Do your employees follow a defined process when they call in sick? If not, it may be time to establish call-in procedures.

Sometimes employees have to (or decide to) miss work. When that happens, the natural and responsible thing to do is to 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 of poor attendance. 

One crucial element of any attendance policy is the “Employee Call-in Procedure,” 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 (or using another approved communication channel) to notify their employer.

This terminology comes from the commonly used phrase, “calling in sick,” which refers to calling your employer and telling 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.”

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 for 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. 

These guidelines may also be referred to as an absence reporting policy or call-out procedures.

What to Include In Your Employee Call-in Procedures: Where to report an absence; when to report; guidelines for what information must be provided; and any exceptions to the standard call-in procedure, such as a dual call-in policy for FMLA

Standard Elements of a Call-in Policy

While the specifics of call-in policies will vary from company to company, a few standard elements are typically included. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating or refining your call-in policy:

  • Be clear about who (e.g., supervisor or call-in line) needs to be notified of an absence and how (e.g., by phone, email, etc.).
  • Specify when absences need to be reported (e.g., as soon as possible, but no less than two hours before the start of the shift).
  • Include what information needs to be provided when reporting an absence (e.g., name, employee ID number, dates of absence, etc.).
  • State if there are any exceptions to the policy (e.g., absences due to illness may require a doctor’s note).

Having a clear and concise call-in policy in place can help ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to reporting absences. This can help minimize disruptions to your business and keep things running smoothly.

Employee Call-out Policy Examples

Below are a few actual examples of employee call-out/absence reporting policies.

Example #1: Call-off Policy for a University Requiring Supervisor Notification

From USF’s Attendance and Leave Policies and Procedures for Employees:

Absence from Work 

A. Pre-Planned Absence 

Any time planned by the employee to be away from his/her regularly scheduled hours of work must be approved, at least 24 hours in advance, by the manager/supervisor and must be done in compliance with any departmental policies regarding scheduled time off.

B. Notification 

If for any reason the employee is unable to report to work or is going to be late for duty, it is the employee’s responsibility to notify his/her manager/supervisor through the appropriate department notification procedure. This is necessary so that arrangements for coverage can be made. Notification should be at least two (2) hours in advance of scheduled start time; however, individual departments may set a different minimum standard for notification. The notification requirement applies to each day of absence unless the manager/supervisor approves an extended absence. 

Employees are expected to inform the supervisor/manager if an absence is due to a medical condition covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). 

An employee who fails to report to work and does not call to report the absence is considered to have an unreported absence, more commonly known as a No Call/No Show; this is the most serious absence offense. The first day of a No Call/No Show will result in a Written Reprimand. Failure to notify the manager/supervisor for three (3) consecutive days will be considered job abandonment.

Example #2: Call-out Procedures for HR Operations Department

From the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Call-in Procedure Sample:

Name: Report Absence or Tardy

Purpose: To report an unscheduled absence or tardy in conjunction with the institutional Attendance Policy.

Scope: This policy applies all employees in the HR Operations


    • Absence – Time off from work. An absence may be scheduled or unscheduled.
    • Tardy – When an employee reports for duty after the scheduled starting time or returns
      late from a scheduled meal or break period.


    1. Employees must report an unscheduled absence one (1) hour before their shift is to begin.
    2. Employee must report a tardy as soon as possible.
    3. Employees, who report to work on or before 8:30 a.m., must call the Supervisor or Manager on site (See contact list below). If you report to work after 8:30 a.m. you will need to speak with your immediate Supervisor or Manager. Manager’s and directors report their absences to their one up or their one up’s delegate.
    4. A Supervisor or Manager must be contacted personally in order to report an unscheduled absence or tardy. If you have an open FMLA case, you must indicate whether or not the absence is related to your FMLA case or not. If no indication is made, the absence will be noted as NOT FMLA-related.
    5. Non-exempt employees are tardy if they report to work eight minutes after their shift starts.
    6. Unacceptable forms of notification of unscheduled absence or tardy are voice mail, calling a fellow co-worker or via email.
    7. Acceptable forms of notification of absence or tardy is by submitting a Request for Time Off prior to the date of requested time off or if an unscheduled absence talking to a manager, director or supervisor directly.
    8. Requests for time off received less than one (1) week prior to date of requested time off will be approved or denied on a case by case basis.
    9. Requests for time off received one day prior to requested day off would be approved at the discretion of the Manager/Supervisor.

Example #3: Call-in Procedures for a Manufacturing Plant that Uses an Employee Call-off Hotline

From Goodman’s Attendance & Days Away from Work Policy:


Employees are responsible for calling the absentee hotline to report an absence or a late arrival no later than 30 minutes prior to the start of their shift. Factory employees must utilize their local plant call-in number to properly notify the management team of the absence or tardy.

Employees are to provide their name, employee number, reason for being late or absent, request for proper coding of the absence or late arrival [i.e., personal paid time (which require preapproval), tardiness, workers’ compensation, etc.] and when they intend to return to work after an absence.

Progressive disciplinary action will be taken for failure to report an absence as stated above.

Each supervisor is responsible for reviewing, tracking and approving attendance records of employees for the week. (This is extremely important and failure to do so may result in disciplinary action for the supervisor.)

Employees are responsible for providing documentation for approved absences that may not count toward attendance discipline. They are also responsible for keeping up with their own attendance record.

Personal Paid time does not count as occurrences and will be replenished January 1 of each year.

Hotline numbers are as follows.

Example #4: Non-profit Policy Using Call-in Line/Voicemail Box and Supervisor Notification

Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio’s Absence Reporting Policy from their Employee Handbook


When an employee will not be in for any reason, the employee must call XXX-XXX-XXXX at which time a Goodwill Representative will take down the call-in message. If you are calling on a weekend or after hours, the requested call-in questions listed below must be left on the general voice mail box. 

Employees must call both the manager on duty and the answering service as indicated above before their scheduled shift if they are going to be late or calling off for the day. If leaving work early the employee must call the answering service as well before departing from work. Any deviances will be considered and “improper call-in”. 

If an employee fails to call both the manager and the answering service before the start of their shift if they all calling off for the day, this will be considered a “no call no show” as well as an “improper call-in”. 

If proper call-in procedures are not followed, disciplinary action may follow. Please refer to section 7. Both “three day no call no show” terminations and failure to report absences or late arrivals are discussed. 


    • Your Name 
    • Location Worked 
    • Supervisor’s Name 
    • Date and Time Scheduled 
    • Are you going to be late or calling off all day?
    •  Reason Date Returning Phone # to be reached at 

Be sure to give complete answers to all questions. 

You must call in each day you will be off work. If you start to feel better, you are encouraged to report to work.

Failure to follow the above procedures may prevent the use of sick pay for time lost.

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. 

Read more: FMLA Call-in Procedures: What Employers Need to Know

Using a Call-in Hotline to Standardize and Simplify Your Procedures 

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. 

One call-in number for all of your employees

CMS’s Employee Call-Off Hotline makes it easy to manage your employee call-ins by providing a dedicated, centralized hotline with time-saving features, including online reporting and automated policy enforcement.

By Last Updated: January 23, 2024Categories: Blog9.3 min read