It happens more often than we’d like. You’ve created the schedule, divided team projects/tasks, and then without notice, you suddenly find yourself with one or more employees less than planned. This is referred to as a no-call/no-show, an employee who’s failed to appear for work as scheduled and didn’t notify their employer. 

In any state, this is a violation of contractual laws, but a violation’s consequences depend on each employer’s policy. Common policy is to terminate the employee that’s a no-call/no-show after three business days of silence from the employee.  

However, how do you handle a situation when the employee has crossed the three-day threshold and then reappears, expecting the same job they had before? Instances like this can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but we’ve put together some suggestions below with the help of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

What’s the Explanation?

Modern technology continues to improve, and communication has never been easier. With the touch of a button, we can reach out to our closest friends, family, and even employers. There are very few reasons employees can be absent from a scheduled shift without any prior notice to their employer. In the case of a medical emergency, it’s prudent for the employee (or a friend or family member of the employee) to touch base with a manager or employer to let them know. Employees should do the same if jail time is the reason for the unexpected absence.

Remember, unusual circumstances can occur, though, where employees cannot reach their employer in the time necessary not to break the contract. An example of such a circumstance could be a medical emergency that causes a coma or unconsciousness that prevents the employee from contacting their employer or requesting someone else contact them. In such a case, employers should give employees the benefit of the doubt and hear them out.

If the employee has a good performance record, hasn’t violated company policies in the past, and presents a viable explanation, then reinstatement may be justified. According to SHRM, your company’s policy must be enforced in a non-discriminatory way that treats all employees equally.

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Paid Sick Leave Laws

The requirements in states or localities that mandate paid sick leave vary from state to state and may affect an employer’s no-call/no-show policy.

For example, Washington state employers must provide paid sick leave for certain health-related reasons. According to law firm Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, they must ensure their “attendance policies do not subject employees to any adverse employment actions as a result of taking their accrued paid sick leave.” Additionally, employers should “revise any no-call no-show policy to reflect the requirements of the new law.”

Some employers worry their state’s particular paid sick leave laws make it impossible to discipline no-call/no-show employees. However, employers can still require that employees give advance notice of their need to take paid sick leave unless a rare circumstance prevents them from calling, texting, or having someone else contact the employer before they start their shift.

Employers should examine the rules of their jurisdiction to identify any impact on their no-call/no-show policy.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 

The FMLA allows employers to develop call-in procedures, which employees must generally comply with, even if the FMLA covers their absence. However, the FMLA permits an exception for employees who couldn’t contact their employer due to “unusual circumstances.” 

According to an article by FMLA Insights, if an employee fails to follow their employer’s FMLA call-in policy, the employer should try to find out from the employee why they disobeyed the procedures. The employer may want to consider partnering with a legal expert to ensure the investigation ends with an appropriate conclusion. 

Questions about no-call, no-show policies, FMLA, or paid sick leave? Our HRExperts have got you covered! Find out more today about how we can help you and your organization. 


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