Employee Attendance Policy - Everything You Need To Know In 2024

As an employer, you will inevitably encounter instances of employees arriving late or missing entire days of work for a variety of reasons ranging from medical appointments to vacations, unforeseen circumstances, or even traffic. This can significantly disrupt your daily operations. By implementing an attendance policy, you can underscore the importance of accountability, boost productivity, and effectively curb absenteeism, thereby maintaining a smooth workflow.

In the following article, we will explore the importance of attendance policies, their positive impact on your organization, and how to tailor one to your business. We will also provide practical guidance on what to include in your policy, share some tried-and-true strategies, and offer a valuable free template to use as a starting point for your policy. 

What is an attendance policy?

An attendance policy is a company’s set of rules that defines every expectation regarding absences, vacations, tardiness, no-call-no-shows, and related matters. Usually, this policy also describes a discipline policy for attendance infractions.

Typically, the HR department develops and enforces an attendance policy that is part of the employee handbook. This policy is a great way to promote individual accountability for your employees and speaks to the transparency in your organization.


Types of attendance issues

Without having an attendance policy, your organization can be up against various attendance issues, such as:

  • Absenteeism - constant absences from work that prevent the employee from finishing his work, which adds workload on other colleagues.
  • Presenteeism - spending too much time at work, more than the one required by the employer, which generates low productivity and decreases job satisfaction.
  • Tardiness - arriving constantly late at work, taking longer breaks than others, or leaving work early with permission—affects the workplace's workflow.

Benefits of attendance policies

Implementing an attendance policy can bring about a host of advantages for your organization:

  • Punctual workforce: an attendance policy sets the employer's expectations and minimizes disruption due to tardiness. Having punctual employees contributes to the overall positive atmosphere in the organization.
  • Universal levels of accountability: a document that clearly describes the consequences for not complying with attendance rules will likely make employees more accountable for their actions.
  • Reduced absenteeism: Tracking attendance, especially breaks, can help identify and solve absenteeism issues.
  • Cost efficiency: absenteeism costs employers a lot of money, and the reasons are various. By reducing this issue, employers can save money they would spend on hiring freelancers or part-timers to cover for absent workers.
  • Better employee morale: having a clear set of rules regarding absenteeism can enhance morale by preventing employees from working extra time to cover for absent colleagues.


Best practices for attendance policies

An attendance policy is crucial for your business to function properly as time passes and more people join your company. Here are some tips for implementing and using your attendance policy.

1. Acknowledge workplace culture

Attendance and how you handle it are part of your company culture. If your employees have made a habit of getting to work late, changing perspectives and behaviors may take a while.

As a first step, discuss with the managers how they handle tardiness, short notice leaves, and absences. They should all be on the same page to create a transparent environment and a standardized approach.

Other factors may be taken into consideration. For example, if you have employees who are students, flexibility should be considered, the same with employees who are parents. People with chronic diseases may need to work from home.

2. Draft a clear and simple policy

Don’t aim to create a policy that covers every possible scenario of absence, it is impossible. Instead, stick to the more popular instances of absence and explain the expectations and consequences in simple terms.

Here are some examples of attendance issues:

  • Tardiness - the case when the employee arrives a few minutes later or more than the scheduled start time. 
  • Planned absence - the days off were approved in advance by the manager.
  • Sick days - the employee is absent due to illness or based on a doctor’s note.
  • Unplanned absences - the employee informs the manager he will be absent due to unforeseen circumstances or emergencies.
  • No-shows - the employee does not come to work and doesn’t notify management.

Creating clear categories of absences will help employees understand what’s expected of them and is useful as proof of transparency.

Remember to pay attention to the less desirable part, the disciplinary actions. An attendance policy should also describe the consequences of noncompliance.

What could you implement in these scenarios?

  • Tardiness means arriving five minutes or more after the scheduled start date.
  • Employees who arrive more than 60 minutes after their shift starts will be counted as a no-show.
  • After three occasions of tardiness or unscheduled absences, employees will be facing disciplinary action.
  • Managers must be notified at least two hours in advance regarding unplanned absences.


3. Ask employees to give feedback

After designing the policy, it's crucial to review it with your employees and actively seek their opinions. This step fosters a sense of inclusivity and fairness, ensuring that your attendance policy is sustainable and meets the needs of your workforce.

It’s a great opportunity to make sure your attendance policy is sustainable.


4. Communicate the policy

After finalizing your policy, make sure you communicate it to your employees and managers. Not only managers but also the HR department should be trained and able to understand and explain any part of it to the employees.

The attendance policy should be part of the employee handbook, and easily accessible from a digital source.



What to include in an attendance policy?

Every company has its needs and specificities, but the goal is to inform your employees of your expectations regarding attendance and how important it is for the organization's sake.

Here is a small list of the most important provisions to include in an attendance policy:


Absence categories

Describe how your company defines authorized and unplanned absence. A list should be offered containing every type of absence, the related procedure, and whether it is compensated or not.

Examples of authorized absence:

  • Paid time off
  • Maternity and paternity leave
  • Work from home
  • Public holidays
  • Time off in lieu

Examples of unplanned absence

  • Paid sick leave
  • Family emergency
  • Bereavement leave
  • Jury duty
  • Military duty
  • Absence due to a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions



Indicate the time all employees have to be present at work.

Define what your company considers “being late” and the exact amount of time. Some companies consider a 15-minute grace period, as many small things can happen before getting to work.

In this section, make sure you mention which superior should be notified about late arrival and the obligatory notification period.


Job abandonment

Employment laws do not have provisions for this situation, so it would be a good idea to consider it in your attendance policy.

Job abandonment is the case when an employee stops coming to work without informing management and does not respond to attempts of contact on the employer’s part.

Make sure you define job abandonment clearly, such as not showing up for work three days in a row. Also, it is important to set the consequences: disciplinary action or immediate termination without pay.


Disciplinary action and measures

Even though it’s unpleasant, disciplinary action must be taken in some cases to prevent the whole organization from suffering from poor attendance. Therefore, besides supervising employees directly, make sure you include a section in your policy stating what types of disciplinary actions can be taken for unexcused absences, such as:

  • Verbal and written warnings
  • Disciplinary meetings with HR
  • Performance improvement plan
  • Deduction of PTO
  • Temporary suspension or demotion
  • Termination without severance pay.

This is a list of examples; you can adapt it to your company’s needs. Make sure you progressively apply the disciplinary measures, considering the severity of the misconduct and the employee’s record.


Flexible attendance policy

Flexible working hours can enhance productivity and promote a better work-life balance.

Consider if the nature of some positions allows it, offering different starting hours and more work-from-home days.


Remember! Having an attendance policy is not a question of “maybe yes, maybe no”. It’s one of the many procedural documents that can benefit your organization and your workforce.


Employee attendance policy template

If designing one seems like a hard job, we offer a free template below.


FAQs about attendance policies

What is the purpose of an attendance policy?

An attendance policy emphasizes the importance of good and great attendance in an organization. This can lead to higher productivity levels and high morale for the employees.

What is a reasonable attendance policy?

A reasonable attendance policy implies that your employees are present at work no later than 15 minutes from the scheduled start time and inform management in case of unplanned absences at least 2 hours before the scheduled start date.


What does tardiness mean?

Several forms of tardiness exist, such as constantly arriving late at work, taking longer breaks than others, or leaving work early with permission.


How can employee attendance problems be improved?

To improve attendance within small to mid size business reflect on the following options:

  • Track leave days.
  • Stimulate engagement.
  • Set and communicate expectations.
  • Reduce sick leave.
  • Train managers/supervisors.


How do I create a work schedule for my employees?

Ensuring there is a coherent work plan for each of your employees is the first step towards an well running organization. Yet there are more aspects that you can consider: 

  • Plan, considering your business and industry
  • Compare assignments, imminent demand, and deadlines to the number of employees
  • Check employee availability
  • Schedule employees according to all the data collected before
  • Design and use a template for daily, weekly, and monthly schedules.


What actions can be taken to address poor attendance?

The first steps are creating an attendance policy and tracking attendance. Discuss with the employee if the issues continue, and ultimately, disciplinary action can be taken.


Where should an attendance policy be incorporated?

Your attendance policy should be included in your employee handbook and preferably available in a digital version at all times.