What Is an Employee Attendance Policy? (+ Free Template)
An employee attendance policy is a company document, often part of your handbook, that clearly defines general attendance and related matters at your company. These should also indicate how employees may be disciplined for violations of the policy.
If you are looking for an attendance policy example, download our free template and customize it based on your business’s needs.
Sections To Include in an Employee Attendance Policy
When creating an employee attendance policy, it’s important to define the terms at the beginning of each section. This will help ensure everyone agrees to it and that there’s no ambiguity about what these terms mean. Ambiguity leads to confusion, which can leave employees frustrated and unsure of when they violate a policy.
To make sure you have an effective, fair, and legally compliant attendance policy, here are the most important sections to include.
An absence is the failure of an employee to report to work at the scheduled time. There are two types of absences:
- Excused absence: When an employee schedules time off with their manager and per company paid time off (PTO) policy, or when an employee has an emergency and provides their manager notice before the start of their shift.
- Unexcused absence: When an employee fails to report to work on time and does not contact their manager or supervisor prior to the start of their shift, regardless of the reason.
Once you define the types of absences in your policy, then you need to outline how an employee might violate the policy and what consequences may follow. Some attendance policy examples for excessive absences may include:
- More than three unexcused absences in a rolling thirty-day period will result in employee discipline, up to and including termination.
- Employees who have an unexcused absence will have PTO automatically deducted from their balance.
Did You Know?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2021 absenteeism rate across all industries is 3.2%. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that chronic health conditions alone cost employers over $36.4 billion per year because employees miss days at work unexpectedly.
In this section, start by defining the term of what is tardiness at your company. We suggest adding a period and pinning down when an employee will be classified as tardy. Your policy might look something like this:
Tardiness occurs when an employee is late for the beginning of their shift, or late after returning from a break in their shift, of more than five minutes. In each instance, the employee must notify their manager that they will be late by the start time of their shift. Notifying a manager does not excuse the tardiness.
As with the absences, you must dictate the consequences for violations of this rule. A tardiness attendance policy example may include:
- Violations of this policy in excess of five times per month will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
It’s important to hold your team accountable when they’re not on time. Your business requires your employees to be where you need them when you need them there. If they’re tardy, work may be delayed, customers neglected, and other employees forced to pick up the slack.
The opposite of tardiness is an early departure. A policy example for early departures may include:
- Any employee who leaves a shift for the day—or takes a break of more than five minutes before the scheduled end of their shift or beginning of their break—must notify their manager, but the absence will be unexcused.
We suggest setting consequences for violations of this to be similar to that of your tardiness policy, as they’re quite closely related.
This section ensures employees understand they need to stay for the entirety of their shift. Without this clear expectation, your employees might feel more freedom to come and go as they please, leaving your business in chaos.
It is essential that your policy provides a clear process of how and when disciplinary action may occur. Having a clear and structured disciplinary procedure for attendance helps keep your company out of legal trouble by applying the same process to all employees—meaning that there will be no special treatment involved.
A disciplinary process might include the following:
- First violation: Verbal warning
- Second violation: Written warning
- Third violation: Suspension and final written warning
- Fourth violation: Termination
You will want to include a job abandonment section to cover your company if an employee fails to report to work for an extended period. As in the other sections, it’s crucial to indicate how long that period may be to consider it an abandonment of work, as well as what procedure will follow. It may look something like this:
Job abandonment is when an employee fails to report to work for three or more consecutive working days without notifying their supervisor. Upon these conditions being met, the employee will be considered to have voluntarily terminated the employment relationship.
This section allows your company to get an employee off the books if they haven’t shown up to work in some time. Of course, you want to call the employee’s emergency contact list to see if they’re all right, and you should do that as soon as they don’t show up to work. But with this section, you’re now well within your rights to separate from the employee in a way that may make them ineligible for unemployment benefits.
According to the BLS, job abandonment and quit rates month over month are at a rate of 2.8% across all industries in the United States.
While often overlooked, employee acknowledgments are key pieces of any company policy. If you implement a policy that has an impact on an employee, you should have them sign the policy as an acknowledgment that they have reviewed the policy and agree to be bound by its terms.
If your company ever needs to hold the employee accountable under the terms of the policy, you have their signature on the policy in their personnel file that gives you authority to do so. Having employees sign a policy or employee handbook is not required by law—but it’s good business practice.
Creating a structured and clear attendance policy is part of employee management. By setting proper expectations for attendance, arriving on time, and the disciplinary measures for failing to meet those requirements, you can properly instill discipline and a healthy respect for your company in your employees.
Tips for Creating a Fair Attendance Policy
You know the big pieces of your employee attendance policy—but now you want to ensure it’s fair. The best way to approach this is to customize it to your specific business needs and culture.
For an easy time setting expectations and creating a fair setup, we recommend talking to your managers and supervisors to get them on board. By getting them on the same page, you can ensure fair enforcement of the attendance policy. This is key to making sure employees receive equal treatment and that your company avoids legal headaches.
Set Reasonable Expectations
When it comes to enforcing disciplinary actions, it’s important to be reasonable. If you decide to terminate employees after one unexcused absence, then that sends the wrong message. Being too strict can appear as micromanagement and trying to control an employee’s personal time. This could drive employees to seek jobs elsewhere.
Having more reasonable expectations shows your team that you understand that sometimes, life gets in the way and, when it does, they won’t suffer serious job-related consequences.
Compliance is often seen as a roadblock to company growth—but in reality, it’s showing you where the boundaries are to help your company grow while not triggering costly investigations from the Department of Labor or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There are many areas of employment law you need to pay attention to when creating an attendance policy, including the difference between employee classifications.
Nonexempt, usually hourly employees, must receive overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. You must pay them at least the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and time and a half for overtime.
Some states have higher minimum wages and require daily overtime pay. Check your state’s department of labor or employment website to ensure you’re paying nonexempt employees correctly.
To qualify as exempt, employees must meet certain criteria, like having specific job duties and making a salary of at least $684 per week. You can find all the requirements in the Department of Labor (DOL) Fact Sheet #17A.
According to the DOL Fact Sheet #17G, any salaried employee who works any part of a workweek must be paid the full salary for the week, regardless of how many hours the employee worked. If you decide to deduct pay, you may convert the employee to a nonexempt employee and be subject to back overtime pay in perpetuity.
Ensuring compliance with the law can be difficult without structured procedures. When it comes to time tracking, make sure you have a proper process for tracking your employees hours in place.
You expect employees to show up on time. When they don’t, that creates problems for the business and other employees. Emergencies happen, and companies should be flexible—but within reason. Having a clear attendance policy will help you hold employees accountable for their actions while treating everyone fairly and avoiding costly employee lawsuits and government fines.