Employees who fail to show up for work without letting anyone know can seriously affect your other employees and even your business as a whole. Use this guide to develop an effective no-call, no-show policy and deal with NCNS employees.

Table of contents
  1. What Is a No Call No Show Employee?
  2. Does No Call No Show constitute job abandonment?
  3. How to Deal With NCNS Employees?
  4. FAQs
  5. Conclusion

With 55% of US employees getting their sense of identity from their work, it makes sense for employers to assume that workers value their employment. Yet, absenteeism is a $225.8 billion a year problem, and in some cases, team members don’t even make a courtesy call to let a company know they don’t plan on showing up, which turns them into a no-call no-show employee.

What Is a No Call No Show Employee?

A no-call no-show (NCNS) worker is someone who does not show up for assigned duties without letting their employer know. This can create distress for any organization, as workers scramble to cover the work of the absent employees, and leaders frantically try to contact the worker to find out what has happened. NCNS employees also take a big bite out of productivity, with an average productivity loss of 36.6%

Does No Call No Show constitute job abandonment?

Not always. In some cases, workers may not show up for work and may not call but still show up for work during their next shift. In other cases, they may simply stop communication and permanently leave their job. The Society for Human Resource Management defines job abandonment as a situation “when an employee does not report to work as scheduled and has no intention of returning to the job but does not notify the employer of his or her intention to quit.”

Of course, it’s hard for a company to know a no-call no-show employee’s intentions when a worker goes radio silent. What’s more, there is no official or set rule about how many workdays an employee needs to miss for it to be considered job abandonment. Three shifts or workdays with no communication is a good indication, though, and some states provide definitions of what they consider reasonable.

How to Deal With NCNS Employees?

Having to deal with an unscheduled absence from a worker is stressful, but it’s important to work strategically and create a workplace where such events are less likely to happen. It is possible. Here’s how:

Create an NCNS policy

It may seem obvious to you that workers need to show up for their duties and let you know if something prevents them from doing so, but a formal, written policy about work absences helps define when an unscheduled work absence constitutes work abandonment and lets workers know you’re serious about NCNS. It ensures workers can’t say they didn’t “know” about a no-call no-show policy. A written policy should include:

  • What taking time off should look like typically, which may involve notifying work of expected absences a week or more in advance.
  • A definition of NCNS.
  • A definition of an emergency that makes an NCNS acceptable.
  • A description of when the employee must contact you in the case of an emergency—for example, within 15 minutes of the start of a shift.
  • A list of how the employee can contact you.
  • The exact consequences a worker can expect after a first, second, and third offense.
  • A definition of work abandonment and the steps that will be taken if an NCNS meets the requirement.
  • Any requirements, such as doctors’ notes, to prove any emergency that results in an NCNS.

Before sharing your absenteeism policy, have an employment attorney review it for any potential violations of state laws. NCNS policies are legal, though your policy will be on more solid legal ground if you apply it consistently to all employees and give employees a fair amount of time to contact you—not terminating before at least three NCNS absences usually puts you on solid ground.

When you do launch your policy, either as a stand-alone or as part of an employee handbook or attendance policy, make sure your workers sign the policy, so you have documentation they have read it.

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Go into investigation mode

Keep track of employee absences and tardiness. Written records of absence dates and details about absences (including lack of communication) can help your organization if one worker is not meeting their job requirements. Keeping good records also helps you if you ever need to write a termination letter.

Getting to know employees and their concerns also empowers you to stop no-call no-show before it starts. Knowing if an employee is struggling at work, for example, helps you get additional training or mentorship in place before that worker’s morale evolves into absenteeism. If a worker is a caregiver or has a serious illness, you may be able to offer flexible work arrangements or create a system to help the employee maintain high productivity. A flexible work arrangement can help the employees work at their own pace, for example.

If you are not getting answers from employees directly or have a team you cannot easily reach, you can also use surveys to take the pulse of your organization. Anonymous surveys can help workers communicate issues they may not feel comfortable addressing in person.

Create a strategy for escalating no-call no-show situations

The real problem with no-show, no-call employees, are the repeat offenders, so you will want to consider how to escalate action. After a first offense, you may wish to add a notice about the worker in their employment file, for example, and verbally tell them about the action. After a second offense, you may want to have the worker take part in training to improve their work commitment, or you may want the worker to show up to meetings to come up with a solution for absenteeism.

During a second violation, make it clear how close the employee is to termination. You may want to share a copy of the signed no-call no-show policy with your worker to remind them of the agreement you have made.

Make it easy for employees to show up to work and to contact you when they need to

If you notice multiple NCNS violations, especially from more than one employee, you may have a larger problem on your hands. You may want to ask yourself:

  • Does your current scheduling system make it easy for workers to tell you when they are available for work and to request an absence if they need it?
  • Does your scheduling system stay flexible and make it easy for you to communicate work expectations and changes, even when workers are in the field?
  • Do you have a policy for accommodating disabilities and chronic illnesses?
  • Are you paying a competitive salary, or are workers tempted to take other work to create a living wage?
  • Do employees have some say in the hours they work and how they are scheduled?
  • Do you make it easy for workers to contact you in case of an emergency—for example, are there multiple points of contact and multiple technologies employees can use so they’re not faced with a busy phone signal if they need to report an emergency?
  • Is worker morale high or can you improve the work culture so workers want to take part?

Have a plan in place for NCNS when it does happen

If a worker does not show up for duties, your day will flow much more smoothly if you have a Plan B to cover the employee’s work. You may want to have on-call workers or contractors you can contact fast.

You will want to also attempt to contact the absent employee to find out if there is a legitimate reason for the no-show. If there is a family emergency, for example, the employee may be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which ensures leaves of absence of up to 12 weeks if a worker’s family member is seriously ill. When you do reach out to your worker, stay calm and speak from a place of concern. Something terrible may have happened and your support will mean a lot to your worker.  

While no leader wants to terminate employees, you may want to create a template of a termination letter for repeat no-call, no-show employees, in case you ever need it. This letter should reference your policy and have a space for you to add the date the employee signed the policy, the specific absence dates, and any details about lack of communication. 


Can you fire an NCNS employee?

In the United States and other countries, most work is “at-will” employment, meaning an employer can fire a worker for any reason which does not violate discrimination and other employment laws. The employment agreement signed by the worker and employer will usually outline when an employee can be fired.

What is a good reason for a no-call no-show?

There are some good reasons for an unscheduled absence from work: An employee may have a medical emergency that does not allow them to come into work or contact someone or may be stuck in traffic or at an accident scene without access to a phone. In some cases, workers can make a mistake and misunderstand what is expected of them (and when).  


Every manager or leader will need to deal with a no-call no-show situation at some point, and when it happens to you it’s important to take a deep breath and stay calm. Better yet, have a plan in place to cut down on absenteeism, create a stronger work culture, and be ready for any employee emergency that keeps a worker from coming in.  

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