Mobile Workforce Management

7 Simple Steps to an Effective Employee Attendance Policy

Andjelka Prvulovic
Last update on:
May 10, 2023 12:16 AM
Published on:

Besides being a good business practice, a well-defined employee attendance policy has numerous benefits. 

It saves your business money, to begin with. Although you can sometimes overlook occasional absences or tardiness, these costs add up. According to research, unscheduled absenteeism costs approximately $2,660 each year for salaried workers and $3,600 per year for each hourly employee

However, the absence-related costs are not only financial. Other consequences of absenteeism include reduced productivity, poor quality of the services, and various safety issues. 

Your managers also need to spend more time dealing with disciplinary matters and handling shift replacements. At the same time, the morale of your other employees might be compromised, as they now need to cover for the absent coworkers.

By creating an attendance policy, you can reduce many problems within your business.

Suppose you get it right and combine a well-thought-of policy with the right on-the-go solution. In that case, you will also provide your employees with flexibility and better work-life balance without risking your business goals. 

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What is an Employee Attendance Policy?

An attendance policy is a transparent set of rules that define when employees should arrive and leave work and how they should register their arrival and exit. It can apply to typical 9-to-5 jobs but to the field and mobile employees, where rotating shifts are more common. It establishes clear rule violations – like tardiness, being absent, or exiting the workplace early and explains the policy. 

In addition to definitions, an employee attendance policy often uses clear examples for sick days, tardiness, paid time off, or unexcused absences. With such measures, employees can easily distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable absences.

After defining the basic terms and concepts, an employee attendance policy also outlines disciplinary procedures. Companies can choose among different models. Some use a warning system, where employees are given one or two warnings before discussing with a manager about attendance rule violations. Other companies choose a point-based system. Employees get a predefined number of points if they breach regulations. When they reach a specific point limit, disciplinary action is taken, such as suspension or termination of the contract. 

However, when you manage mobile employees, specific challenges arise. Some or all of your employees may perform their duties outside a standard work location. They may be working from home or do almost all of their tasks in the field, like construction workers, home healthcare nurses, or caregivers.

How to Create an Effective Employee Attendance Policy?

Even though they deal with the same issues, employee attendance policies differ from one business to another. The differences depend on many things, mainly on the industry, the business type, job requirements, employees, and company culture.

Practically, any attendance policy template that you can find online can be a solid starting point for creating your own employee attendance policy. However, you will need to put an extra effort to tailor it to your business needs, as well as the laws and regulations your business is subjected to.

Define Basic Terms That You Will Use

When laying out your employee attendance policy, you need to be very clear about what the basic terms mean. While you may be tempted to cover every possible scenario for employee absence, we suggest you stick to the most common issues. 

Write out the definitions of terms such as absences, no-call, no-shows, tardiness, early outs, and job abandonment, so employees know what they are. When outlining your expectations, it's best to use simple language so that you can avoid any confusion.

You can use the following definitions to get you started:

  • Absences - an employee is absent but has notified their manager in advance.
  • Unscheduled absences - an employee is absent because of an emergency or for some other approved reason. The absence was not scheduled in advance.
  • Tardiness- an employee doesn't show up within a defined time from the start of their shift or is late when returning from a break.
  • Early departure - An employee leaves before the shift ends or goes for a break earlier.
  • Sick days - an employee is absent because of illness.
  • No-shows - an employee is absent and fails to notify their manager.
  • Job abandonment - an employee is absent for a specified number of successive days without prior notice, and you can't reach them.

Set a realistic time frame for each of these scenarios within your company culture. For example, you can specify how many days or weeks in advance an employee should request to be absent.

In your employee attendance policy, you may decide to give your employees a period of 5 or 10 minutes after their shift has started before you consider them tardy. You may also choose to allow your employees to use sick leave for a specific number of days before asking for a doctor's note. The policy may also require them to inform their manager of their sickness at least one or two hours before their shift starts.

It would be helpful to talk to your managers and team leaders before drafting the policy. Determine what their current expectations and approaches are when it comes to dealing with these issues. With the employee attendance policy set, you will avoid sending mixed messages to your employees and ensure everyone gets the same treatment. Hence, all their practices need to become uniform.

Determine Exemptions

You can't predict every possible scenario that may occur. But you may want to include that absence because bereavement, military or jury duty, or other specific circumstances are excused from disciplinary actions. 

Also, it would help if you determined the situations when the last-minute absences are approved. Such cases could, for example, include car accidents or doctor visits. However, don't forget to list what documents employees need to submit to prove legitimate absence. For instance, a medical note may prove that the employee or their child visited the doctor, etc.

Your employee attendance policy can also include examples of unreasonable explanations that you will not accept as legitimate reasons for employee absence. This way, you may avoid employees using such excuses for their unscheduled absenteeism.

Set a Procedure For Requesting Time Off or Leave

An essential part of your employee attendance policy is a procedure for requesting time off or leave. You need to ensure your employees know each step they need to take - what forms they require to submit, whom, and how many days in advance. 

There are many ways to manage such requests. For example, some companies use printed templates. Others ask employees to send their requests via emails. 

The most efficient approach is sending a request via a scheduling app on their mobile devices. Then, employers can approve or deny a request with a few clicks, and employees will be notified right away.

Timeero scheduling

Define Your Employee Attendance System

However, when creating your attendance policy, one of the most critical questions that may arise is - how do you record employee attendance?

Your employee attendance system should include answers to basic questions, such as:

  • How do employees register their on-time attendance?
  • What methods will you use to monitor your employees' attendance?
  • How do you check if their recorded time is precise?

Some companies have security guards record the attendance of their employees. Others use time cards and let their employees punch in and out of their shifts. These methods may seem quick and straightforward, but in practice, many challenges occur. 

Due to intentional or unintentional human practices, errors often happen. Seemingly small mistakes on one side, or various time theft schemes, such as buddy punching, on the other, can be quite costly for your business regarding money, reputation, and employee morale. 

The most reliable solution is having your employees clock in and out using attendance tracking apps on their digital devices. These solutions combine GPS tracking and geofence technology with facial recognition, so it's more precise and reliable than all other practices that rely on human input.

Time Face Recogniton App
Timeero: Face Recognition

The option of having accurate and real-time insight into employee attendance is critical to businesses with several mobile employees in their teams working in dispersed locations, such as home healthcare agencies or construction companies.

It can be quite a challenge for managers and shift leads to determine whether the employees have shown up on time for a shift or they've clocked in from a coffee shop nearby. With a GPS-based tracking solution, such worries are obsolete.

Timeero Who is Working Page
Timeero: Who Is Working Feature

Set Realistic Disciplinary Actions

When you've defined all the most common situations, you also need to provide a transparent discipline process to ensure each employee gets the same treatment. This is an essential part of your employee attendance policy that helps your company stay out of legal trouble.

There are many ways that you can address absenteeism and tardiness. One of the most common methods of a solid employee attendance policy is the point system. Below is just an example of how you can use it:

  • If an employee is late for their shift (more than 10 minutes), they are given a half-point.
  • If an employee is absent but informs their manager in advance, they are given one point.
  • In the case of a no-show, an employee is issued two points.
  • If an employee leaves work early (more than 10 minutes), they are issued a half-point.
  • Suppose an employee is absent for four consecutive days without prior notice and can not be reached. In that case, they are issued 6 points, equalling job termination.

You can set up disciplinary procedures for your employee attendance policy with such a system. For example, you can define the benchmarks for verbal and written warning, a meeting with the supervisor, a suspension, or a termination.

When creating disciplinary actions, you also need to consider how these absences impact your business. For example, suppose an employee skips work unexpectedly for a solid reason.

Their last-minute absence is approved, but you didn't have enough time to find a replacement. Despite the fact your employee was accountable, their absence can have severe consequences on your business. In such situations, GPS-based tracking solutions with a scheduling feature can help you ensure all your shifts are covered, and the work gets done.

Ensure Your Compliance

To avoid costly inquiries from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, you need to pay attention to many areas of employment law.  

Among other things, you need to ensure all your employees are paid properly. If by any chance, you're thinking about "charging" them when they're absent or late, you must be extremely careful not to violate the Fair Labor Standards Act

There are many other, much better ways to hold your employees accountable. An employee attendance policy will help you with that.

Employee Acknowledgment

Since having employees sign the employee attendance policy is not required by law, it is often overlooked. However, it's a good business practice, and we strongly advise it. 

Employee acknowledgment is critical, as the employee attendance policy directly impacts them. When an employee signs the policy, they acknowledge that they have reviewed it and agree on its terms.

 And suppose your business ever needs to hold the employee accountable for their attendance. In that case, their signature is proof of acknowledgment and gives you authority to take disciplinary actions. 

So, How Do You Manage Employee Attendance?

Unscheduled absences and tardiness can be detrimental to your business.

With an effective employee attendance policy and GPS-based employee attendance tracker in place, you can start holding your employees accountable for their work-related behavior. Attendance problems can easily become yesterday's problems.

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Andjelka Prvulovic

Andjelka is a sociologist turned digital marketer. She specializes in creating content for SaaS and software companies. When she’s not researching the most effective employee management techniques, Andjelka loves cooking, reading, and fighting for human rights.

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