Sometimes employees have to (or decide to) miss work. When that happens, the natural and responsible thing for them to do is notify their employer. But the who, what, when, and why of that notification aren’t always well defined, leading to problems. 

From productivity losses and downtime to FMLA disputes and increased absenteeism, the lack of concrete attendance policies and procedures can be costly for all involved. A good attendance policy should include all of a company’s rules and guidelines regarding taking leave, tardiness, early outs, and no-shows. In addition, the policy should clearly define the company’s expectations and outline the repercussions for poor attendance. 

One crucial element of any attendance policy is the “Employee Call-in Procedures,” which is the topic we will be exploring in today’s blog. 

What is an employee call-in? 

A call-in is an unplanned absence from work (or any other attendance infraction) that results in an employee “calling in” by phone to notify their employer. “Calling in sick” is the most commonly used form of the phrase, which of course means to telephone your employer and tell them you won’t be coming to work because you are ill. 

The terms “call off” and “call out” are often used interchangeably with “call in.” However, when used in the context of an employee calling their employer, each means the same thing: reporting an absence from work. 

The term “call-in” can also refer to the exact opposite situation: an employer asking an employee to work outside their schedule. For example, you may hear someone say that they “got called into work on my day off because someone else called in sick.” However, this usage is less common. 

What are employee call-in procedures? 

Employee call-in procedures are the guidelines that an employee must follow in the event of an unscheduled absence or unplanned leave request. These call-in procedures dictate precisely who an employee should notify and how far in advance of their shift they must give notice. 

Employee call-in procedures are part of an organization’s overarching absence notification policy, which contains guidelines for approaching any absence, including planned leave. 

As an example, here are Vanderbilt University’s call-in procedures for employees: 

“Employees are expected to follow departmental notification procedures if they will be late for work, will not be at work, or are requesting planned time away from work. Employees must request in advance to their supervisor or designee and in accordance with departmental procedure if they wish to arrive early or leave early from an assigned shift.

At the time of notification/call, the employee must notify their supervisor when an absence is due to a documented/approved leave of absence (e.g. Military Leave, FMLA) in order to ensure appropriate tracking of leave utilization and absenteeism.

An employee who fails to call in and report to work as scheduled for three consecutively scheduled work days will be viewed as having abandoned their position and employment will be terminated. The supervisor should consult with Human Resources if this situation occurs.

Incidents of not following the departmental notification procedures, including No-Call/No-Show, will be addressed in accordance with the Progressive Discipline policy.” Source

Why are employee call-in procedures necessary? 

There are numerous reasons for establishing a thorough call-in procedure. 

First, managing a workforce and dealing with absences, no-shows, and scheduling changes is challenging, and a standardized call-in process helps ease some of the burdens. For example, a call-in process that gives supervisors ample time to find a replacement in the event of a call-off can help a company maintain staffing levels and avoid downtime. 

There are also FMLA regulations related to call-in procedures that employers should follow to help protect themselves from leave-related compliance issues and to help prevent employees from abusing their FMLA leave. 

Do you need help managing your employee call-ins? 

CMS is a leading provider of employee call-off hotlines that enable organizations to centralize and standardize their call-in processes. Click here to learn more.