Example - Attendance Policy
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Dealing with Attendance

People take days off and are sometimes late for work.  That is a given.  The most common problem is when people take days off when they are not sick, such as wanting to stretch the weekend into 3 days, but when they really are sick, they come into work because they have run out of sick days.  This is not good for the employee or other employees as they can become sick.  The real problem, however, happens when they call out sick after they have exceeded the sick days allowed for the year.  You can’t turn a blind eye to this behavior and it is unfair to those who make it a point to come to work everyday and are on time.  It is usually just a couple of employees who are the culprits.  It is especially hard to deal with attendance problems with a person who is otherwise a great employee.  Nonetheless, you have to deal with it, and with equality to all.


Here are eight points to keep in mind on how to control and possibly reduce attendance issues:


  • Make sure your employees understand your view towards attendance.  Make it a point to share your passion towards having a low absentee and tardiness department.  Your supervisors also really need to fully understand the attendance expectations as they are on the front line and will see the infractions much more easily than you.  If HR has not created one, have an attendance policy that clearly lays out the guidelines.  Also lead by example by getting to work a bit early, leaving a bit late, and rarely, if ever, call out sick.


  • Have your employee’s call you direct instead of their immediate supervisor.  They might think twice knowing you, the manager, will answer the phone or hear the voice mail.


  • Maintain accurate records.  There are easy to use software programs to track attendance.  You can even use something like your Outlook calendar to make a note of each infraction.  Create easy to use codes to not take up too much space.  For example, instead of John Doe called out sick or John Doe was 15 minutes late, use something like JD-S or JD-15m.


  • Look for trends.  If you see an employee call out on a Friday or Monday, chances are they are taken advantage of sick days for pleasure.  If you see an employee call out at the end of the month when your department is at its busiest, you most likely have someone who is not a team player.  If an employee is always around 5 to 10 minutes late, it’s not just a one off traffic jam but someone who just is not making the effort getting ready and to work on time.  You might even see repetitive signs of sickness or tardiness with the employee looking like they have been partying all night.  You want to address these trends as soon as possible.


  • Individual problem - have a one on one meeting.  Multiple people - hold a team meeting.   When you have an individual or two who are repeat offenders, you want to deal with them separately.  Don’t punish all for a few problem employees.  However, when you are seeing a trend with multiple members of the team with attendance issues, you need to hold a team meeting and show the statistics.  Stress how it can damage the achievement of goals.  Reducing absenteeism might even turn into a goal in itself.  This will show all that you are serious about attendance, and how their attendance is important to the overall success of the team.  Stress that you should not have to hire more people to achieve the goals due to poor attendance.  This will put on certain peer pressure that can work to your benefit, especially if you offer a reward to the team if they achieve an attendance record you have set.


  • Allow for personal business.  It is better for your employees to be up front and tell you the truth.  There might be a few occasions when someone needs to take some time off in the day to handle something that can only be dealt with during business hours.  Just make sure they do not take advantage of this gesture.


  • Create an award program for those who do not call out or are tardy for a certain period of time.  It can be a paid day off or other ideas that were given in lesson 3.  It shows that even though you are a stickler regarding attendance, you want to show your appreciation to those who make it a point to show up to work and being on time.


  • Have them make up time missed to make up for time lost.  Depending on state laws and company policy, this may be an option.  If not, can they use some of their vacation time, or get no time if they have already used up all of their sick time?  The “no time” means they would not get paid for the time missed.  It would affect hourly/non-exempt employees much more.

Steps to take when dealing with attendance problems:


  1. Counsel and verbal warning:  E-mail, or get their attention privately as to not embarrass the individual, to meet in your office.Start off by stating you are concerned over the absences or tardiness.  Establish the reasons and determine what needs to be done to improve the attendance issues.  If the problem does not appear to be a major health issue of any sort, you should advise the employee that an improvement in attendance is expected, or the next step in the procedure will be taken.  There should be no more attendance problems for the following 6 months.  Monitor the attendance monthly and proceed to step 2 if the problem continues.  Document this meeting and consider it a verbal warning, not a written warning.  You should notify HR if there are any medical issues that can possibly keep the employee out of work for any length of time.  If the doctor confirms fitness for work, the employee needs to be warned about the consequences of continued absence.


  1. First written warning:  If the employee’s absences continue, set up a second meeting.  State the purpose and be prepared to discuss the reasons for the absences.  Talk about the implications and how it affects the team and department, not to mention the company, and warn that if the problem continues, employment may be suspended and/or terminated.  This all depends on how HR has set up the attendance policy.  Document this meeting and consider it a written warning.  Monitor for improvement, if there are still problems, go to step 3.



  1. Second written warning or suspension:  If there is still no improvement, consult with HR on what should be done next.  If you can, and would like, set up another meeting with the same criteria as described in steps 1 and 2.  Listen to what the employee has to say, and let them know you will get back to them to determine the next step.  You can either give another written warning stating the next infraction is automatic suspension and/or termination, or go straight to the suspension stage.  Again, this is determined on the existing HR policy.


  1. Suspension and/or termination:  If no improvement in attendance occurs, you should proceed with a temporary suspension without pay.  The intention to suspend should be confirmed in writing with details of start and end dates.  HR will be involved and your presence may or may not be required.  It is imperative that you have documented every meeting with exact detail.  This might be needed if it ever goes to court.


If it is determined that the employee should be terminated, the employee should be advised that as a result of excessive attendance issues, they will be dismissed.  At this point, HR policies regarding pay and benefits will be discussed.


Before you take drastic measures with all that has been discussed so far in this lesson, make sure the problem is not morale related or some other underlying issue.  The fault might be yours due to departmental cracks, which you will need to find out what is wrong and fix as soon as possible.  There might also be a problem with the time clock, parking situation, or scheduling that you should do your best to fix, or come up with an alternative solution.


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