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How to Document and Discipline Pesky Employee Attendance Problems

Getting into a fender bender, dealing with a power outage or caring for a sick child are all valid reasons for tardiness or absenteeism, but how do you deal with employees who have chronic attendance issues?

As a small-business owner, you have more important things to do than deal with employee attendance and punctuality. Yet, if you don’t stay on top of these issues, they can spiral out of control and undermine your business.

The Importance of Attendance Monitoring and Management

Excessive absenteeism can directly affect your bottom line, adding up to thousands of dollars every year. You can prevent these damaging costs and focus on the growth of your business by implementing attendance policies, as well as by taking a proactive approach toward attendance issues that arise.

When handled correctly, conversations about attendance don’t have to be confrontational or unpleasant. In fact, they can improve productivity and morale, enhance your team’s output and decrease your company’s legal risk. By giving your employees a chance to correct attendance problems and ultimately succeed, you’re doing the right thing for your business.

Addressing Excessive Absenteeism or Tardiness

Careful attendance tracking can help you document excused and unexcused absences, as well as spot negative patterns early. Should a dispute occur, up-to-date attendance records also serve as critical evidence. With accurate records of the dates missed, reasons for each absence and notes about your efforts to correct the problem, you have a firmer base to stand on regarding any disciplinary action.

How you address attendance issues is as important as how you identify them. If you have a solid, respectful relationship with your staff, your employees will usually respond favorably. For this reason, start with positive reinforcement and a verbal warning, rather than going straight to disciplinary action.

The purpose of a verbal counseling session is to let an employee know you’re concerned, how you expect the problem to be resolved and what the consequences are if the problem continues. Always give the employee a chance to respond and explain his or her situation. An individual may be undergoing certain medical treatments, taking care of an elderly parent or participating in military training, which are all legally protected absences. Or perhaps the employee is dealing with a difficult personal situation and is struggling with how to handle it.

Make sure you have an attendance policy in your employee handbook. Require all employees to read and acknowledge the policy.

If, as a result of the meeting, you notice a marked improvement, praise the employee and let him or her know you appreciate the effort. However, if you’ve tried everything and the employee continues to abuse the time-off rules, consider preparing a written warning. A formal write-up should include:

  • Specific facts (not opinions) about the situation
  • The rule or policy violated
  • Objectives and expectations for improvement
  • Disciplinary action being taken
  • Consequences for not correcting the problem
  • Signatures and dates

A written warning that doesn’t result in any positive change over a certain period (typically a month or two) may be followed by a suspension and, finally, termination.

Proper Discipline Can Make a Difference

The key to effective employee discipline is consistency and careful documentation. Having a well-defined process to identify and address attendance issues will benefit your business and ultimately protect you in case of any workplace disputes. If you’re interested in maintaining accurate records and recognizing troubling attendance patterns before they hurt your business, check out our Attendance Calendar Smart App. It will help you take control of employee attendance faster and easier than ever before.

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