Occasionally employees miss work. They get sick; an emergency arises; they just need a day off — for whatever reason, they won’t be at work that day. 

The question for the business is: now what? What steps do you need to take when an employee calls off of work? 

Each business has its processes, but this blog will examine some of the standard steps a company should take whenever an employee calls off work. Some are relatively intuitive and likely already be in place to some degree at your organization. However, there may be inefficiencies or inconsistencies that could cause problems now or in the future. 

We’ll look to include some tips or things to consider at each step along the way. Let’s start with what happens when they call off. 

Step 1: Acknowledge the Call and Keep a Record of the Absence

The first step often happens spontaneously: an employee calls in and speaks to their manager (or whoever answers the phone) to let them know that they won’t be in for the day. The employee explains what’s going on, the person taking the call acknowledges them, and both parties move on with their day. 

This first step is straightforward enough, but two elements are worthy of closer examination: 

  1. The call-off process: How do employees go about calling out of work? Do you have defined call-in procedures? Is there a standardized system for handling employee call-offs? Without one, calls could go anywhere, with unpredictable outcomes. A simple way to streamline this process is to establish an employee call-off hotline, a centralized number that handles all attendance-related calls. 
  2. Attendance records: Where is the information logged? What do you include in the official record of the infraction? Is there a call recording, an entry in a software application, an email? It’s essential to keep detailed employee attendance records and follow a consistent process. These records could help avoid or resolve disputes in the future. If you don’t have a call-off hotline that will record and timestamp calls automatically, you can log the time and date of the conversation along with the details and keep track of that information elsewhere. For small businesses, a simple spreadsheet will often suffice. 

If you don’t have a process that every employee follows when they will miss work or a system for recording those occurrences, establishing them will help avoid miscommunication.

Step 2: Notify the Appropriate Parties and Limit the Negative Impact (Cost) of the Absence 

At a small business with only a few employees, the first step may be all that happens. The person who takes the call makes a mental note, and the rest of the staff absorbs the responsibilities of the absent employees. 

For larger organizations or those with specialized roles or very particular staffing requirements, there are generally additional steps necessary to respond to an unplanned absence, including notifying the appropriate parties and working to limit the impact on business operations. 

Notifying the appropriate parties is vital because it is the first step in assessing what everyone needs to do due to someone missing a shift. For example, the absent employee’s supervisor would know what the employee was responsible for and whether to make any adjustments now that they won’t be at work. 

There are several steps a company might need to take when an employee calls off, including finding a suitable replacement, adjusting the schedule for the day, or redistributing tasks and responsibilities among other staff. 

There are a couple of tools that can help with this step: 

  1. Automated call-off systems can immediately send out notifications whenever an employee calls off. 
  2. Shift fill/backfilling solutions can help automate identifying and contacting potential replacements in the event one is necessary. 

Step 3: Follow and Enforce Your Attendance Policy

The final step is to make sure that you follow and enforce your company’s attendance policy. An effective attendance policy lays out your company’s expectations and allows for fair and consistent enforcement. 

Infrequent attendance incidents often aren’t a big deal. Nonetheless, companies must address unscheduled absences. When the employee returns to work, sit down, talk about what happened, and communicate their standing concerning company policy. Alternatively, these communications could be sent to the employee automatically. 

The key is that employees know whether their absence has triggered any sort of disciplinary action or a performance plan.

Chronic employee absenteeism is a problem that develops over time. Promptly and consistently enforcing your attendance policy can help you address minor issues before they spiral out of control. 


Employee absences are unavoidable, and following standardized procedures will help you limit absenteeism’s impact on your business. 

Whenever an employee calls out of work, you should always: 

  1. Acknowledge the call and keep a record of the absence
  2. Notify the appropriate parties and work to limit the impact of the absence
  3. Follow and enforce your attendance policy

Are you looking to improve your company’s attendance processes? An employee call-off hotline from CMS can help. Contact us today to learn more!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels