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5 Tips for Communicating Your Attendance Rules with a Clear, Compliant Policy

Published on 3/29/2018 12:00:00 AM
employee attendance issues

Sometimes employees have a legitimate reason for arriving late or calling out at the last minute. But when tardiness or unexcused absences start to pile up, what starts out as a minor annoyance can quickly become a business-crippling issue.

That’s where a well-crafted attendance policy comes in. To prevent excessive absenteeism from affecting your business, you need to send a clear message about what’s acceptable and what’s not – and you need to put it in writing.

Here are some guidelines for creating an effective, legally compliant attendance policy:

Cover the Basics
At a minimum, your policy should outline work hours, start and finish times, and the procedures employees should follow if they are going to be late or absent. (See #2.)
You have a great degree of leeway in establishing work hours and rules. For example, your policy can include statements that:
Supervisors will set schedules based on the needs of the business
Hours and penalties for violating policy can vary by department or role
Being late for work, or returning late from breaks or lunch, is considered tardiness
Failing to report to work, or failing to notify the supervisor of the reason for absence for three consecutive days, is grounds for termination
Establish Notification Requirements for Reporting Unplanned Absences
Be specific in laying out procedures for reporting delays or unplanned absences.
Who should employees notify, and by what time?
Is it enough to contact a coworker or must they reach a supervisor or HR manager?
What about a manager who is not the employee’s direct supervisor?
Can they leave a voicemail message, or send an email or text message?
Believe it or not, employees often challenge “no-call/no-show” disciplinary actions by claiming they did not know there were procedures for calling in an unplanned absence.
Extend Similar Rules to Similar Employees
Employees in the same job category who report to the same supervisor generally should be subject to the same attendance rules. In discrimination lawsuits, employers can get in trouble for subjecting “similarly situated” employees (e.g., those with similar job positions, or team members who report to the same supervisor) to different standards.
For example, it may appear discriminatory, whether intended or not, if you write up a female employee for arriving late three times in a month, while allowing a male employee in a similar role to skate by with four late arrivals in the same time period.
Understand that Certain Absences Are Protected by Law
Although it’s important to apply attendance rules consistently, you also must recognize that not all absences are alike in the eyes of the law. Employees are entitled to time off from work for a variety of reasons protected by federal, state and/or local laws – even if their absences go against written company policies.
Whether it’s time off for maternity leave or jury duty, absences protected by law should never result in disciplinary action. When tracking absences, be sure to designate whether they fall under protected circumstances, so you’ll remember to give them special consideration.
These are some of the laws that provide a level of protection for certain types of absences:
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Workers’ compensation statutes
State and local family/medical leave laws (e.g., time off for organ/blood donation, domestic violence protection, parental activities at a child’s school)
Religious accommodation laws
State and local laws requiring time off for voting, court appearances, jury duty, volunteering, etc.
Keep Attendance-Related Documentation in Personnel Files
Store copies of all attendance-related documentation in your employees’ personnel files. This includes requests for time off, company responses to such requests, absence reports, weekly timesheets, warnings and disciplinary write-ups.
It’s not necessary to duplicate electronic records as long as they are readily accessible. If a payroll decision or disciplinary decision (such as termination) is later challenged, you will have the backup you need to defend your actions.

Get a Better Handle on Employee Attendance

Do you need help managing attendance and avoiding the high cost of unscheduled absenteeism? Take control of employee attendance today with the Attendance Calendar app by HRdirect.​

Jaime Lizotte
Presented by: Jaime Lizotte,
HR & Tax Compliance Solutions Manager