A guide to creating an employee attendance policy for your small business

As a small business owner, you need staff to reliably show up ready to work their scheduled shifts. But what happens when people start getting in late, missing shifts, or frequently requesting days off? That’s when having an employee attendance policy comes in handy.

Attendance policies are tools that help you educate your team about what you consider a one-off absence or absenteeism, which means frequently missing work for unjustified reasons. They should also include information about all your internal processes and leave policies so everyone is clear about expectations.

Employee attendance touches almost every aspect of your business. That’s why it’s important to have an all-in-one HR platform like Homebase to help you simplify time tracking, scheduling, payroll, and employee performance. Plus, our platform can store your internal policies and make them easily accessible for team members. So, let’s explore everything you should include in your policy.

What is an employee attendance policy?

An employee attendance policy is a document that contains a set of guidelines, policies, processes, and consequences regarding work attendance. Usually, it outlines business expectations for scheduling, punctuality, and leave requests.

Team members should have access to this policy as soon as they join so they know how to manage days off, absences, or tardiness. And small business employee attendance policies can be divided into sections that:

  • List all your different attendance-related documents like tardiness or late-for-work policies
  • Set internal expectations when you define attendance and absences
  • Explain how to report absences or tardiness to supervisors
  • Share the number of attendance incidents that are permitted
  • Outline the consequences of policy violations
  • Indicate how to access schedules and request shift changes
  • Reinforce communication guidelines

Pro tip: Create, update, share, and reference your employee attendance policy frequently to encourage your team to follow workplace rules.

Why are employee attendance policies important for small businesses?

Small businesses need employee attendance policies — and not only because they foster accountability. They also:

  • Increase pay accuracy. Your employee attendance policy should go hand-in-hand with your time tracking process so everyone gets paid correctly for the hours they worked. And if you use an all-in-one HR platform like Homebase, you can review your employees’ ins and outs and breaks and pay them directly through the same app.
  • Ensure fairness. Policies help you treat all employees equally and hold them accountable to the same standards. When you have all the do’s and don’ts written down on paper with clear procedures, you can’t unconsciously favor anyone.
  • Help you meet business goals. People need to be working at your small business and taking care of customers so you can meet your sales goals. But you need to track attendance for more reasons than just to see who’s working on a given day — you can also use records to inform staffing decisions. For instance, Homebase lets you view or export employee timetables and attendance records.
  • Stay compliant with labor laws. Having an employee attendance policy isn’t mandatory. But, depending on your business type and the state where you’re located, you might need to maintain accurate records of employee attendance for compliance.

Where do small businesses usually store employee attendance policies?

Many small businesses store these kinds of policies in a big binder with a label on the cover that says: The Employee Handbook. But having a physical copy is inconvenient, hard to update, and easy to misplace or damage. A cloud-based employee handbook is a much better alternative.

If you choose to use Homebase to track employee attendance, you’ll get access to HR and compliance experts who can review your policies and procedures to ensure you’re abiding by the regulations that apply to you. Plus, Homebase simplifies hiring and onboarding. Once you welcome a new employee, they’ll automatically get a welcome packet with everything they need to know to succeed in their position, including:

  • Documents they need to e-sign and complete like direct deposit documents, as well as W-4, W-9, and I-9 forms
  • An employee handbook
  • Internal policies and procedures
  • Information about specific training courses, both required and optional
  • A description of their role and responsibilities

You can then access all signed employee documents within your Homebase account — and feel at ease knowing they’re safely stored.

Source: https://joinhomebase.com/hr-compliance/
Caption: Digitize your paperwork. Use Homebase to keep all your employee documents in the same place.

The key components of an employee attendance policy

Employee attendance policies are detailed documents that explain all attendance-related matters. To create one that’s comprehensive and easy for employees to navigate, use these components as a template:

  1. Absence tracking and documentation
  2. Leave policies
  3. Schedules, shift changes, and overtime
  4. Communication and policy enforcement
  5. Accommodations and exceptions
  6. Procedure for reviews, feedback, and updates

1. Absence tracking and documentation

The first act of every movie sets the rules of the world you’re about to explore. So, the first part of your employee attendance policy should explain the rules of your business. Define your attendance expectations, explain the meaning of absence without official leave (AWOL), and state the intention and scope of the document.

Within this section, you should also cover how you’ll measure employee performance, as well as the potential consequences if people fail to comply. Overall, the document should invite them to find, read, and follow processes to avoid having a poor attendance record.

It’s important that you build processes for every leave-related action. We all have unconscious biases and might end up being more relaxed with certain employees over others, depending on our relationship with them. So, tracking absences in a documented and standardized way reduces the chances of making gut decisions and ensures you treat people fairly and equitably. And an automated system can save the time you’d otherwise have to spend transcribing attendance records, which reduces human error and eliminates the possibility of losing or deleting files.

We recommend using a solution like Homebase so employees can track their clock ins and outs — including breaks — and attendance from any smart device using a secure PIN code. That way, their hours will be securely recorded in a dashboard that supervisors can approve or edit directly from the app. They can then use that information to pay their team directly through Homebase or a built-in payroll integration.

Source: https://app.joinhomebase.com/daily_roster
Caption: Use a secure time clock app and keep digital attendance records with Homebase.

2. Leave policies

Here’s where you explain all the different leave policies, what each type entails, and how to request days off. This section should link out to relevant documents and include information regarding:

  • Sick leave. Everyone can potentially get ill or injured, so give employees clear guidelines on what to do when that happens. Explain how many sick days they’re entitled to based on seniority, role, laws and regulations, and the specifics of your business.
  • Vacation time. The number of days off team members can benefit from for travel or leisure depends on local laws, internal guidelines, tenure, and their position. Clearly indicate how many vacation days each person gets and how to request them.
  • Personal days off. People can take personal days to handle matters like administrative appointments or taking their kids or pets to the doctor. Write the amount that you offer staff and if they’re paid or unpaid.
  • Bereavement leave. State how many days off your employees can take to mourn the loss of their loved ones and how to request them. Sadly, this kind of leave usually can’t be planned ahead, so be sure to have a process in place to cover their shifts. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you’re not required to make bereavement leave paid, but it’s a good and kind best practice.
  • Parental leave. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), biological and adoptive parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to give birth and/or care for a new baby. You also need to guarantee they’ll have their jobs back as soon as their leave is over. Some states have specific regulations about paying for this kind of leave, so you can ask Homebase’s HR experts for advice.
  • Medical leave. This falls under the same regulations as parental leave (up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off), but it’s used to take care of ill or injured family members or their personal medical needs.
  • Special leaves. This includes jury duty, as well as religious or military leaves. The FLSA doesn’t require you to pay for this kind of time off, but you can establish your own internal guidelines.

3. Schedules, shift changes, and overtime

Use this section to share expectations and regulations regarding schedules, overtime, and shift adjustments. For example, list the number of hours full-time and part-time employees are expected to work and how much overtime they’re allowed to do.

  • Schedules. Explain if they’re fixed or flexible, where to access them, and how to request changes.
  • Shift changes. Share the process of how to swap shifts with coworkers and get managerial approval.
  • Overtime. If your business allows overtime, include your internal guidelines, the hourly rate, monthly limits, and how you track it.
Source: https://joinhomebase.com/employee-scheduling/
Caption: Schedule shifts and review who’s working each day for free on the Homebase app.

4. Communication and policy enforcement

This section is mostly aimed at supervisors and managers as it usually outlines:

  • How and when to mention the policy. This can happen during the first weeks of training, every time someone is late, with periodic reminders in group chats, and during performance evaluations.
  • What to do when someone doesn’t comply. Each business has its own internal processes for this, but usually, you should:
      1. Correct the employee the first time it happens with a verbal notification.
      2. Talk to the employee about what’s causing them to be late or absent if it’s become a recurring issue. Add a written statement and a signed notification to their file.
      3. Come up with an alternative way to help them stay consistent with their schedule, for example, offering them part-time hours instead of full-time, making shift changes, or suggesting a brief period of leave.
      4. If their behavior becomes consistent absenteeism, take disciplinary action and hire someone new.
  • When to take disciplinary action. Many businesses come up with a points system to assess penalties based on tardiness, not showing up once, or absenteeism. List all the infractions and assign points to each one. Determine which score means you’ll let the person go and hire someone new.

To encourage people to follow the rules, remind team members about your policy regularly. For instance, when you hire someone new, they’re probably expected to read and learn a bunch of new processes in a short period of time — and that can be overwhelming. So, you can’t assume a new employee will remember everything you mentioned or taught them during the first week. When management frequently refers back to their attendance policy, they also:

  • Promote clarity and ensure everyone fully understands it.
  • Guarantee all team members have the same information, so you can hold them to the same standards.
  • Cover your bases, stay compliant with local laws and regulations, and invite employees to better understand their labor benefits.
  • Build trust between managers and staff. The more transparent you are with your policies, the more likely people will be to value and trust you.

If you use an all-in-one HR platform like Homebase, the team communication app lets you shout individuals out for being attendance policy champions. And such reminders and acknowledgments encourage others to emulate the same behavior.

Source: https://joinhomebase.com/team-communication/
Caption: Celebrate team wins and reinforce business expectations and values with the Homebase team communication app.

5. Accommodations and exceptions

Be sure to outline the need for accommodations for employees with specific requirements in your attendance policy. For example, let’s say you hire a person with a disability that needs to do physical therapy every day at 12:00 pm, but your afternoon shift starts at noon. You could allow them to start their shifts at 2pm instead.

You might also need to make accommodations for people due to religious beliefs or medical conditions. Explain how they should request those adjustments and the processes that managers should use to approve them in an unbiased way.

And if you find yourself having to make the same type of accommodations over and over again, add it as an attendance policy exception. Then, include an established process for requesting each one. Some other exceptions that you might need to account for are:

  • Additional unpaid vacation time
  • Urgent personal days off

6. Procedure for reviews, feedback, and updates

The employee attendance policy is a living document — it isn’t a one-off task you can simply cross off of your to-do list. Instead, come up with a process to ensure you view and update it regularly based on employee feedback, lessons learned, and new regulations.

The moment your policies feel outdated and stop reflecting reality, people will stop paying attention to them. For example, if your leave policy says staff need to request vacation days one month in advance, but in reality, you need two months to organize your rosters and find replacements, you should adjust your policy.

Should you have an employee attendance policy?

Even small businesses need employee attendance policies in place to ensure they monitor staff performance in a fair and well-documented manner.

And creating a document that outlines all of your business policies regarding punctuality, schedules, and leave is easier than you think. At least if you’re using Homebase.

An all-in-one tool like Homebase connects you with a team of HR experts who can give you advice on your employee attendance policy and share examples you can take inspiration from. Then, you can host your finished document within a digital employee handbook and use the same app to track your team’s hours, schedule shifts, pay their salaries, and chat with them.

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