An employee tracks attendance on their smartphone.

What to Include in an Employee Attendance Policy

Does your company have a policy for clocking in and clocking out? A written employee attendance policy reduces ambiguity about work hours and timeliness.

A company attendance policy is an excellent tool for improving absence management strategies. Supervisors who provide an attendance policy can correct attendance issues long before they permeate company culture.

Be sure your policy is clear and complies with all local, state, and federal regulations.

Aim to provide detailed information about each approved and unapproved absence along with information about:

  • What is, and is not, considered an unexcused absence

  • Which employees qualify for specific leave types

  • What situations may trigger a warning or other disciplinary action

  • Leave requests and the approval/denial processes

Keep reading as we dive deeper into each topic, and then create your own comprehensive company policy.

employee attendance policy

Types of absenteeism

One of the first things your employee attendance policy should define is excused versus unexcused absences.

Absenteeism is the time taken off from regular work hours. It can either be approved or unapproved.

Paid time off requests for a vacation or sick leave, celebrating a holiday, or attending jury duty are all examples of approved absences.

Unexcused absences, on the other hand, are days or hours an employee takes off work without permission. We'll talk about each of these categories of absenteeism below.

Excused absences

Excused absences typically include time off for sick leave, personal leave, medical leave, jury duty, bereavement leave, holiday days off, vacation time, and other planned absences.

Paid time off (PTO) or unpaid time off policies generally cover excused absences. Your procedures should be based on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides legal guidance for companies with more than 50 employees.

FMLA-protected leave means that non-exempt employees have access to time off for medical reasons without fear of losing their job.

Other excused absence categories include:

  • Military absence: When an employee serves in the National Guard or is deployed

  • ADA-qualified absence: Requested as accommodation for a disabled employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines

  • Religious accommodation: Governed by Title VII (the Civil Rights Act), which mandates that managers must approve time off requests for religious observances

Some approved absences may require proof that the time off was necessary. For example, many companies require a doctor's note to access sick day benefits. A company could also request a copy of a jury duty summons before approving jury duty leave.

Unexcused absences

An unexcused absence is any absence that does not have approval. The least convenient kind of unexcused absence is a "no call/no show" absence when an employee simply does not show up for their shift without warning.

A tired barista considers taking time off during her shift

For example, your company policy may require employees to notify HR within two hours of their shift starting to access sick or medical leave benefits.

It's vital to address an actual no-call/no-show situation in the company policy. Note that not every no-show is a result of irresponsible behavior. A car accident or other emergency may prevent an employee from being present.

Classifying apparent no-shows as punishable unscheduled absences may create legal risks for companies. Be sure to provide reasonable accommodations, give documentation on policies, and ensure that employees have received proper training about absences and leave requests.


Tardiness is defined as habitually arriving late to work or leaving work early. Employees who arrive late or leave early are technically taking unapproved time off.

A lack of punctuality can leave more responsible co-workers in a position of having to assume their peers' workloads. This creates undue burdens on others and potentially increases overtime costs for the employer.

How attendance is measured

Your employee attendance policy must be specific about how employees' attendance will be measured and recorded.

There are several methods for tracking and measuring attendance — you could use spreadsheets, paper-based systems, and employee time tracking software. The most accessible, most efficient, and most accurate measuring methods use computer automation.

Some businesses already log clock in and clock out times, while others take more of an "honor system" approach. However, failure to monitor arrival and departure times can prevent workforce management supervisors from identifying areas where they could improve employee productivity.

An employee boards a train to attend her shift

Time clock apps allow staff to clock in and out remotely. Team members can use these apps to track work hours in real-time, providing managers opportunities to restrict shifts, resulting in better overtime control.

Another benefit of using time clock apps to measure attendance is that an ideal solution provides mechanisms to encourage employees to take mandated breaks, such as lunch and rest periods.

When using an employee time monitoring and measuring system, workers must know that their behavior is being tracked.

Along with adding the company's absenteeism policy to the employee handbook, companies must include a section on monitoring and tracking policies that explains how and when they use payroll tracking software to monitor their employees during scheduled work time.

Payroll tracking software functionality empowers employers to gain deeper insights into employee performance and productivity.

Employers can easily organize data from digital time cards into records of each department or employee. Managers can spot both positive and negative workplace behaviors.

These insights allow managers to conduct evaluations more efficiently, reward great employees, and retrain or discipline employees appropriately.

Procedures for disciplinary action

A well-crafted absenteeism policy includes written procedures for progressive disciplinary action.

Both managers and employees have distinct responsibilities during disciplinary discussions. Managers and human resources personnel must provide verbal and written warnings according to company policy.

Employees must sign each written document to signal that management advised them to avoid such warnings in the future and what might happen if the negative behavior continues.

A typical progression for disciplinary actions includes:

  • A first infraction where the manager issues a verbal warning

  • A second infraction is when leaders provide a written warning

  • A third infraction is when management invokes suspension without pay, demotion, or termination

Different infractions may demand different sanctions, so your company's absenteeism policy should provide clear disciplinary instructions for each type of policy violation.

An attendance policy template for written documentation helps management ensure that progressive discipline notices are consistent and fairly applied to all staff.

A manager reviews employee attendance notes

Procedures for employee recognition

Along with providing consistent disciplinary actions, it is essential to reward positive employee behavior.

Rather than just demanding employees avoid certain behaviors (such as tardiness), providing clear expectations will elevate morale. Some studies show that business productivity increases by 12% to more than 30% when team members are happy.

You can help create happy employees by defining a good attendance policy that rewards punctuality and consistent attendance.

A simple but effective reward program may look like this:

  • Identify goals and expectations and use a point system to track perfect attendance and timeliness

  • Establish key metrics for measuring employee and department performance

  • Choose rewards that resonate with your employees and reflect company values: paid time off, bonuses, additional wellness days, or a trip to an industry conference

  • Introduce and remind about your attendance rewards program: publish information in the company newsletter, create posters for break areas, and mention the new program during staff meetings

Implementing and Communicating Your Attendance Policy

Even the best attendance policy imaginable is ineffective without proper implementation through clear communication. Once you’ve completed your attendance policy, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to put it into action, like: 

  • Clearly articulating implementation. Have a clear go-live date for your new policy. Don’t enforce the policy retroactively. Make it extremely clear what date and time it will take effect.

  • Holding informational meetings. Don’t just roll out a completed policy with no context. Hold informational meetings to explain the thoughts behind your decisions, welcome input, and create a reasonable attendance policy.

  • Using the right tools. Try utilizing attendance tracking software in conjunction with your attendance policy. This takes the guesswork out of enforcing a policy and sets the tone from the start.

  • Inviting feedback from your team. Both in these meetings and after, open the floor for questions, comments, and concerns. Your team might have ideas that you overlooked that could be beneficial for everyone. 

  • Reiterating on the process. Once you’ve gotten feedback, implement it into the policy. This builds trust with your team, strengthens your policy, and helps ensure a smoother transition. 

Now that you’ve created and implemented an attendance policy, there’s only one thing left to do: reap the rewards of said policy.

Reap the rewards of your employee attendance policy

A comprehensive employee attendance policy sets clear expectations, rewards employees for good behavior, and helps reduce negative workplace behaviors.

Boosting morale and employee satisfaction often leads to lower absenteeism and turnover rates. Plus, a happy workforce creates a culture that encourages higher productivity and performance numbers.

Remember, a good attendance program encourages everyone to show up for their scheduled shift as a part of developing a well-oiled, working system that is efficient and cost-effective.

Workforce management software, such as digital time clock apps for in-house and remote teams automatically tracks employee time and processes payroll more efficiently.

Screenshot of Hubstaff employee attendance reports

Workforce analytics data provides insights for improving employee productivity and controlling unnecessary payroll spending. Additionally, establishing alerts helps get the workforce focused and on schedule.

Time tracking software to monitor employee absences may promote positive company culture and core values. Clearly defined expectations can also help human resources managers identify unexcused absences that signal job abandonment.

The sooner a company knows that an employee has abandoned their position without notice, the sooner managers can recruit and train new employees to fill the gaps. It's just more reason employee data is essential.

Hubstaff's employee time tracking system offers all these benefits and more.

Is your company struggling with excessive unapproved absences?

Does your human resources team need tools to develop and execute time off policies?

If you answer yes to either or both of these questions, sign up for a free 14-day trial. See how Hubstaff can help you encourage higher productivity rates and elevate employee morale today.

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