Employee attendance tracking – always knowing who is absent, how often and why – will help you spot troubling patterns and address an employee time and attendance problem early. And should a dispute occur, whether it’s about wages or a disciplinary action or termination the written (or electronic) records of employee absences will serve as critical evidence to justify the company’s decisions.
Setting up employee attendance policies
Put everything in writing. Your employee attendance policy must be communicated to all employees so that it can be enforced. The policy, along with the tools you use to track employee attendance should be described in writing and included in the employee handbook.
Make sure they understand the tools. If employee timeclock systems are to be used, instruction should be provided on the first day to make sure the employee knows how and where to check in and out. If attendance tracking cards or employee time sheets are used, make sure new employees know where to find them, and what information is required.
Apply to same employee attendance rules to everyone. It’s important that your policy is applied consistently. Employers may be courting discrimination lawsuits if they only discipline some employees for poor attendance.
Spell out the consequences. A formal, written employee attendance policy lets employees know when chronic lateness and absenteeism are cause for discipline, and should clearly state how many absences or instances of lateness are acceptable.
Make sure you understand the law. Your employee attendance policy must comply with The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs minimum wage requirements, overtime, timekeeping practices, child labor laws, and other pay-related issues. Companies – as well as individual managers – may be held liable for FLSA violations.
How to identify excessive employee absences
There are many different tools employers can use to effectively track time and attendance, including employee time and attendance software paper attendance calendars, or online employee attendance tracking tools.
By using absence codes and proper supporting documentation, supervisors can easily detect when an employee’s absences are becoming excessive.
They also have all the information they need at their fingertips to make an appropriate decision about disciplinary action, including the reasons for each absence, whether there are patterns of absenteeism (e.g., employees frequently calling in sick after holidays), the impact of an employee’s tardiness and how much time off it amounts to in a given timeframe, whether absences are for “legally protected reasons” or otherwise excused, whether legally-protected time off is due to expire, how an employee’s attendance compares with others on his team, and details about warnings or prior counseling sessions.
If all indications show a problem with employee absenteeism for reasons that are not legally protected or otherwise excused, the next step is to address the situation through counseling or formal discipline.
Addressing difficult employee attendance problems
For an employee time and attendance problem that recurs despite verbal counseling, consider preparing a formal disciplinary write-up that will go into the employee’s personnel file. Depending on your company’s employee attendance policy, you may issue a series of written employee warning notices as the problem escalates, or you may decide termination is appropriate after a single written warning if the employee shows no efforts toward improvement.
There is no particular warning form or format that employers must use to document disciplinary problems. Regardless of the form used, a formal write-up addressing attendance issues should include:
- The facts, including the time and attendance program or method you used to track the violations
- The specific written rule or policy violated
- Objectives and expectations for improvement
- Disciplinary action being imposed
- Consequences for failing to correct time and attendance problem
- Signatures and dates