Creating an Employee Call-Out Policy in Retail


Interior of a retail apparel store with an employee working at the cash register

Running a successful retail store is no easy task. Countless issues can pop up every single day, from inventory stock problems to angry customers. But as a retail owner or manager, it’s important to remember that working as a retail associate comes with many challenges, too.

Being on the retail floor or behind the cashier desk all day is physically difficult, often comes with long hours, might involve holiday work, and almost inevitably presents stressful interactions with some of your not-so-favorite customers. Such a demanding environment can eat away at even your best employees’ morale and lead to high turnover rates.

It’s with that in mind that retailers should craft their call-out policies. Employees will need days off, sometimes at the last minute. And while the business must find ways to function properly in such situations, it’s important to have a policy that protects your team as well. So, the critical part is finding the right balance, like most things in business.

This blog will cover how to create a retail call-out policy as well as look at some ways that retailers can reduce their employee call-out rates and keep their staff healthy, motivated, and high-achieving.

Why It’s Important to Have a Call-Out Policy in Retail

You all know the scenario. You’re getting ready to open for a busy day. It’s a half hour before your last opener is supposed to arrive, and you get a text. They’re not going to be able to make it in. You’re left scrambling. You think about who could cover, but you don’t want to push anyone into overtime or burn out your best employees. In the end, more often than not, you’re forced to run your business understaffed, sacrificing both your customer experience as well as your team morale.

Though completely eliminating this scenario is virtually impossible for any retail operation, there are ways to reduce it. That’s where a call-out policy comes in. Devising a thoughtful policy that protects both your store’s operations as well as your staff is the key to keeping emergencies like this to a minimum.

How to Create a Great Call-Out Policy for Retail Staff

There are several key things to focus on when creating a smart call-out policy. In this blog, we’ll cover the 6 most important areas to consider.

Small retail business store front as they open for the day

Infographic with 6 steps explaining how to create a call-out policy for employees.

1. Make the Call-Out Policy Clear

Start with drawing up a very clear, concise, and fair policy. You can’t expect any to adhere by certain standards without first informing them of what those standards are. Implement this into your onboarding and training process so that all team members are up to speed from the beginning. You can also add it to bulletins and employee handbook materials.

Inlcude a definition of what a call-out is. Define the time frame that constitutes a call-out and the difference between being late and calling out. You should also consider certain excused reasons for calling out, such as deaths in the family or sudden illnesses.

It’s also important to implement an organized procedure to the process. Using an app for employee scheduling is best, but you might be fine with an email or phone call process instead. Ideally, this is also tracked through your retail point of sale.

Another factor to contemplate is whether or not the employee will need to provide any proof for excusable call-outs, such as doctors’ notes.

Finally, define any consequences that your staff might face. It’s important track employee call-outs and to set a limit to the number of times this happens, so that discipline at certain benchmarks becomes automatic.

2. Be Understanding with Your Staff

On the opposite end of the spectrum from what the first section discussed, it’s also important to be understanding and compassionate with your team. It’s not only fair to do so, but it will also improve your team morale and lower your staff turnover.

The key here is to allow for some leeway with legitimate excuses for missing work. Emergencies come up for everyone, so it’s important that your team feels comfortable calling out if they have to. Allowing for this won’t encourage abuse; it will foster mutual respect by providing a fair place of work for everyone involved.

Again, though, be sure to set clear rules and limits to how often this can occur.

3. Keep Rules Consistent

Playing favorites never helps in retail management. It’s important that you treat everyone fairly and apply the same rules to each team member. Even if someone who’s been reliable for years ends up no-calling no-showing without any proper reason for doing so, they have to face the same repercussions that would apply to a less veteran staff member.

But it’s also important to remember that every situation is unique. Certain instances of calling out might be more understandable than others, so be sure to always hear each employee out and use your best judgment.

4. Inform Your Team of Call-Outs

When a call-out does happen, it’s best to keep your whole team in the loop. This will help accelerate the process of finding coverage for the shift.

Again, it’s best to use a scheduling app for this. Modern retail scheduling apps can be configured to automatically send notifications to each team member in the event of a call-out. This saves you the time and stress of frantically texting multiple people last-minute.

Keeping your team informed of call-outs also gives them room to step up and show their work ethic and devotion. Let great employees stand out and show them proper appreciation when they do.

5. Create a Standby Schedule

Some retailers might want to consider setting up a standby schedule in case call-outs happen. This is especially critical around the busiest seasons, such as the winter holidays. It’s during these times that last-minute call-outs are the most costly.

For most retailers, having a year-round standby schedule is a bit excessive, however. It’s draining for employees and can lead to a disgruntled staff.

6. Incentivize Good Attendance

Finally, give credit where credit is due. Recognize your team members who consistently show up on time for work, as well as those who pick up shifts when someone needs coverage. It’s rare that anyone ever wants to do this, so showing a bit of recognition is important encouragement.

Think about prizes you can offer your team, such as gift cards, extra paid time off, priority for holiday time off, or store discounts.

How to Decrease Call-Outs from Your Staff

The steps above are great ways to both create a call-out policy as well as prevent excessive call-outs. But there are some additional steps that retailers can take to make them even more unlikely to happen.

  • Create a great work culture
  • Set clear expectations for all staff roles
  • Give proper vacation and sick leave time
  • Be fair with any disciplinary action
  • Treat your staff with respect

Creating a Great Call-Out Policy at a Retail Store

Tell us what you do to create a solid call-out plan. It’s easier said than done, but the best retail owners and operators always find creative ways to manage their team and keep everyone happy.

Click below for more information on how KORONA POS can help you manage your retail team and create more streamlined operations.

About the Author

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Michael Chalberg

Michael has long focused his writing on the world of retail and small businesses. He''s been a part of the KORONA POS team since 2018 and loves helping entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and succeed. In his spare time, you'll likely find him hiking somewhere in the Southwest.