Creating Attendance Policies for Your Business

An attendance policy is essential for highlighting the importance of being on time and present for work each day. A well-written and enforce attendance policy boosts employee morale by ensuring everyone receives the same treatment for absences or tardiness.

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Best practices for attendance policies for your business

Your attendance policy is a document that defines absences and tardiness. Include it in your employee handbook so employees know what the expectations and consequences are for not adhering to the policy. Here are a few best practices to help you create an attendance policy for your business:


  • Take work culture into consideration
  • Keep it simple
  • Include realistic disciplinary actions
  • Ask for employee feedback

Take work culture into consideration

Employee attendance is part of your company culture, so if your employees are chronically showing up late, it may take time to shift your company culture. Before you begin writing your attendance policy, speak with the managers about the way they currently handle tardiness and absences. You may find that some managers are more strict with employees showing up on time, while others are far laxer. Differences in approach can send mixed messages to employees. Management must have a shared expectation for attendance in order to change the company culture and successfully implement an attendance policy.


Also keep in mind, as you write the policy, that if many of your employees have young families, a zero-tolerance attendance policy may cause increased turnover rates.


Keep it simple

While it may be tempting to try to create a policy that covers every possible scenario for employee absences or tardiness, it’s best to stick to common topics and define the expectations in language that everyone can understand. Some examples of this are: absences, tardiness, sick days, unscheduled absences and no-shows. 


  • Absences: The employee is absent from their shift but has notified their manager in advance
  • Tardiness: When the employee doesn’t show up without a specified number of minutes from the beginning of their shift
  • Sick days: When employees are absent because of illness
  • Unscheduled absences: Whether the employee is absent because of an emergency or for some other reason
  • No-shows: This is when an employee is absent from their shift but fails to notify 

For each of these scenarios, designate a time frame. For example, establish the number of days or weeks in advance that an employee must request to be absent from work. You may choose, in your attendance policy, to give employees a grace period of 10 minutes after their shift has begun before considering them tardy. You may choose to allow employees to be sick for a certain number of days before requiring a doctor’s note or require them to notify their manager at least one hour prior to their shift.


Include realistic disciplinary actions

Studies show that most full-time employees miss between three and four days of work per year. It’s also important to take the business impact into consideration when creating attendance disciplinary action policies. If an employee misses work unexpectedly and you are unable to find someone to fill in for them, it could carry the same ramifications as a no-show. If they are 30 minutes late during a high-volume shift, it could have the same impact as an absence. 


In these scenarios, your attendance policy could say:


  • Employees must show up at least five minutes after their shift has begun
  • Employees who show up more than 30 minutes after their shift has begun will be counted as a no-show
  • Employees who are tardy on more than three occasions will be subject to disciplinary action
  • Managers must be notified three hours in advance when an employee will be unexpectedly absent from work
  • Employees who have more than three unscheduled absences will be subject to disciplinary actions


Ask for employee feedback

An attendance policy is important for both the employer and the employee. For employers, it maximizes productivity by minimizing tardiness and unexpected absences. For employees, it sets an expectation about when they should be at work and provides guidelines for when they need to notify a manager of an absence. It also clarifies when to expect disciplinary actions. In fact, it should help to improve morale to clarifying expectations.

Related: How to Manage Employees


What to include in an attendance policy

Your attendance policy should include:


  • Overview: An introduction to the policy that clarifies that employees must be at work on time every day
  • Calculation of infractions: If you choose to have a point system where, for example, a no-show counts as two points and an unexpected absence is one point, you should clearly define how each infraction is weighted
  • Overview of disciplinary actions: Clarify what the disciplinary actions will be for each infraction, whether it’s a verbal warning, written warning, suspension without pay or termination
  • Attendance policy exceptions: Add that absence because of military duty, jury duty, bereavement or other specific circumstances are exempt from disciplinary actions

Related: Unlimited Vacation Policy: Why Employers Should Consider It


Frequently asked questions about attendance policies

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about attendance policies.


What are no-fault attendance policies?

With a no-fault attendance policy, employees accumulate points for unexcused absences, tardiness or early departures. When an employee accumulates a certain number of points, the employer can then take the appropriate disciplinary measures.


Why is an attendance policy important?

An attendance policy emphasizes the importance of being present and on time for work each day. It helps employees recognize that their attendance and punctuality impact productivity for the company and that deviation from the policy can cost the company money. It also ensures everyone understands the expectations for attendance and punctuality and clarifies the consequences of not adhering to the policy. By putting an attendance policy in writing, it ensures all employees receive the same fair treatment, which can improve overall company morale.


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