The Importance of Having an Employee Call-Off Hotline for Absence Reporting

Whether or not they have a dedicated HR manager, every business needs a clear absence policy and systems to implement it. But not even the HR manager would want to spend their workday doing needless admin to record absences.

That’s where an employee call-off hotline comes in, helping to automate the process and even enhance it in ways that benefit the whole company. Without a system like this, losing track of employee absence is easy.

So, how can an employee call-off hotline help your business?

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What is an Employee Call-Off Hotline?

An employee call-off hotline refers to any automated telephone system that employees use to inform the company that they’ll be absent. In addition, this system usually automates the collection of important information, such as the reason for the absence and how long the employee thinks they’ll be off.

Sometimes, the system will simply flag the absence to the HR team. But it can also automatically reassign shifts among available employees. This system is often used in businesses where available shifts must be filled as much as possible, from retail to heavy industry.

Employee absence and poor absence reporting incur high costs for businesses, from lost productivity to indirect financial costs. 

For example, if employees have to cover for an absent colleague, that usually incurs overtime costs. And if people are working overtime, they will be less rested and energized on their regular shifts. 

Some of this is inevitable, but it can become a chronic issue without good absence reporting. If not addressed, it could lead to increased turnover, which can result in further costs in terms of recruiting new employees. At the same time, the quality of service and delivery could suffer without experienced, motivated staff to handle it.

What are the benefits of an employee call-off hotline?

An employee call-off hotline has several benefits for both employers and their employees.

It makes businesses more efficient

An employee call-off hotline streamlines communication between managers and employees. Employees can quickly notify managers of their absence without a lengthy admin process.

This allows managers to deal with the situation as soon as possible, and employees are sure that their absence has been noted and dealt with.

It helps managers focus on their teams

Absent employees can hinder even the best team leaders. A call-off hotline is an essential project management solution, lightening the workload of managers by removing unnecessary overhead. 

Instead of managers spending time on paperwork and calling employees to rearrange shifts, the hotline system can do the work for them. If someone is unexpectedly off sick, managers should be able to focus on reassigning work to meet deadlines, rather than worrying about the manual task of updating absence sheets.

This frees managers up to focus on their most valuable work: managing the team in front of them. This indirectly contributes to the bottom line and helps managers spend more time addressing the needs of their team. In turn, this results in higher employee morale and smoother project delivery for the business and its customers.


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It increases compliance from employees

Automating the absence reporting process starts with clearly documenting it. A quick, easy, and clear absence process will see better employee compliance than an obscure or difficult one.

The absence reporting policy should be documented somewhere employees can easily find it. That might be on the company wiki or the employee handbook.

Good policy documentation should include applicable leave laws, steps for requesting and recording absence, and consequences of noncompliance.

It’s also important to outline employees’ rights and responsibilities, including the requirement to report absences promptly. Of the many ways to avoid overworking your employees, clarity on these matters can help them feel confident in taking the sick days they need. 

A thorough and informative absence policy can make it easier for employees to understand and follow the policy and ultimately lead to better compliance.

It creates more visibility for HR managers

An employee call-off hotline can be an excellent hybrid work solution for HR managers who need to see who’s working in the office, who’s working at home, and who’s off work.

To ensure an efficient call-off hotline system, it’s essential to find contact information online for employees, making it easier for HR managers to reach out when necessary. 

In a more advanced system, such as one running on VoIP, the hotline gives HR managers a single source of truth for tracking absences and allows them to quickly identify patterns in employee sick leave. That could be in the form of a generated email summary, spreadsheet, or bespoke dashboard with infographics.

With easy access to real-time information, HR managers can more effectively respond to employee absence. Most HR managers would be lost without their Applicant Tracking System, and a good call-off system can give them the same boost for absence tracking. This helps them individually, but also helps the company meet necessary staffing levels for service delivery that day or week.

In fact, some employee call-off hotline solutions can even integrate with Applicant Tracking Systems, providing a seamless experience for HR managers who need to manage both absence tracking and recruiting in one place.

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Moreover, an employee call-off hotline can enhance employee communication by providing a streamlined and centralized way for employees to report their absences, reducing confusion and frustration for employees who previously had to navigate multiple channels.

How to set up an employee call-off hotline

Setting up an employee call-off hotline is an investment. But depending on the complexity of your needs, it can be a relatively simple process to set up.

  1. Set up a hotline number

Start by setting up a permanent number for your hotline for on-site and remote employees. If you don’t want a fully automated and integrated system, you could set up an in-house phone number or voicemail machine or assign specific employees to take calls. You could also set up an automated business text messaging app to work with this number.

  1. Define your needs and look into vendors

There are several call-off hotline solution providers to choose from, but keep in mind that different businesses will have different needs. 

Think about your ideal system, document the workflow, then use that as a measuring stick to compare different systems and suppliers. If this is the first hotline your company is setting up, services like Dialpad’s call center management guide can help you figure out an ideal solution.

  1. Update your policies to fit the new system

Once you’ve chosen a system, review your existing absence policies accordingly. The new system should simplify your reporting policy, but you might have to add new procedures for HR staff to make everything run smoothly on their end. 

These new policies might change as you settle into the new system, so don’t over-commit to them initially. Some basic questions your policy needs to answer include:

  • What are the relevant laws around sick leave?
  • When must workers call in before an absence?
  • How much notice must be given?
  • How do workers track their absences?
  • What action might be taken when the employee returns to work, if any?
  • What are the consequences of violating the absence policy?

Ideally, the policy document should cover rules for tardiness, failing to report an absence, under- and over-leaving, and forms of permissible sick leave of different lengths. Additionally, you’ll need to specify the effects of absence on employees’ pay and bonuses, so you must consider the minimum wage in your state or country.

  1. Configure your call-off hotline system to your business’s requirements

Once you have a draft policy, integrate your system into the company with those policies in mind. When you implement the system, keep in mind the following:

  • Ensure workflows are streamlined for employees, managers, and all other stakeholders.
  • Prompt and guide callers with a pre-recorded message.
  • If call-in policy requires workers to call before their shift, record calls with the accurate timestamp.
  • Configure system notifications to categorize who receives the necessary alerts.
  • Make sure that attendance violations are collected in one place and are immediately visible to the relevant manager. Ensure that other policy violations are flagged up and employees are “nudged” to follow through on policy. This could be as simple as an email reminder for HR to conduct a return-to-work meeting.
  • Make sure tasks are automatically assigned to available personnel when another employee is absent. If tasks can’t be assigned, ensure managers are alerted and can quickly convene with the on-site team.
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  1. Get employees on board with the new system

Once it’s up and running, ensure everyone understands the new system clearly. Use your regular communication channels to spread the news. Ensure everyone understands the new policies and feels confident using the new system to report absences as soon as they need to, otherwise you might have some teething issues around compliance with the new system.

  • Ensure all employees have the new hotline number and it can be easily accessed if they don’t have it.
  • Provide all employees with a copy of the new absence and attendance policies. Consider keeping a digital copy that can be accessed in the office and remotely. 
  • Ensure employees feel confident using the new system and are aware of any notifications/responses they can expect.
  • Train managers in using the new system and ensure they have good documentation to refer to. If the system integrates with other software, such as the Paylocity HR information system, that should be documented too. Additionally, managers should know how to make changes to the system if necessary. This is especially important if you’re using an out-of-the-box SaaS provider.

Getting the most out of an employee call-off hotline

An employee call-off hotline is a relatively simple way to save your employees and managers significant time. When you need to respond to absences quickly in the short term, a call-off hotline can immediately flag absences to the relevant managers. What’s more, in the long term, the data you gather from a call-off hotline solution can help you keep track of absences and ensure your teams remain productive.

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