Needless to say, a company can’t operate (let alone succeed) if the employees aren’t showing up to work. But how do you ensure that your workforce will consistently report for duty? One good step is having a clear attendance policy. Communicating clearly about what are acceptable reasons to miss work, how these requests should be made, and what does not qualify as an excusable absence can prevent a lot of confusion and make employees more accountable. The key to communicating these guidelines is a well-written and enforced “No-Fault Attendance” policy. This kind of policy may even boost employee morale by minimizing resentment on the part of some employees toward coworkers who suffer no consequences for being chronically absent. Here is a deeper look at what such a policy should cover. General tone An attendance policy should be strict enough to allow the employer to discipline those employees whose absences cause problems, yet flexible enough that the employer does not have to terminate good employees who are absent infrequently. Multiple policies It is also acceptable to have different policies for different departments, as the needs for the staff to be present on a daily basis and shift lengths may differ. Morale Rewarding employees for good attendance is good for employee morale and ultimately may improve overall attendance. Interaction with unemployment compensation A reasonable and enforced policy is a good defense against unemployment compensation claims if an employer can prove that the employee failed to abide by the published attendance policy. Such a policy is a good defense to an unemployment compensation claim by an employee terminated for excessive absenteeism as it allows the employer to show that the employee violated the uniformly enforced policy and was discharged for doing so. Again, to be effective, the policy must be reasonable, uniformly enforced, and in writing. Disabilities and attendance In addition, a well-written and uniformly enforced attendance policy may avoid liability under the ADA to job applicants or employees whose disabilities prevent regular and consistent attendance. The employer’s reasonable attendance standards may be deemed an essential function of the job, which may not have to be relaxed as part of a reasonable accommodation if attendance is required to perform the position and the attendance standards are spelled out in advance and uniformly and consistently applied. Family and medical leave absences The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has made enforcing absentee policies more difficult for larger employers by prohibiting covered employers from disciplining or discharging an eligible employee for an absence caused by a protected reason, including a serious health condition of the employee or a member of his or her family. The FMLA does impose certain requirements upon employees with respect to eligibility for leave – including notice to the employer and medical certification, and employers should be mindful of enforcing attendance policies in situations that involve FMLA leave. Below is an example of an attendance policy that uses a point system for employee absences that you can customize to fit your needs. Sample attendance policy You are hired to perform an important function at ABC Company. As with any group effort, it takes cooperation and commitment from everyone to operate effectively. Therefore, your attendance and punctuality are very important. Absences cause a slow-down in the work and added burdens for your fellow employees. Good attendance is something that is expected from all employees. You should be at your work station by the start of each workday at the time designated by the department. Excessive absenteeism or tardiness will not be tolerated and will be cause for disciplinary action up to and including discharge. We do realize, however, that there are times when absences and tardiness cannot be avoided. This is why we have a no-fault system that allows you to accumulate some points before any disciplinary action will be taken against you. It is expected that everyone will accumulate some points under this system. It is only when points become excessive, and warnings are issued, that an employee need be concerned about his or her attendance practices. Regardless of the reason for your absence, you are expected to properly notify your supervisor on duty at least one hour in advance of your scheduled work time. Leaving a message does not qualify as notifying your supervisor. You must personally contact your supervisor. Lack of a telephone or absence from town is not an excuse for failing to notify your supervisor of absence or tardiness. You should call every day that you are absent unless you are on an approved leave of absence. Unreported and unexcused absences of two consecutive work days will be considered a voluntary resignation of employment with the Company. Each employee’s absenteeism and tardiness records are kept on file with the Human Resources Department. The absenteeism and tardiness records are kept on a point system basis. Depending upon the nature of the absence, a certain number of points are accumulated by an employee on his or her absence record. When an employee reaches various point totals, certain notice and disciplinary actions will be taken. An employee may receive a written notice, a written warning, a final written warning, or may be discharged depending upon the number of points he or she accumulates. The point system is based upon the progressive past 12 calendar months. Any employee who accumulates 24 or more points in a 12 calendar month period under this system will be discharged. On the first day of each calendar month, points accumulated during that same month one year prior will be removed from the employee’s record for purposes of this policy. If an employee accumulates only three points or less during any progressive 12 calendar month period, he or she will receive one day off with pay. Upon earning a day off with pay, the employee will begin a new 12-month period for purposes of earning another day off under this program. Absences from work will accumulate points in the following manner: If your absence is due to illness or injury, you may be required to provide a doctor’s report supporting the necessity of your absence, as well as your ability to return to your work, within 15 calendar days after the absence or tardiness. If your absence is the result of personal emergency other than illness or injury, documentation supporting your absence may be required. No Points 1. Off work due to a work-related injury with medical verification that the employee is unable to work. 2. Off work due to jury duty, military leave, medical leave, FMLA leave, lack of work, subpoenas, or any other absence expressly authorized by the Company, the terms of Company policy, or the law. 3. Off work because of adverse weather conditions resulting in the closing of schools and/or roads in this or the surrounding counties by the local authorities. 4. Off work due to an accident in which you are involved coming to work and which you can verify through police records or other satisfactory evidence. Car trouble is not excused. One-half (1/2) Point 1. Leaving work early because of a proven emergency. One (1) Point 1. Late to work by 18 minutes or less for any reason not excused above. 2. Leaving work two hours or less before the end of your scheduled work time for any reason not excused above after notifying your supervisor. Two (2) Points 1. Late to work by more than 18 minutes for any reason not excused above. 2. Leaving work more than two hours before the end of your scheduled workweek for any reason not excused above after notifying your supervisor. Three (3) Points 1. Absence for any reason not excused above with proper call-in. Twelve (12) Points 1. Absence for any reason not excused above without proper call-in. The accumulation of the following number of points will result in the following action being taken by the Company: • 12 Points: A written notice that the employee has accumulated 12 or more points. • 16 Points: A written warning to the employee. • 20 Points: A final written warning to the employee. • 24 Points: The employee will be discharged. EXAMPLE: Employee is late on one occasion by 30 minutes, leaves work 1 hour early on another occasion, and has three properly reported absences that are not excused. 2 points + 1 point + 9 points = 12 points = Written Notice The Company will not notify the employees that through the passage of time they have lost points. However, each time an employee accumulates enough points to trigger a notice or warning, the employee will receive such notice or warning. For example, if an employee accumulates 12 points and receives a written notice of such points and then subsequently drops, through the passage of time, to 10 points, the employee will be reissued a written notice again upon the re-accumulation of 12 points. Employees also may check with the Human Resources Department at any time to determine their point status. The Company also reserves the right to impose discipline, up to and including discharge, for excessive excused absences or tardiness. Need more policies and forms? Our Model Employee Policies and Forms for Employers are packed with hundreds of downloadable policies and forms. You can also sign up for HR Update, our newsletter that will let you know what’s new in the HR world every week. Click here to sign up.