Establishing a clear and effective employee attendance policy is crucial for maintaining a productive and reliable workforce.  It acts as a framework for setting expectations, outlining procedures, and fostering a culture of accountability.  However, crafting such a policy requires careful consideration, balancing the need for clear guidelines with adaptability and respect for the human element.  This guide will equip you with practical steps to create an attendance policy beneficial to your organization.

The Foundation: Ensuring Compliance 

The bedrock of any attendance policy lies in its adherence to all relevant labor laws and regulations.  Recently, employees at Amazon and Walmart filed lawsuits due to compliance issues around their attendance policy.  Familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local laws governing working hours, breaks, leave entitlements and employee rights.  In many states, sick time is a protected benefit, meaning an employee cannot be penalized for taking available sick time.  In addition, employees must be able to take sick time at the same time increments in which their regular time is measured.  For example, if time is rounded to the nearest 15-minute interval, the employee must take sick time in the same interval.  If the employer pays to the minute, sick time must be available to take to the minute.  Consulting with an employment lawyer during drafting is highly recommended to ensure legal compliance and avoid potential penalties.

Building Employee Buy-in: Fostering Ownership and Understanding 

An employee attendance policy created solely by management can feel imposed and disenfranchise employees.  To foster a sense of ownership and encourage compliance, involve employees in the development process.  This process can be done through anonymous surveys, focus groups, or open forums.  You can gain valuable insights and incorporate their perspectives into the policy by soliciting their feedback, concerns, and suggestions.  Addressing their concerns and explaining the rationale behind the policy changes demonstrates a commitment to fairness and inclusivity.  Additionally, providing training and resources to employees can ensure they understand their rights, responsibilities, and the procedures for reporting attendance-related matters.

Informing Employees: Highlighting Available Leave Options

Transparency and accessibility are crucial for effective policy implementation.  Inform employees about the various leave options available under your policy and relevant labor laws.  This communication includes providing clear guidelines on different types of leave and their eligibility requirements, like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), and  Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).  Utilize accessible formats and straightforward language to ensure all employees understand their rights and procedures regarding leave entitlements and how to apply for this leave.

Clarity is Key: Keeping it Simple and Straightforward

Avoid creating a complex, jargon-filled policy.  Clarity and accessibility are paramount for successful implementation.  Use concise language, avoid legalese, and present information in a well-organized and easy-to-understand manner.  Employees should be able to readily locate, comprehend, and follow the guidelines outlined in the policy.  Consider using straightforward terms and providing examples to illustrate expectations and procedures.  Remember, a simple policy reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and ensures consistent application across the organization.  An employee attendance policy often incorporates a point system to track and manage attendance infractions. 

A simple example of this system is as follows:

  • 1 point for an unexcused short shift like tardy or left early
  • 2 points for an unexcused absence
  • 3 points for a no-call, no-show
  • Disciplinary actions are triggered at certain point thresholds (e.g., verbal warning at 5 points, written warning at 10 points, termination at 15 points)
  • Points fall off after a designated period (60 days, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year)
  • Perfect attendance over a period deducts points

These points can vary depending on your culture and expectations.

Culture Matters: Aligning Your Policy with Your Values 

Your attendance policy should not exist in a vacuum.  Consider aligning it with your organization’s core values, mission, and culture.  Does your environment emphasize flexibility and work-life balance, or are regimented schedules crucial for your industry?  Striking the right balance between structure and flexibility is critical to fostering a sense of trust and ownership among employees.  For instance, a company emphasizing work-life balance might offer a more relaxed approach to work hours.  At the same time, an organization involved in time-sensitive projects might require stricter adherence to core working hours.  A company’s culture will likely affect the point values, triggered actions, and period length.

Training Managers: Empowering Consistency and Fairness

Managers are the bridge between policy and practice.  Their ability to interpret, enforce, and address attendance issues with empathy and consistency plays a pivotal role in the success of your attendance policy.  Helping managers determine which leave is excused versus unexcused is vital to establishing consistency throughout the company.  Companies must equip managers with knowledge of legal requirements, interpret policy, address attendance issues with empathy, and document essential information.  This training empowers managers to handle situations effectively, ensuring consistent and fair treatment for all employees.

Defining Repercussions: A Framework for Accountability 

Clearly outline the potential consequences for violating the attendance policy, such as verbal warnings, written reprimands, or disciplinary action.  However, it is essential to remember that relying solely on punishment can create a hostile and adversarial work environment.  Consider incorporating progressive disciplinary measures, allowing for opportunities for improvement and support before resorting to more severe consequences.  This choice empowers employees to take ownership of their attendance and strive for positive behavior. 

Communicating the Policy: A Continuous Effort

Effective communication is crucial for ensuring the success of your attendance policy.  Once finalized, communicate the policy clearly and effectively to all employees.  Utilize channels such as company meetings, newsletters, or an internal knowledge base to ensure everyone knows their rights and responsibilities.  Regularly communicate updates and reminders regarding the policy to maintain awareness and avoid confusion.  Communicating the employee attendance policy must be an element of your onboarding process.

Continuous Improvement: Adapting to Your Changing Needs 

Recognize that an effective employee attendance policy is not static.  Regularly review and update your policy to meet evolving needs and circumstances.  Solicit employee, manager, and stakeholder feedback through ongoing discussions and surveys to identify any issues or inefficiencies in the policy’s implementation.  Stay abreast of changes in labor laws, industry standards, and best practices related to attendance management.  Make necessary revisions to the policy to ensure it remains relevant, effective, and aligned with your organizational objectives.

By aligning the employee attendance policy with your organization’s values and priorities, involving employees in the development process, and communicating expectations clearly, you can create a policy that promotes accountability, fosters a positive work environment, and contributes to the overall success of your organization.  Remember that a well-designed attendance policy is not just a set of rules but a tool for promoting productivity, fairness, and employee well-being.

How can we help?

Attendance problems can affect even the healthiest organization’s labor costs, morale, and productivity.  Implementing a point system through existing time and attendance software can be a simple way to track and report negative attendance trends and reinforce positive behaviors.  Time Equipment Company can incorporate your attendance policies into its world-class time and attendance system. 

To learn how Time Equipment Company can help with your employee attendance policy, contact us at or 800-997-8463.