Attendance Policy: Key Elements and Implementation

Improve employee attendance

Attendance policy often seems to be something intuitively clear. Everyone knows they are not supposed to be late and warns in advance about not showing up. Such an intuitive approach works to some point in small companies until you personally hire and know everyone on the team. But as the company starts to grow, managing team attendance becomes more complicated and there’s a growing need to put formal processes in place. What should a good attendance policy include and how it should be aligned with your corporate culture? That’s what we cover in this post.

Key elements of attendance policy

With a formally introduced attendance policy, managers will handle absenteeism in a more consistent way. Employees, on their side, will know the exact consequences of each behavior, and it will have a positive effect on the overall corporate climate.

Basically, corporate attendance policy defines different types of absences, the way to inform about them, and the penalties. Most companies identify four types of absences:

  • Tardiness: employee comes later / leaves earlier than it is stated in their schedule
  • Absence: employee warns their manager at least one day in advance about not coming to work
  • Unscheduled absence: employee warns their manager the same day but before the shift starts about not coming to work due to unexpected reasons
  • No show: employee doesn’t show up at work without warning

You may also differentiate “sick days” or include them in the general “absence” category.

Depending on the corporate culture, you need to define the way and the time frame of reporting. Will you count tardiness based on the clock in/clock out system or simply showing up in the office is enough? Can you call your manager in the morning in case you feel sick or do you have to send an email? Is being 15 minutes late a tardiness or not?

Disciplinary actions are the most important part of your attendance policy. They need to be realistic and inevitable. If your employees see that someone can get away with not following the rules, this can create discontent and decrease loyalty.

Usually, there’s a scale of penalties for recurrent offenses starting from verbal warning and finishing with termination. It’s up to you whether or not to include a monetary penalty. Despite expectations, it can be effective only in short term and doesn’t work with employees who have bad ethics. Some companies also have stricter penalties during the orientation period.

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How attendance policy relates to your corporate culture

Imagine a digital marketing agency where creative people often work late, and it’s hard to measure the quality of their work in hours. Now let’s compare it to a hip restaurant that should open on time and where arriving late for the shift will result in slower service and dissatisfied customers.

Clearly, the two companies need different attendance policies. If the owner of the digital marketing agency starts to punish her employees for a 15-minute tardiness, people will lose their enthusiasm and feel that their creative efforts are depreciated. On the contrary, introducing discipline to the restaurant workers will be perceived as reasonable.

Every company needs to find its own balance between formal rules and maintaining the team’s motivation. A good attendance policy is limited to things that directly influence the result of work and doesn’t bother employees with what may be considered as “bureaucracy”. When you introduce a new attendance policy to the team, get their buy-in and be open to feedback.

Remember that corporate culture has a stronger effect than all policies. The research shows that for most people being respected by their peers is more important than money. Investing in the “work hard, play hard” spirit and building a motivated team pays off more than adding strict attendance rules.

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