Small Business Attendance Policy

Employees streamline business operations, but what happens when they frequently skip work or show up late? Those streamlined business operations will start to become inefficient. You need a small business attendance policy to encourage attendance and monitor employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the total absence rate for all full-time positions is 3.2%. The rate is the ratio of workers with absences to total wage and salary employment. That means that an average of 3.2% of the workforce is absent on workdays. Absences are missing work due to illnesses, injuries, child care, or other personal obligations. To reduce absenteeism in the workplace, implement and enforce an attendance policy.

What is absenteeism?

Absenteeism is when employees miss work without a good excuse. It does not include vacation time, personal days, or anything else that an employee may enjoy without giving valid reasons. Examples of absenteeism include an employee not showing up at work because they woke up late or were too tired.

Absenteeism and absence are not necessarily the same thing. Absence is being away, while absenteeism is regularly missing work.

Small business attendance policy

A small business attendance policy is a written document that defines absences and tardiness, includes attendance rules, and lays out disciplinary actions. It should answer everything your employees need to know about being late or absent. Be as clear as possible when writing your company attendance policy.

Include your attendance and punctuality policy in your employee handbook. This way, employees know exactly what you expect of them. If you use human resources software and upload an electronic copy of the handbook, employees can easily access it. Employees should sign your attendance policy or employee handbook verifying that they read and understood the rules.

Your small business attendance policy needs to be specific. You should address the following attendance management issues so that your policy is comprehensive and enforceable:

  • Definition of attendance in your business (e.g., shifts, days, or weekly work hours)
  • Method for tracking attendance (e.g., payroll timekeeping system or digital time card)
  • List of approved absences and required documentation
  • Difference between an approved, paid absence vs. an unexcused absence
  • When disciplinary action is taken
  • Procedure for requesting absences

What exactly are common workplace attendance policies? Businesses tend to differ when it comes to attendance policies. Some industries need to be stricter on absenteeism and tardiness, while others can be a little more lax.

Here are some attendance policies in the workplace to consider.

Employee absence policy

Most employers choose to provide paid time off to their employees. Paid time off can include sick time, vacation time, or just general personal time. Some employers offer unpaid time off to employees.

Although employees typically can take off work, requests are usually made in advance. What do you do if an employee has to miss work at the last second or if they don’t tell you they won’t be there? You need an absence and no call, no show policy.

Absenteeism in the workplace can take its toll on your business and your other employees. Increased instances of unscheduled absences can lead to poor production, low morale, and declining engagement.

Situations do come up. An employee can get sick right before having to go to work, have an accident on the way to work, or need to take care of a family member. It’s important your policy addresses all possible events.

Here are a few ideas for your policy:

  • Zero tolerance for no show: Employee has disciplinary action or is terminated when they skip work without valid excuse
  • Shift cover: Unscheduled absence is OK, but employee is responsible for finding someone to cover shift
  • Emergency situations: Unscheduled absence or no call, no show is only OK in certain emergency situations (with documentation)
  • Unscheduled absence is OK: Unscheduled absence is acceptable, but employee must use personal time off

Attendance can be a matter of safety for some lines of work. Or, an employee might be the only person at work at one given time, making it necessary to find a replacement. Make sure your policy matches your business’s needs.

Employee tardiness policy

Tardiness is whenever an employee is late to work or takes longer breaks than they’re supposed to. Employees who are constantly tardy can be frustrating to work with. Some businesses might have a no-nonsense policy when it comes to tardiness.

But sometimes, tardiness happens. An employee might have had an unavoidable situation, like getting a replacement babysitter at the last minute or getting stuck in traffic because of an accident on the road. You might include emergency situations in your tardiness in the workplace policy.

Developing an employee tardiness policy requires you to analyze your business. Will an employee’s occasional tardiness affect your overall business operations? For example, your employee is late to open your coffee shop, causing a loss of business and frustrated customers. Or, can the employee stay later to make up their tardiness without an impact on production?

Here are some ideas for your late employees policy:

  • Zero tolerance: Employee has disciplinary action when they are X minutes late to work
  • Deduction of personal time off: Employee loses their personal time off for however minutes they are late
  • Loss of bonus: Employee doesn’t receive bonus if they are late
  • OK for certain situations: If the situation is uncontrollable, the employee isn’t penalized
  • First few offenses are OK: Employee is allowed X instances of tardiness
  • OK if employee makes up time: As long as employee makes up the time during lunch or after work, they are not penalized
  • OK if it doesn’t impact employee’s performance: If employee is still able to get work done and has strong performance and engagement, they are not penalized

It is your responsibility, or HR’s if you have a representative or department, to monitor tardiness. If the employee violates your policy, you should set up a private meeting to let them know.

Attendance policy sample

Here is a basic employee attendance policy sample that you might include in your employee handbook:

  • Absences
    • Taking off 1 workday: Provide 1 week’s notice
    • Taking off 2-5 workdays: Provide 2 weeks’ notice
    • Taking off more than 5 workdays: Provide at least 2 months’ notice
  • Unscheduled Absences: If an employee is sick or has an emergency, they must inform employer with at least 1 hour’s notice and find a replacement for their shift.
  • No Show: If the employee does not let employer know they won’t be at work, disciplinary action will be taken. If an employee misses work for 3 days without letting employer know, they will be terminated.
  • Tardiness: If an employee is more than 10 minutes late on 5 different occasions, disciplinary action will be taken.

Simplify attendance and time-off tracking by moving your timecards to the cloud. Patriot’s small business time and attendance software add-on integrates with our payroll software. View and approve employee time cards, then send them to payroll in one integrated system. Try both for free today.

This article has been updated from its original publication date of August 30, 2012. 

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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