Digital Transformation WalkMe TeamUpdated June 29, 2021

Do You Need an Attendance Policy in the Modern Workplace?

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Do You Need an Attendance Policy in the Modern Workplace?

Is an attendance policy useful in the modern workplace? 

In today’s remote, digital-first workplace, many managers are rethinking the way they manage worker performance, track attendance, and even the way their teams operate – some may not even see the value in having an attendance policy.

Below, we’ll explore what an attendance policy is, how they are structured, and their benefits, so you can decide for yourself exactly how to structure one.

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What Is the Purpose of an Attendance Policy?

An attendance policy sets the rules around employee attendance, absenteeism, and tardiness. 

It is an accountability system, in short, that ensures both employees and employers are on the same page when it comes to workplace attendance.

It serves several purposes:

  • Ensuring that employees show up on time
  • Providing a set of rules that hold all employees to the same performance standards
  • Setting forth the penalties for tardiness and absence
  • Defining how the organization views absences and penalties
  • Providing documentation in case it is needed to resolve a dispute
  • Explain guidelines related to necessary absences, such as sick leave

There are a few reasons why attendance policies must be clearly defined and put into writing.

For instance:

  • An organization’s performance depends on whether or not employees show up on time and perform their duties as expected
  • These policies, especially when used in conjunction with other measures, such as time tracking technology, safeguards against abuse from either employees or employers
  • Attendance policies ensure that attendance policies are applied equally, which can improve the employee experience, prevent favoritism, discrimination, and conflict

To be effective, an attendance policy should cover certain key points, which we’ll cover in the next section.

What Goes into an Attendance Policy?

An attendance policy’s guidelines should cover:

  • Unexcused workplace absences and no-shows
  • Vacation time and personal time
  • Sick leave, medical leave, and other forms of permissible leave
  • Rules related to tardiness

Additionally, these policies can and should reference related policies, such as time tracking policies, employee monitoring policies, and so forth.

Attendance as a goal or a necessity

When creating a policy, the organization should address whether or not it views attendance as a competency or as an objective.

Here is the difference:

  • A competency means that attendance is expected, and non-attendance is penalized
  • An objective means that attendance is a goal to strive for, but it is not necessarily expected

In the vast majority of cases, employers view attendance as a competency – though some managers may argue that their employees view it as an objective.

The definition of attendance may also need to be redefined in today’s workplace, since remote work has become so common.

Points-based attendance

A policy that views attendance as a policy will be built upon a “no-fault” structure. 

This means that every absence or tardiness will accrue “points” and the more points one accrues, the greater the penalty.

Typically, the first few infractions incur no penalties. After that, there are thresholds, each with different penalties.

For instance, here is an example of how a tardiness point system might work:

  • The first three times an employee is absent, there is no penalty
  • The next three times, they receive written warnings
  • The next three times, their pay is docked

Penalties could increase all the way up to termination.

Attendance policies should also define how it handles other types of excusable absences. For instance, an employee who claims illness may be required to present a doctor’s note.

Laws, regulations, and restrictions

When creating the policy, employers must be aware of labor laws and relevant regulations.

In the United States, for instance, certain laws such as the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act place restrictions on attendance policies, rules related to absenteeism and illness, discrimination based on disabilities, and so forth.

Since these laws require some research, it is best to investigate them thoroughly and even work with legal counsel before making any final decisions about the policy.

How Do You Design an Attendance Policy That Works for Your Business?

There are several sides that must be balanced when designing an attendance policy:

The employer’s needs

The organization’s top priority – and the biggest reason for an attendance policy – is meeting its organizational objectives. 

Since absenteeism has a detrimental impact on employee productivity and the company’s ability to meet those goals, this should be the overriding concern.

The impact on the workplace

Employees who are frequently or chronically absent have a negative impact on their coworkers. 

This can lead to friction among employees, which can negatively impact the organizational culture, the work environment, and even the employer brand.

Laws and regulations

As mentioned, regulations should be another point to focus on when designing a policy. 

Since laws can obviously not be broken when creating an attendance policy, those legal requirements must serve as a baseline for any decisions around the policy creation.


The attendance policy will be a reflection of the organizational culture

An organization that is strictly focused on business and performance, for instance, may have a policy that is also strict. A company that values a more casual and friendly atmosphere may offer more lenience in terms of attendance.

Putting it all together

All of the points covered here should be balanced against one another when making decisions about the policy. 

Policy design, as mentioned, should reflect the company’s values – but it should also get results. If there are issues with the policy as designed, then business leaders and HR managers may wish to review it and make changes.

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