Employee Attendance Policy: What’s Required to Reduce Absenteeism

In this guide, we’ll show you how to create an effective employee attendance policy. Follow our best practices to secure employee buy-in and reduce absenteeism.
employee attendance policy
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System

Automate Attendance Tracking With Workyard

What would happen if all your employees didn’t come to work one day? Unless you managed to quickly replace them with a horde of worker robots, your business would crash to a halt overnight. 

That’s a pretty wacky concept to imagine but that level of catastrophe illustrates the power of employee attendance. It might not seem like a big deal if one employee is occasionally tardy, but what would happen if everyone was late all the time? What would happen if multiple employees called in sick for bogus reasons on a regular basis? 

Establishing an employee attendance policy can prevent those nightmares from becoming reality. So, in this article, we’ll take a look at the key components of an employee attendance policy and how that policy can help you in the workplace. 

What Is an Employee Attendance Policy? 

An employee attendance policy is a set of rules and guidelines that a business establishes to regulate employee attendance and punctuality. A well-defined attendance policy is crucial to ensure that all employees are held accountable for their attendance and that your business is maximizing its time and efficiency. 

Although the specifics may vary from one business or industry to another, as a general rule, any employee attendance policy should include the following key components. 

  • Attendance expectations: The policy should clearly state the attendance expectations for employees, including the standard work hours, start and end times, and expected attendance days. It should also outline the maximum number of absences allowed, the procedures for notifying management about absences, and the consequences for excessive absences.
  • Time off policies: The attendance policy should provide information about the different types of time off that employees are entitled to, such as vacation time, sick leave, personal days, and bereavement leave. It should also specify the procedures for requesting time off and the notice period required for approval.
  • Tardiness policy: The policy should define the expectations for punctuality and the consequences of employee lateness. It should also specify the procedures for notifying management about tardiness and the steps that will be taken to address repeated instances of tardiness.
  • Leave of absence policy: The policy should outline the procedures for requesting and granting leave of absence, including extended absences for medical reasons or family emergencies.
  • Record-keeping procedures: The attendance policy should specify the procedures for keeping attendance records, including how to report absences and tardiness, and how to document time off requests and approvals.
  • Consequences for non-compliance: The attendance policy should clearly define the consequences for non-compliance with the attendance policy, including progressive disciplinary measures such as verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, and termination.

Employee Attendance Policy Laws 

Implementing an employee attendance policy is great because it can help you clearly define your company’s stance on attendance and absenteeism. Furthermore, it can help you comply with federal and state laws regarding employee attendance. In this section, we’ll take a look at employee attendance regulations in the United States and what you need to know. 

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain family and medical reasons, including the employee’s own serious health condition, the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Employers are required to provide job protection and maintain employee benefits during the leave period.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to enable employees with disabilities to perform their job functions. This may include providing leave or modifying attendance policies.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): The FLSA sets minimum wage and overtime pay standards for employees and requires employers to maintain accurate records of hours worked. Employers must also pay non-exempt employees for all hours worked, including overtime.
  • State and local laws: Many states and municipalities have their own employment laws that may impact employee attendance policies. For example, some states require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

Employers should ensure that their attendance policies comply with all applicable employment laws and regulations. Failure to do so could result in legal liability and other consequences, such as fines and penalties. Employers should also provide employees with a copy of the attendance policy and train managers on how to enforce it fairly and consistently.

State by state laws

Most states’ laws on employee attendance are pretty straightforward. As a general rule, individual businesses have the right to create their own unique attendance policies without any additional requirements being imposed by state laws. But although this is true for the majority of states, a few outliers do have specific laws regarding employee attendance and it’s important to be aware of them. 

Here are a few state-specific policies you need to keep up with: 

  • Mandatory Sick Leave: Some states, such as California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon, require employers to provide their employees with a certain number of paid sick leave days per year. Employees can use these days for their own illness, for the care of a sick family member, or for doctor’s appointments.
  • Medical Leave: In addition to the federal provisions established by FMLA, some states, including California, New Jersey, and Washington, have their own medical leave laws that provide eligible employees with job-protected leave for their own medical condition or to care for a family member’s medical condition.
  • Jury Duty: Many states require employers to provide employees with leave for jury duty. For example, California law protects employees who have jury duty by mandating that employees cannot be fired or retaliated against for serving on a jury.
  • Voting: Some states require employers to provide employees with time off to vote on election day. In California, employees are entitled to up to two hours of paid time off to vote if they do not have sufficient time to vote outside of working hours.

Can an employee attendance policy be illegal? 

We’ve explored the importance of establishing an employee attendance policy and looked at a few of the federal and state laws that regulate employee attendance. Now it’s time to take a closer look and consider a tricky question: can an employee attendance policy be illegal? 

The simple answer is: yes! 

Everyone recognises that employee attendance is crucial for any business’ success. There is no law which says you can’t require employees to show up for work. However, there are a few other legal considerations to keep in mind when creating your employee attendance policy. 

An employee attendance policy can become illegal if it violates any federal or state laws, regulations, or employees’ rights. Here are some examples of how an attendance policy could become illegal:

  • Discrimination: An attendance policy could be considered illegal if it discriminates against employees based on their protected characteristics, such as age, race, sex, religion, or disability. 

For example, a policy that penalizes employees with disabilities for their attendance could be considered discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It goes without saying that accommodations need to be made for employees who live with mobility challenges or mental health difficulties that impact their daily lives. So, if you have an employee who uses a wheelchair or another mobility aid, they may occasionally be a couple minutes late due to difficulties with accessible parking or navigating the trek from the parking lot to their office. If you penalize them for being a minute or two late due the unavoidable daily struggle of their mobility challenges, this would absolutely be considered discrimination and would be an illegal aspect of your attendance policy. 

  • Retaliation: An attendance policy could be considered illegal if it retaliates against employees who exercise their legal rights in regard to acceptable leave or excused absences. For example, if you penalized an employee for taking advantage of their FMLA-protected leave, this would be an example of illegal retaliation. 
  • Wage and Hour Violations: An attendance policy could be considered illegal if it violates wage and hour laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). For example, a policy that requires employees to work off the clock or fails to pay employees for all hours worked, including overtime, is absolutely illegal.
  • Failure to Accommodate Disabilities: An attendance policy could be considered illegal if it fails to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. For example, a policy that penalizes employees for taking leave for medical appointments related to their disability could be considered discriminatory under the ADA. 

Benefits of Implementing an Employee Attendance Policy 

Now that we’ve explored the laws and regulations which govern employee attendance policies, let’s take a look at the many practical benefits of implementing an employee attendance policy in your workplace. 

  • Improved productivity: An effective attendance policy can improve productivity by ensuring that employees are present and engaged in their work. Employees who regularly miss work or arrive late can disrupt productivity and cause delays in projects.
  • Reduced absenteeism: An attendance policy can help reduce absenteeism by establishing clear guidelines for reporting absences, consequences for excessive absences, and encouraging employees to prioritize attendance.
  • Increased morale: An attendance policy can help create a more positive work environment by promoting a culture of responsibility and accountability. When employees know what is expected of them and see that their colleagues are held accountable for their attendance, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged.
  • Consistency and fairness: An attendance policy can ensure that all employees are held to the same standards for attendance, which can promote a sense of fairness and consistency in the workplace.
  • Legal compliance: An attendance policy can help employers comply with relevant laws and regulations related to attendance, such as those related to sick leave, family and medical leave, and disability accommodations.
  • Improved bottom line: An effective attendance policy can reduce the cost of absenteeism by preventing productivity losses, reducing overtime expenses, and minimizing the need for temporary staffing.

How to Implement an Employee Attendance Policy 

Now that we’ve explored the ins and outs of employee attendance policies, let’s outline the steps you can take to implement a successful (and legal!) employee attendance policy in your workplace. 

  • Develop the policy: First, develop the attendance policy by clearly defining the company’s expectations for attendance, including the consequences of absences, the procedures for reporting absences, and any relevant laws or regulations that employees must comply with.
  • Clearly communicate the policy: The employer should communicate the attendance policy to all employees, ideally in writing. The policy should be clear and easy to understand, and it should be distributed through various channels, such as employee handbooks and reminder emails. 
  • Provide training: Make sure that all members of company leadership are familiar with the policy and feel confident about enforcing the attendance policy consistently and fairly. Training should also ensure that management understands all aspects of their legal obligations related to attendance policies.
  • Enforce the policy consistently: Employers should enforce the attendance policy consistently for all employees. This means that the same rules and consequences should apply to all employees regardless of their position, tenure, or other factors.
  • Provide feedback: Employers should provide feedback to employees regarding their attendance, including praising those who have good attendance and addressing concerns with those who have poor attendance.
  • Monitor and adjust the policy: Employers should monitor the effectiveness of the attendance policy over time, and adjust the policy as needed to ensure that it remains effective and relevant.
  • Provide support: Employers should provide support to employees who have attendance issues, such as offering resources for improving their attendance,  accommodating employees with disabilities, and supporting employees who are struggling with difficulties in their personal lives. 

By following these steps, employers can successfully implement an effective attendance policy that improves employee attendance, productivity, and morale.

Best Tools for Implementing an Employee Attendance Policy

Implementing an employee attendance policy is great, but it’s only beneficial if you can prove that it’s working. Here are three examples of employee attendance tracking tools that can help you measure productivity and reduce absenteeism.  

  • Time tracking apps 

Time tracking apps, or employee attendance trackers, can improve clarity and accountability in hourly reporting by allowing employees to easily log their hours worked. This information can help your business manage employee schedules, verify attendance, and ensure that employees are paid correctly.

  • Time clock devices 

The phrase “clocking in” stems from an old-school practice that required employees to physically punch a button on a time clock which would record their working hours. Fortunately, we’ve since learned how to streamline and digitize that process. 

That’s where virtual time clocks come in. Time clock apps can automatically track employee attendance based on clock-ins and clock-outs, reducing the need for error-prone manual time tracking and ultimately eliminating buddy punching. 

  • HR software 

HR software can also help you implement employee attendance policies. Online HR platforms offer a convenient way to develop and distribute your policies, with the added benefit of e-sign features. This helps employees confirm their consent and makes it easier for you to create attendance policy documents, notify employees, and collect their written agreement on your company attendance policy. 

How Workyard can help 

Measuring employee attendance is often tied to employee productivity. For your business to run smoothly, you need your employees to show up for work and be productive when they get there. By using Workyard’s time tracking software, you can take full advantage of the platform’s GPS tracking, built-in attendance compliance features, and smooth payroll integrations. Sign up for a free trial of Workyard today!

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