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What Is an Attendance Policy and How to Create One

Attendance Policy
15 minute read

An attendance policy is a company document that sets clear expectations about employee attendance, punctuality, leave, and more. This type of policy is crucial to maximize employee productivity, maintain fairness between teams and managers, and promote individual accountability among your entire workforce.  

In this article, we’ll discuss the contents of an attendance policy in detail and talk about what makes it an important part of modern companies. We’ll also give you some tips on how to create one. 

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

What Is an Attendance Policy?

An attendance policy, in broadest terms, is a set of guidelines or rules created by an employer for the purposes of regulating and monitoring employee attendance. In most cases, an attendance policy will include the following information: 

  • Expectations regarding employee attendance – Information on when, where, and for how long employees should be present at work performing their job-related obligations. In the case of remote employees, the attendance policy defines their work hours and provides information about their expected availability online on the communication platforms used by the company.
  • Expectations regarding employee punctuality – Details on how punctuality is viewed within a particular business or company, as well as information on the following questions: Is there a valid reason for employees being late for work or missing a deadline, and if so, what are those reasons? What sort of tardiness will be tolerated by an employer, and to what extent? Does being 10 minutes late incur a penalty or not?
  • All penalties and consequences employees will face if they don’t comply with the rules and guidelines detailed in the company’s attendance policy.

Most businesses will use an attendance policy as a means to educate their employees about the number of permissible absences from work, late arrivals, or early departures they are allowed to have without facing any consequences.

An attendance policy could also include a detailed description of the time off request procedure.

Additionally, some attendance policies can include specific information on how employee absences will be recorded, the related documentation that will accompany these records, and the notification processes in place.

The Benefits of Using an Attendance Policy

Having an attendance policy can be highly beneficial for your business. Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits:

1. Punctual Employees

Having employees who are punctual and regularly come to work has a positive effect on the entire workplace environment and team productivity. With an attendance policy, companies can set clear expectations and minimize disruptions caused by absent or tardy employees.

2. Positive Work Environment

Consistent attendance can foster a positive work environment where everyone is both present and engaged. And one of the benefits of positive work environments is an increased level of productivity. Additionally, good attendance can encourage collaboration and teamwork between company personnel.

3. Higher Levels of Accountability

An attendance policy, with clearly stated consequences and penalties for non-compliance, can help ensure employees are more accountable for their actions. It can establish clear standards that all employees are expected to meet and reduce the likelihood of recurrent absences or general tardiness.

An attendance policy can ensure that an employer is compliant with all obligations and rules imposed by national laws, which can further help companies avoid any legal issues or penalties.

5. Easier Employee Evaluation

Attendance policies should include clear guidelines on how employee attendance is both managed and recorded. Information from those records can be a great tool for evaluating the performance of individual team members, identifying trends in their overall workflow, and subsequently addressing them to everyone's benefit.

6. Improved Cost-Efficiency

Absenteeism, for various reasons, can cost employees a significant amount of money, according to studies and research data. By reducing the number of absences from work, employers can save money on hiring part-timers or freelancers to cover for absent employees, various turnover costs, and more.

What to Include in an Attendance Policy?

The main goal of a good attendance policy is to clearly communicate how important regular attendance is to a particular company. 

The details included in an average attendance policy will greatly depend on the nature of the company’s business, the size of the workforce, as well as its composition (the number of employees working on a particular project).  

Attendance policies can be company-wide or pertain to a particular department or team. For the most part, your attendance policy should include the following information:

1. A Clear Definition of Work Absence

This section of the attendance policy should include a clear and straightforward definition of what your company constitutes as authorized, unauthorized, and unplanned absence.

Authorized Absence

Authorized absence, authorized leave, or approved leave is a type of absence that is permitted by an employer. It encompasses a period of time during which an employee is allowed to be away from their usual work duties or obligations, provided they receive formal approval from the company’s higher-ups or HR department. 

Most companies require upfront notice (e.g., a week, two weeks, a month) before approving any requests for authorized leave. 

The most common examples of authorized absence are:

  •  A planned vacation;
  • Various types of medical leave;
  • Maternity leave;
  • Public holidays;
  • Paid leave or paid time off;
  • Time off in lieu (time off given as a reward for excellent work performances);
  • Jury duty;
  • Military service or obligations;
  • Bereavement leave (in case of the death of a loved one or a family member).

Unauthorized Absence

Unauthorized absence, also called unexcused absence or absenteeism, is a type of absence that is not permitted or encouraged by an employer. 

It covers a time period in which an employee is absent from work without notice and/or approval from their employer.

 Some of the most common examples of this type of absence are:

  • Employees skipping/not showing up for work without a valid explanation;
  • Employees being regularly late for work;
  • Employees taking prolonged lunch or other types of breaks;
  • Employees leaving work earlier than stated in their contract and without explicit persimmon from their employer;
  • Employees abusing or misusing sick leave policy (taking sick leave days when not actually sick).

Unplanned Absence

Unplanned absences are a type of absence that occurs as a result of unplanned (unforeseen) circumstances and/or emergencies. It covers a period of time in which an employee is absent from work and is not performing their regular job obligations. 

Unplanned absence can become authorized if it’s protected by federal or state laws (e.g., bereavement leave, military duty), or it can be at the sole discretion of an employer.  

Some examples of unplanned absences are: 

  • Sudden illness;
  • Family emergency;
  • Problems with transportation (e.g., car troubles such as a flat tire, blown-out engine, heavy traffic due to an accident, and more);
  • Natural disasters (e.g., floods, earthquakes, and the like);
  • Extreme weather conditions (e.g., heavy snowfall, rain, etc.).

2. Lateness and Early Departures

This part of the attendance policy should clearly state the exact time your employees and specific teams/departments are required to arrive at the workplace.  

If you want to be thorough, you can include a definition of lateness as viewed from the eyes of your company. Some companies give their employees a 15-minute grace period, meaning they are allowed to be late to work for up to 15 minutes. 

If you choose to include that provision in your attendance policy, consider adding that employees who arrive 15 minutes late have to stay 15 minutes longer at the end of their work day. Remember, it’s up to your sole discretion to define the specific amount of time your employees are allowed to be late for work or completely disallow it if you feel necessary. 

The same should be done when it comes to early departures from work. You need to decide whether this practice will be allowed and for what reasons, as well as indicate the proper administrative procedure for leaving work early. 

When it comes to this specific issue, most companies allow their managers to decide if and why a specific employee should get to leave work early. The process usually involves direct communication between an employee and their manager, during which the manager decides if the reasons are valid or not and whether they’ll affect the overall productivity and work obligations. 

If you’re unsure exactly how to go about this part of the attendance policy, you should know that a good way of tracking time and attendance and ensuring your employees stick to their work schedules is to implement a timesheet policy into your business. 

One of the best ways to achieve this is to use various project management solutions and couple them with time-tracking apps.

3. Job Abandonment

Job abandonment refers to employee behavior that has them cease coming to work without notifying their employer, accompanied by the failure to respond to any and all attempts at contacting them.  

This type of behavior is not regulated by any state or federal laws but is widely considered a serious dereliction of work obligations. And as such, it should be included in your attendance policy.  

Namely, you could state that employees who don’t show up at work for 3 consecutive days and do not respond to communication attempts are liable for disciplinary actions, such as: 

  • Termination of contract;
  • Termination of contract without severance pay;
  • Cutting/removing specific benefits;
  • Not having to give them any back pay. 

To thwart this type of behavior, make sure to include the notice period your employees should give you before ending their employment with you. This information should also be included in their contracts. 

Most commonly, businesses have a two-week notice mandate, which should stop employees from leaving their jobs without notifying their employers. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

4. Types of Disciplinary Action

Every attendance policy should include a list of disciplinary actions that employees with poor attendance records can or will potentially face. All of this is intended to prevent low attendance or absenteeism, which can negatively affect productivity, team cohesion, and more. 

The most common types of disciplinary actions that you could add to your attendance policy are: 

  • Verbal or written warnings – These are meant to be as clear as possible and should inform the employee about the consequences they will face if they don’t change their work behavior/attendance;
  • Suspension from work – This will involve temporarily removing an employee in violation of your company’s attendance policy from work. Suspension is usually accompanied by reducing or completely docking an employee’s pay for its duration.
  • Deduction of paid time off – Employees who fail to attend work at regular and predetermined intervals will have their paid leave days reduced based on the number of days they failed to show up at work without a valid reason or permission from their employer.
  • Demotion – It usually includes removing an employee from their current position, stripping them of their title and benefits, and decreasing their pay.
  • Termination without severance pay – This should be looked at as a last resort, as it is the most severe disciplinary action of them all. It includes complete and permanent removal of an employee in violation of their job and is most commonly reserved for situations of serious misconduct or repeated violations of policies.

The disciplinary actions, as stated above, should mostly be used progressively. This means that the entire disciplinary process should first start with a verbal or written warning. If that doesn’t produce the expected results (i.e., improved employee attendance), you should move to the next disciplinary action, and so on.

5. Optional Parts to Include in Your Attendance Policy

For the most part, every attendance policy should include some variation of things that we’ve mentioned above. With that being said, we also must note that not every attendance policy is going to be the same. The specific details will depend on the type and nature of your company’s business and industry.  

Although the following provisions are less common, they are still used, and that’s why we’ve decided to incorporate them into this article as optional parts of an attendance policy.

An Attendance Point System

An attendance point system is a method for tracking and managing employee attendance and addressing absenteeism issues. For the most part, it involves assigning a predetermined number of points to employees for absences, lateness, or various other attendance-related violations. 

A good example of this practice is Walmart's point system. The basics of it are as follows: 

  • Employees who arrive to work 15 minutes to 2 hours late will receive half a point.
  • Employees who are late for more than half of their shift (meaning more than 4 hours) will receive one point.
  • Employees who don’t show up for work but call and give same-day notice will receive one point.
  • Employees who don’t show up for their shift and don’t call will receive two points

Employees who aggregate up to five points are then considered for various disciplinary actions, including termination of employment. In order to reset the accumulated points, employees have to adhere to the entirety of Walmat’s attendance policy for no less than six months. 

You could use Walmart's example as a basis/template for your own attendance point system, or you could just make up your own system.

Flexible Attendance

Flexible attendance, also called flexible working hours or flexible scheduling, is a type of work arrangement that allows employees a greater amount of control over their work hours as long as they meet the required number of hours or fulfill all of their job responsibilities (tasks and the like).  

Flexible attendance is most commonly connected to hybrid workspaces, meaning employees get to choose whether they want to work from home or the office, as well as what their work hours are (they don’t have to follow the regular 9-5 hours).  

Hybrid workspaces typically allow employees to work in a remote setting on certain days of the week or a certain number of days in a week. For example, some companies state that employees can work remotely on Mondays and Wednesdays. Others can have something less specific, like employees working remotely for 2 days inside a single work week.    

If you’re thinking about creating a hybrid work environment or want to accommodate certain employees with flexible attendance arrangements, simply add this to your overall attendance policy.


What does absenteeism mean?

Absenteeism in the work setting is defined as regularly occurring absence from work, including lateness or tardiness, early departures, and prolonged lunch breaks. It encompasses all absences from the workplace that lack a proper explanation or valid authorization from the employer (or the person in charge of dealing with such matters).

How many unexcused absences can an employee have within a 90-day period?

There is no exact number of unexcused absences that an employer should tolerate. It will all depend on the specifics of the situation at hand, the company’s culture, the nature of its business, and the like. But, a good rule to follow is that no employee should have more than 3 unauthorized absences from work within a 90-day period. Anything more than that should be followed by appropriate disciplinary measures.

How many unexcused absences can employees have within one year?

Most companies don’t allow their employees to have more than 8 unexcused absences within a single fiscal year. Anything equal or more than 8 will be sufficient grounds for termination of said employee’s employment contract.

How to hold employees accountable for absences from work?

The best way to hold employees accountable for unauthorized absences from work is to include possible disciplinary actions in your attendance policy. This way, all of your employees will be held accountable for absences and will be liable for various disciplinary actions, such as suspension, docked pay, and, ultimately, termination of their employment contract.

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