When an employee calls out sick, it throws a wrench in the works for your business. You have to shuffle around schedules, find a replacement, and deal with the hassle of documenting and tracking the occurrence.
How you deal with employee absences can make the difference between your operation running like a well-oiled machine or grinding to a halt.
Often, the process is overly tedious for employees and managers alike. Inconsistent call-in procedures, outdated or inadequate voicemail systems, manual data entry, and incomplete processes can slow down even the most efficient companies.
But what if there was a way to make dealing with employee call-outs easier? Just think how much smoother everything would run if you had a system to help manage employee attendance efficiently, without as much human intervention and expense.
Thankfully, these systems exist! Employee call-off systems or attendance hotlines are vital in managing employee attendance.
These solutions help streamline a company’s absence reporting process and can provide the software, automation, and reporting needed to keep track of employee attendance without spreadsheets and labor-intensive manual processes.
Selecting the right employee call-off solution is essential for managers, HR departments, and other decision-makers responsible for overseeing a large workforce. These tools are essential for manufacturing plants, warehouses, and other businesses with employees working in shifts.
Today, we’ll be looking at:
What is an employee call-off hotline, exactly?
An employee call-off hotline is a dedicated phone number that employees call to report they will be absent or tardy from work. The number may be an internal line or one managed by a third-party call center.
These services provide a single phone number that employees can call 24 hours a day to call in sick or notify their employer that they won’t be working their shift as scheduled.
Call-in lines are generally managed by a third-party call center or answering service. They may be staffed by live operators or automated via an IVR system.
Employee call-off systems are referred to by many different names, including:
- Call-off service
- Call-out system
- Employee call-in line
- Absence reporting system
- Call-in number
- Call-out hotline
- Employee hotline
- Attendance hotline
This service will provide your organization with one unique phone number that any employee can call at any time to report an absence. The system will obtain all the relevant information about the absence and automatically notify everyone who needs to know.
A hotline service documents every absence or tardy by providing a single, consistent reporting process across the company. In addition, it allows for immediate notification of the proper personnel to make payroll amendments or quickly find a replacement.
The cost of absenteeism and the benefits of employee call-out systems
Accidents, illnesses, and other emergencies can happen at any time. Although employees are responsible for giving ample notice to their employer, it’s often impossible for them to notify all the people their absence will impact. That list could include a shift supervisor, manager, scheduler, HR department, and coworkers. Still, each individual could be affected by a change in personnel for the day.
According to Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer, a publication of the workforce solution company Circadian, unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker. So for a company with 100 employees, absenteeism costs them $360,000 annually!
The bigger the company, the higher the chance of absence miscommunication and the more significant the effect on productivity.
Further, poor documentation and a wrongful termination lawsuit or dispute could spell disaster for a corporation’s legal team. Employee lawsuit settlements have cost companies an average of $40,000 over the last ten years and even more in cases that went to court.
If you want to curb this potential loss before it can happen, increase your company’s productivity, and reduce HR costs, an employee call-in line can help.
The benefits of establishing an employee call-in number
The benefits of using an employee call-in number are evident at every level of the organization. A streamlined system makes everyone’s lives easier, from employees to HR and management.
All employees will appreciate having an easy and consistent method for reporting scheduling changes. Further, they can access a personalized dashboard detailing their absence history, available leave, and other administrative information all in one place.
A third-party call-in system also means that other employees do not need to spend time passing absence information around in a relay to make sure that it gets to its proper destination.
When absences require shift changes to fill gaps, the system can notify your scheduling department immediately to solve the problem. With a comprehensive solution like CMS, the call-off system can automatically trigger the process of finding a replacement. This reduces the risk of downtime or work stoppage.
HR will appreciate having a reliable way to find out who was absent and when allowing for proper payroll accommodations — especially when shift changes lead to additional hours for employees called to fill in.
The right system can save time by automatically administering your employee attendance point system. That means no more manual data entry or excessive amounts of time spent in spreadsheets.
Management will not have to worry about accommodating every individual absence but will be able to view and track absence data to make actionable changes that benefit the entire company’s productivity.
Why should employers use an employee call-off system?
Employee call-off hotlines can benefit every level of your organization, but what are these benefits? A few items have been discussed already, but let’s take a closer look at the positive impact an employee attendance hotline service can have on your business.
Some of the many improvements you are likely to notice after switching to an employee call-off hotline include the following:
- More consistent and dependable record keeping
- Fewer work interruptions
- An overall increase in workplace productivity
- A built-in deterrent for time-off abuse
- A reduction in employee-related lawsuits or union disputes
Here’s how an employee absence reporting line can enhance the operations of your corporation, including some of the reasons why, in over 25 years of providing this service at CMS, we have never had a service cancelation.
Standardized Record Keeping
The first and most important facet of an effective HR organization is consistent record-keeping without information gaps. This can be the difference between a passed or failed audit, a lawsuit won or lost, and a business that continues growing or buckles under pressure.
The key to successful record-keeping practices, though, is automation and standardization. You don’t want your valuable managers spending too much time organizing attendance spreadsheets when they could instead be training and recruiting successful new employees, designing operational improvements, or mentoring future leaders.
You also don’t want different plants or departments creating separate procedures due to a lack of standards.
A single absence can be disruptive enough to a shift. But the need to accommodate payroll changes, find a replacement employee to take over the shift and document the absence are additional strains on your precious resources.
By employing an automated absence reporting line and attendance tracking system, you can gather all the necessary documentation and keep track of more data than an in-house team could typically support.
The system accepts calls on your behalf 24/7 and collects all of the required Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) information. If you would like additional data collected, the system is also fully customizable to your liking. For example, your call-off service could pair with a COVID-19 screening hotline.
Further, your data is automatically available on a personalized employer dashboard. Upper-level management can view all company-wide data. Human Resources can access accurate attendance records. And you can notify scheduling, management, and anyone else who needs to make operational decisions based on absentee information.
Saves Time and Money
The cost of absenteeism is steep and goes beyond the impact on production.
Manually tracking employee attendance is time-consuming and requires extensive resources. There’s the time spent on data entry, fielding call-offs, notifying the appropriate parties, keeping employee records up to date, filling shifts, preparing reports, and responding to inquiries or disputes. It’s a full-time job.
A CMS employee call-off line helps your organization save money by streamlining and standardizing absenteeism reporting.
A third-party hotline vendor like CMS is responsible for everything and operates 24 hours a day.
Every call-off gets documented, notifications automated, records updated, and data synced between applications. In addition, other applicable processes and workflows, like shift backfilling, are triggered automatically.
Prevents Work Interruptions
We don’t have to be the ones to tell you that an absence or even tardiness can be a significant interruption to the carefully planned workday.
When an employee needs someone else to fill in for them, but the notification comes too late or doesn’t reach the right person, finding a last-minute replacement can be challenging.
As employees miss more work, others are left picking up the slack. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), overtime covers 47 percent of employee absences, and coworkers are perceived to be 29.5 percent less productive when covering for absent employees.
Further, if someone cannot make it to work, their daily responsibilities cannot always be passed off to someone else or distributed amongst other employees. As a result, someone calling off sick can impact your entire production line.
This confusion can interrupt many employees’ workdays when just one has a last-minute emergency.
By utilizing a reliable call-out service, you can automate many of the re-scheduling responsibilities stemming from an absence and receive detailed absence data more quickly to respond to developing situations as soon as possible.
Scheduling offices can be notified immediately, shift managers will be looped in, and HR can receive a detailed list of who took what shift — including when absences were covered. So, everyone has access to the information they need when they need it and can readily accommodate potential workplace disruptions with less time spent on the task.
Further, if all employees can access their personalized dashboard of absence data and information, HR is relieved from having to answer procedural or administrative questions.
Working hand-in-hand with preventing workplace interruptions is an overall increase in productivity. At length, we have already discussed how absences can significantly decrease overall organizational productivity.
An employee call-off hotline can make up that difference.
Productivity is not just about people showing up when they need to — although that is a significant part. It is also about how absences are managed and treated.
Effective absence management will decrease workday interruptions for everyone involved, increasing productivity. It will also reduce the strain on other employees who would have to perform more work when a replacement cannot be found.
Finally and most importantly is something that might sound counterintuitive: proper absence management can increase productivity by increasing intentional employee time off.
Presenteeism is when employees come to work even when they’re sick. This can have several negative consequences for both the individual and the company.
For the individual, presenteeism can lead to worsening symptoms and a longer recovery time. It can also lead to more severe health complications.
For the company, presenteeism can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher healthcare costs.
When an employee feels under the weather but knows that calling in sick will disturb their colleagues’ workday and require extra work later to make up the difference, they may be disinclined to take a needed day off.
Going to work sick places an incredible strain on our bodies and minds and can cause others to get sick and increase the overall decline in working ability.
When the absence reporting process is simple and effective, employees can take time off that they need without worrying that they have disrupted everyone else’s workday.
When they call the CMS attendance hotline, they will receive a personal confirmation number, so they can be confident that their case has been handled accordingly. This allows employees to make the most of the time off without worrying about the potential strain placed on their colleagues.
Deters Time-Off Abuse
Although streamlined absence reporting procedures will enable workers to take time off when needed, a comprehensive call-out system will also help deter abuse of this privilege.
Time off abuse is when employees take more time off than they are entitled to or don’t follow the company’s attendance policy. This can be a serious problem for businesses, leading to lost productivity and extra costs.
There are a few different ways that companies can deter time off abuse. One way is to have a clear and concise policy outlining the expectations and consequences for abusing time off. Another way is to give employees regular feedback on their attendance and work performance.
CMS’s employee call-off system helps companies enforce their attendance policies by providing up-to-date attendance data across your entire organization.
Employees can mindfully monitor their absence data and available days off to ensure they are still meeting their requirements when emergencies occur.
Employers can access comprehensive data that alert them to potential abuses before they can become a chronic problem.
Additionally, by having a consistent, standardized system for the entire company, employees know what is expected of them when they need to call out sick. This method also ensures that everyone is treated fairly by being held to the same standard.
Reduces Lawsuits and Disputes
You could face severe consequences if you don’t have accurate employee attendance records. These include disputes over pay and benefits and even lawsuits.
If legal questions come up, as they sometimes do, the data gathered by the hotline enables you to take effective action that minimizes the risks of going to court.
One area where this is especially important is FMLA.
Employer costs for FMLA violations can range from modest fines to crippling legal expenditures. The key to mounting a defense is good documentation.
Regarding FMLA attendance discipline, you may call an employee out for suspected abuse of their approved leave privileges. This includes calling out on days that were not scheduled as FMLA leave, failing to call in as required, and failing to provide the necessary documentation on time.
We cannot stress too strongly the need for detailed documentation of every encounter with the employee regarding FMLA and all of the information they submit. It may be impossible to piece together the events surrounding their leave after the fact, so you must have a sound documentation system to collect everything in real-time.
All attendance calls to your call-off hotline can be monitored and recorded so that irrefutable evidence can be provided if there is a misunderstanding.
This consistency across the service protects you and your employees, ensures that no one is mistreated, and saves you the tens of thousands of dollars companies have been known to lose in employee-related lawsuits.
Essential employee attendance hotline features
Here’s a secret: an employee call-off hotline isn’t enough. Yes, having a system that captures employee absences is a great tool, but that’s only part of the process.
The more your employee call-off system can do, the better. It’s far better to have one cost-effective tool that addresses multiple problems than to have numerous systems and personnel handling the various parts.
For most companies, it makes sense to opt for an all-in-one employee call-off system like CMS than a simple hotline that just captures call-offs. Why have a separate system for keeping track of employee attendance points when your call-in hotline comes with software that can do it for you?
Here are the significant features that every company should look for when deciding on the best call-off hotline service for their needs.
1. A hotline for absence reporting
An essential part of any attendance policy is the employee call-in procedures: employees’ guidelines for notifying their employer of an unplanned absence. To enforce this policy, an organization needs to provide a means for employees to call in.
The phone system used to capture employee call-offs is the first piece of the puzzle.
This may be an internal voicemail box or even direct lines to various supervisors or departments for businesses that aren’t using a call-off service.
However, this feature is performed by live call center agents or an automated IVR system when using a call-off system. At CMS, we offer both live operators and IVR-based call-taking systems.
The hotline includes a dedicated phone number that employees will call whenever they’re calling off for their shift, running late, or leaving early. The toll-free number is generally set up solely for employee attendance calls.
A vital element of the hotline is providing a streamlined and standardized process for each call. This is achieved through a script that captures each piece of information from the employee step-by-step.
Employee attendance records are only as good as the information you collect. Therefore, you must gather data during daily events rather than re-creating the details after the fact.
When it comes to collecting raw data into a file that accurately reflects the circumstances of an absence, here are some general questions to ask when the employee calls off from work:
- Employee’s name
- Name of the caller (if other than the employee)
- Callback phone number
- Employee ID
- Plant and clock numbers
- Department name
- Supervisor/shift supervisor’s name
- Will the employee be absent from work or late starting?
- Date of the absence or tardy
- Date they expect to return to work
- Detailed reason for the absence
- Is the employee requesting FMLA leave for this absence?
- If so, detailed reason they believe this absence qualifies as FMLA-protected and the essential job functions they cannot perform
- When did they (or expect to) see a health provider for this injury/illness?
- Have they taken leave in the past for the same condition? When?
- What prevented the employee from calling on time if the call-in was not timely?
- The Other relevant information
You can gather information through a standard or personalized script to fit your circumstances.
Each employee should receive a confirmation code to verify their call was recorded and locate the record if they need to reference it in the future.
2. Supervisor and HR notifications
Employee absences don’t occur in a vacuum. Other people are impacted, and the appropriate parties must be notified immediately.
The CMS employee call-off hotline can send notifications to the appropriate parties immediately after receiving a call-in. Who gets what and by which contact method can be determined on the fly based on the call details, ensuring everyone gets the precise information they need—when and how they need it.
For example, our system can intelligently route attendance notifications to production line managers, shift leads, department heads, or multiple contacts. Messages can be sent via email or SMS or retrieved via our online dashboard.
Your call-off software should be capable of dynamically sending multiple notifications to the right people with the information that is relevant to them.
For example, a shift supervisor may only need basic information that alerts them someone has called off. In contrast, HR requires a complete transcript of the call and all the data recorded.
3. Reporting, analytics, and attendance tracking dashboard
You want your call-off hotline to do more than capture information from employees. Instead, it should track that information for you and make the data easily accessible.
A fully-featured call-off service should include a web portal or management dashboard that you can use to monitor call-offs and see a complete record of attendance updates across your company.
The CMS employee call-off hotline provides total attendance reporting through our online dashboard and employee self-service portal. Our dashboard gets updated in real-time, so you can be assured that you always get the most accurate picture of your workforce.
Employee attendance reports provide essential information about a business’s primary asset: its employees. However, attendance reports are more than just a series of timestamps and numbers that tell you when employees clock in and out. The cost of employee absences can significantly impact a company’s bottom line.
Things you should look for include:
- The ability to keep track of an employee’s entire attendance record
- A complete record of each call made to the hotline
- The ability to manually log information and leave notes
- Tiered access for HR, supervisors, and other personnel that may require access to different data
- Reports by individual, department, location, and company-wide reporting
- Charts for tracking absence rate, call-offs by date and day of the week, reasons for call-offs,
- Employee roster
- System history and data integrity report
- CSV export capabilities
- Employee portal for monitoring their attendance
A feature-rich dashboard will help your organization track and respond to attendance data faster without the expense of manual data entry or tedious spreadsheet management.
4. Attendance point tracking
An attendance policy based on points is similar to the point system used by many state motor vehicle departments to quantify a driver’s performance behind the wheel.
Like a good driver, a conscientious employee may have no points; the fewer the points, the greater the rewards for the worker.
Conversely, the more points an employee accumulates, the more disciplinary action they can expect.
A practical point system can help deal with attendance issues in your organization fairly and consistently, discouraging excessive tardiness and absenteeism. When employees gain too many points, they face disciplinary action; when employees maintain good attendance, they are rewarded.
There are downsides to point-based attendance policies, including the cost of maintaining the system and the potential for disputes. In addition, keeping track of employee points across your entire organization is time-consuming. The challenges with maintaining the system can also lead to legal issues.
For example, if your attendance policies do not exclude absences for legally protected reasons, such as a disability or using paid sick leave, they are illegal. Both State and federal law require that these types of absences be excluded from employee discipline.
The CMS call-out system incorporates point tracking and can automate this tedious record-keeping process. For example, when an employee calls off or their attendance record is updated, their points are updated accordingly, based on the type of infraction.
Having point system tracking included as part of your call-off hotline software is essential if you utilize this type of attendance policy because tracking it separately, or, worse yet, manually, is costly and prone to expensive errors.
5. Shift fill and backfill
Finding a replacement is often another manual and time-consuming process when a shift opens up. Wouldn’t life be easier if you could skip the manual phone calls and have an automated system do the work for you?
Call-off systems with shift fill or shift backfilling functionality can do just that.
Backfilling is the process of filling an open position with another employee. It is a reactive process that means “refilling a hole” that has opened within your shift schedule. Backfilling is generally a short-term or immediate process that aims to maintain current staffing levels as quickly as possible with minimal disruption, often from within an existing talent pool.
Automated shift fill can identify which shifts need to be filled and who is qualified to fill them, and then contact personnel by text, phone, or email to offer open shifts.
6. HR automation and policy enforcement
We have examined a number of features that will save your staff time and money, but there are a number of additional HR tasks that are ripe for improvement.
As we’ve seen, there’s a lot that goes into tracking employee attendance and responding to call-offs beyond record keeping.
Before choosing a hotline provider, it’s worth taking the time to examine your existing processes and identify the pain points to ensure your new system addresses them.
The right tool will either include the features and automation capabilities that you’re looking for or have the ability to configure them to meet your requirements.
CMS offers a fully customizable call-off hotline with numerous automated capabilities designed to streamline and improve HR procedures.
One example is utilizing the hotline to automate elements of your attendance policy enforcement.
CMS can notify employees when their points reach certain thresholds or remind them in advance if a call-off triggers disciplinary action. Our system can also generate and send documents such as warning letters and other corrective actions or policy paperwork. We can even create an audit log to keep track of the paper trail.
7. HRIS and HR software integration
If you aren’t already, you may soon be utilizing some form of Human Resources (HR) software to help manage your employees, such as an HRIS or HRMS system.
These software applications help companies meet their HR needs and manage employee data, including payroll and benefits information.
Some tools in this space include ADP, UKG, Workday, Paycor, and Rippling.
CMS’s employee call-off solutions can integrate with your existing applications to push and pull data. For example, this can be used to keep your employee roster up to date or update their record in other systems.
Has an employee’s contact information changed? CMS can pull the latest data from your HRIS to ensure notifications are going to the right place.
Having a call-in service that integrates with your existing systems is particularly useful as your business grows and you face more documentation and compliance demands. CMS can give you peace of mind knowing that employee records are consistently maintained across systems.
The 6 best employee call-out systems and attendance hotlines of 2022
So you’ve determined that you need a better solution for managing your employee call-ins. You want to see the best call-off hotline providers out there in 2022. We’ve compiled some of the best and broken down each one.
Let’s review the list.
1. CMS (Continental Message Solution)
Okay, we know we’re biased. But we’re biased for a reason. CMS is just the best call-in solution on the market.
We know that having an employee call-off hotline isn’t enough and that businesses need an all-in-one solution that helps improve their entire attendance tracking function.
We help companies leave their time-consuming attendance management and reporting headaches behind.
CMS is perfect for busy HR professionals because we help automate repetitive tasks and improve record-keeping. With CMS, you can standardize and streamline your call-off process, enabling a 24/7 flow of information with real-time notifications and valuable data at your fingertips.
Advanced features like employee point tracking and backfill enable you to move faster while maintaining accuracy and transparency.
Features that HR and management staff love include:
- Dedicate employee call-in number available 24/7
- Have calls handled by live agents or automated IVR
- Real-time notifications
- Customizable scripting
- Web portal and analytics
- Call recordings
- Automated attendance point tracking
- Automated shift fill
- Automated attendance policy enforcement, warnings, and document generation
Pricing: Starting at $50 a month
2. AMBS Call Center
AMBS Call Center is a family-owned answering service located in Michigan and Tampa, Florida.
They offer a standard call-off hotline that your employees can use to call in sick. However, their solution is focused on answering attendance calls and not so much on HR automation. There is no point tracking, shift fill, or automated policy enforcement (like with CMS).
With a starting price point of $295 a month, they are one of the more expensive options on our list.
Also, according to a recent blog post, they are on a waitlist due to capacity problems.
- 24/7 employee attendance call-in line
- Live agents only (no IVR or automated option)
- Web portal
Pricing: Starting at $295 a month1
3. Direct Line Tele Response
Headquartered in Berkeley, CA, Direct Line Tele Response provides call center and live answering services. Their solutions include inbound call taking, messaging, urgent dispatch, and other answering services that are available 24/7/365.
Their attendance hotline service provides a designated number for employees to report absences and tardiness.
They utilize live agents for each call, which can make the service more costly than solutions with an automated option. CMS offers an optional IVR-based service that can capture call-offs without the expense of live operators.
- 24/7 employee attendance call-in line
- Live agents only (no IVR or automated option)
Pricing: Available upon request 2
4. MAP Communications
MAP Communications is a nationwide provider of phone answering services and call center solutions.
They provide a 24/7 call-out line that is effective for basic call capture. However, their system won’t automate related HR processes for you, so they fall short of being an all-in-one solution.
CMS offers valuable automated capabilities that our clients consider invaluable, including keeping track of attendance points and helping HR enforce attendance policies, generate documents, send notifications, and fill open shifts.
- 24/7 employee attendance call-in line
- Live agents only (no IVR or automated option)
- Web portal
Pricing: Starting at $43 a month 3
5. Answer United
Answer United is a national answering and call center service provider. Like CMS, they have been in business for over 50 years.
They offer both live agent and automated options for capturing employee call-offs. However, their automated capabilities are limited to the phone call itself. What happens after, such as initiating shift fill procedures or other HR tasks, would still be manual processes.
CMS offers automated attendance tracking functionality that can save HR countless hours each month.
- 24/7 employee attendance call-in line
- Live agent or automated IVR
- Web portal
Pricing: Available upon request 4
TeamSense is a software platform that helps teams work better together by improving communication, absence management, and team member feedback—all through text.
They are a new entrant to the employee call-in space. Their mobile approach is text-only, which means they don’t offer an actual call-off hotline that employees have to dial to report an absence. Their system makes it easier for employees to call off, which could be a problem if you want to discourage excessive absenteeism.
Not having a hotline also means there are no call recordings for record-keeping purposes.
CMS records every call made to your call-off hotline just in case you need them, but listening to call-offs isn’t required. Instead, our system tracks all the data in our web portal for effortless access.
- Text-based system (no hotline)
- Web portal
Pricing: $3 per employee per month for a plan with no customization (so $150 per month for a company with 50 employees) 5
Which call-off hotline is the best for you?
Establishing a call-off hotline is a must for companies dealing with daily attendance calls.
The right tool will help you effortlessly capture and track employee call-ins and automate the follow-up tasks and absence management processes that zap HR’s time and resources.
Unlike manually tracking call-outs via an internal system, attendance hotline providers don’t require hiring additional staff and can help you centralize and standardize your call-in processes.
A modern hotline solution like CMS provides more bang for your buck by delivering HR automation and advanced software features that help your team get more done with less effort. With CMS, your company can spend more time being productive and less time on paperwork.
Learn more about CMS employee call-off systems
Are you interested in establishing a call-off hotline? Contact CMS today to review our plans and pricing and discuss your organization’s attendance tracking needs.