

Further Reading: Check out our reference hub on state and international leave laws and labor laws here.

Understand That Absences Happen

As we stated at the top, everyone will miss work at some point. A business needs to be ready for this; people will get sick, they’ll have family emergencies come up, they’ll wake up feeling overwhelmed and need to take a personal day.

The key is not to achieve a 100% attendance rate, it’s to make sure the business can keep running effectively when team members are absent.

For that to happen, you need advance notice, so that schedules can be arranged and tasks covered to keep operations going.

You can allow people to take time off when they need it, when they’re sick or they need a break, as long as:

  1. You avoid an excessive absence rate..
  2. There’s clear communication, keeping everyone in the loop.

Differentiating Excused and Unexcused Absences

With a No Call No Show Policy, we’re talking about unexcused absences, rather than excused absences.

Excused absences are those with a valid reason, i.e.:

These absences are to be expected, and while you don’t want an excessive number of excused absences, your business should be able to accommodate them at a reasonable rate.

Unexcused absences, however, should not be accepted outside of the mitigating circumstances we talked about earlier.

These absences are not just disruptive, but they show a callous disregard for the business and other team members.

When someone chooses not to show up, without a valid reason, they increase the workload for other team members and impede progress.

Unexcused absences lead to:

That’s why you need to treat these no show employees seriously, and do all you can to eliminate unexpected, unexcused absences in your business.

Tips to Handle and Reduce No Shows

A No Call No Show Policy is a good start, but there’s a lot more you can do to reduce no shows and absenteeism in your business.

Here are some tips for reducing the likelihood of no shows happening:

If no shows happen (and, once your business reaches a certain size, no shows become inevitable), always address them right away.

The longer you wait to follow up with someone after a no show, the less power you have to right the ship.

Leaving a no call, no show unaddressed essentially means you’re accepting it. You need to show that it is unacceptable.

Always talk to the employee and see if there is a deeper reason behind it (such as personal issues or issues in the workplace), but also hammer home the fact that unexplained absences will not be tolerated.

Final Thoughts

Once you’ve put your formal No Call No Show Policy together, make sure it’s readily accessible to employees, somewhere like your employee handbook, or as a subsection of your employee attendance policy.

Whenever you create a new policy, make sure existing employees are notified of the policy, and that you have each employee sign to say that they have read and understand the No Call, No Show Policy.

You’ll also want an easy way to track no shows, like Flamingo.

With Flamingo, you can create a special leave type for no shows, and managers can easily note the absent employee in the system, keeping a (virtual) paper trail for compliance and following up with the employee for potential disciplinary action.

It also gives employees an easy way to notify their manager if they can’t make it in, reducing no call, no show cases by improving lines of communication.

Try Flamingo for free and get set up in five minutes.

Learn More

You don’t want to have to terminate employees because of your No Call No Show Policy; ideally, you’ll keep turnover low, maintain a cohesive team, and have everyone come to work when they’re supposed to.

Keep that in mind in creating your policy and handling no shows. Discipline where necessary, but always try to achieve a positive outcome for the business.

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