The Restaurant No Call No Show: A Piece of the Employee Handbook Puzzle
It’s a busy Saturday at your restaurant, and your entire crew is at their stations filling orders. As you stand near the hosts’ stand, readily available to resolve issues at a moment’s notice, you realize one of your servers was scheduled to arrive almost two hours ago. Checking your phone, you don’t see notifications of a message or a missed call. It’s the dreaded restaurant no call, no show. You scan the restaurant and reach for your employee list to see who you can summon as a sizable party enters the restaurant.
According to the CDC, employee absences cost U.S. employers $225.8 billion a year, roughly $1,685 per employee. When an employee doesn’t show up for their scheduled shift, it throws everything out of whack. Managers have one less section covered, there’s less workforce for busier times of the day, and the manager has to call another employee, one who most likely didn’t plan to work that day, and ask them to cover for this unexpected absence. Essentially, the no call no show is a toxic scourge to the restaurant ecosystem, to which operators try to avoid at all costs.
Employers usually handle these situations, when an employee gives no notice of their absence AKA the no call no show, in different ways. Either they give the employee a warning and issue some consequence, or they fire the employee immediately with no questions asked. Either option is effective; it depends on the policies and preferences of the individual restaurant. There is not a “one size fits all option.” You need a process to handle this issue, whether it’s revisiting an already established attendance policy, a tardiness policy within the attendance policy or developing an attendance policy, you have some options to help combat the no call no show.
The Already Established Attendance Policy
If your restaurant has an established attendance policy and you’re still experiencing a no call no show epidemic, you may need to create more steps in the process to troubleshoot. Consider these questions:
Does the Attendance Policy Clearly Define the Consequences of Non-Compliance?
By consequences, we don’t necessarily mean outright firing an employee. Are there steps you can take, like warnings that can escalate over time? If the employee has continuous absences without notifying, then the next step may be terminating their employment.
Does Management Go Through the Policy with Employees?
Usually, in the on-boarding process, management will go through any policies that the new employee needs to know. A suggestion would be to have a signature line for the employee to sign recognizing that they understand everything stated in the policy.
Are Expectations Clear Across Employees?
Consider whether every employee understands the expectations set for them. What happens if they are late? What happens if they do not notify management of their absence from their shift? Is there a penalty for last minute call-ins? Whatever is in the attendance policy needs to be enforced consistently with every employee.
Is Enforcement of the Attendance Policy Consistent Across Instances?
You might describe this point as setting expectations. An attendance policy would identify how to handle an emergency or unexpected illness. However, you need steps in place to handle an attendance policy violation. Is there a process for coverage? What about consequences? Are there levels of attendance violations for these consequences? If the policy outlines the process for attendance issues and any violations, it’s easier to prepare for the unexpected.
Creating an Attendance Policy
If there’s not already an established attendance policy, having one in place in an employee handbook would help decrease attendance misconduct instances. The attendance policy would also help combat instances of no call no show because it would provide consequences for employees and the steps to be taken for attendance instances.
What Should Go Into an Employee Attendance Policy?
The attendance policy should be simple and easy to understand. Be sure to define the difference between sick time, days off clearly, and tardies to avoid confusion. Your attendance policy should outline the consequences of each situation and what employees and management should do to handle the instance. Also, consider these points:
How Much Time is Necessary to Notify Management of an Absence?
“In the case of illness, please let management know of your absence at least 5 hours before the start of your shift (if possible).”
This example leaves room for flexibility and allows for enough time for you to find coverage before there is a staff shortage. It also lets employees know that in the instance that they are sick, they won’t be penalized for that absence if they notify management as soon as possible. Keep in mind this does depend on the attendance policy of the business.
Are Emergency Personal Hours Available? How Many Before Consequences?
If your business provides personal emergency hours for your employees, there needs to be a clear definition of the amount of time an employee can use. Setting a set number of individual emergency hours before taking significant actions gives your employees “wiggle room” for unexpected issues. An example of this part of the policy could be:
“Employees have 24 hours of emergency personal time available after 30 days of employment. You do not need to request personal emergency hours in advance, and you can take them at any time. You must notify management that you’re using emergency hours as soon as possible in this instance.”
What Happens When an Employee Doesn’t Notify Management of an Absence in the Proper Timeframe?
It needs to be clear what actions you’ll take in the case of absence without notification. Management may call the employee to check on them in case something has happened. If the employee has overslept and come into work, they are then tardy. Does the policy identify the actions taken in the instance of a late employee? You must outline these steps before it happens so that management knows how to handle these attendance issues effectively.
What steps Will You Take When an Employee is Absent without notification?
There needs to be a transparent process set up in the attendance policy. Is the employee terminated immediately? Or is there a certain number of absences without notification before that happens? Managers have options here:
“For the first absence without notification, the employee can receive a warning or not be able to work their shift once they return to work. After the third absence without notification, the employee could be written up, and it will go in an official record. After the fifth absence without notifying management, the employee will face termination.”
Is there a Call List For Extra Coverage in the Event of a No Call No Show?
When management faces an unexpected employee absence they need to find someone to cover for it. Usually, managers call other employees to see who is available to come in for the shift. Instead of making it random, managers should have a list of people that are willing to come in when coverage is needed. This backup plan helps managers and employees because employees won’t receive random calls on their off day and the employees willing to cover will be more likely to provide coverage. If you don’t have many employees ready to be on the “on call,” provide an incentive to cover shifts.
Will there Be Incentives For Employees Without No Call No Shows or Tardies?
Every action doesn’t need a punishment. What about your employees that have not had any attendance policy violations? To maintain this positive behavior, think about providing incentives to employees that pick up shifts to assist with coverage or employees that have near perfect attendance. Incentives could be a free meal when they are off work, monetary incentives or other prizes. Ensure that your employees are rewarded for their positive actions as well.
Is There a Section for Employee Signatures and the Date?
This measure holds your employees accountable. If they sign and date the attendance policy section, they are implying that they understand the policy and everything that it includes. Be sure to include this part as a point of reference, an essential part of employee onboarding, for any issues that may arise.
No call no shows are the bane of any workforce’s existence, but you can manage them with an effective attendance policy that clearly outlines the consequences and the steps that will be taken in any instance of an attendance policy violation. An attendance policy and a plan can help address the industry’s staffing difficulties and other issues in the workforce.
Want to get the scoop on everything restaurant tech, marketing, industry news, and more? We got you covered. Subscribe to our blog to get weekly updates on the most buzzworthy restaurant industry topics.
About the Author
Devyn Nance is the Marketing Coordinator at QSR Automations. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and from Loyola University Chicago with a master’s degree in Global Strategic Communication. She considers herself an (amateur) profiler – trained solely from watching every episode of Criminal Minds. Outside of work, Devyn loves to shop, travel, hang out with friends and family, read, and watch shows on various streaming platforms.