How To Create The Ideal Attendance Policy

Desk with a view

As a small-business owner, you may feel that your company doesn’t need an attendance policy. The employees you do have take their responsibilities seriously, and there haven’t been any problems thus far.

But, as your business grows and takes on more team members, an attendance policy becomes increasingly important. Without one, it can be extremely difficult to keep your business on the road to success.

In this article, we discuss the details of business attendance policies and help you create one for your team.

Attendance Policy Defined

rec room at an office

An attendance policy is a document — either digital or hard copy — that outlines how your business handles employee issues such as:

  • Tardiness
  • Early outs
  • Excused absences
  • Unexcused absences
  • No-call, no-shows
  • Job abandonment

Some businesses even incorporate more complex programs, such as leave management and paid time off, into their attendance policy because one depends on the other. You can choose to do that or not — it all depends on what your company needs to run smoothly.

Regardless of how you structure your attendance policy, your business will eventually need its own standard operating procedure (of which attendance is a big part).

That’s why we recommend setting “the rules” by which your team and their workflow operate as early as possible in the lifecycle of your company.

Said rules include topics like:

  • Attendance policy
  • Dress code policy
  • Overtime policy
  • Cell phone policy
  • Work-from-home policy
  • Inclement weather policy
  • Bring-your-own-device policy

Some of the policies mentioned in the list above may not apply to your business so you don’t need to include them in your standard operating procedures.

An attendance policy, however, will greatly benefit your business and keep everything running smoothly.

How To Create An Effective Attendance Policy

Employee who is abiding by the attendance policy

1) Assess Your Company Culture

Whether you have an attendance policy in place or not, take the time to assess your company culture and find out how managers currently deal with absenteeism, tardiness, and other issues.

With that information in mind, create an attendance policy that is as close to what is already done as possible (while still being good for your business) so you don’t send a mixed message to your employees.

If your new policy is drastically different from the old one — even if the old policy was unwritten — it can cause problems in employee behavior and engagement.

2) Define Attendance Policy Terms

It’s vital for the acceptance and success of your attendance policy to define all the relevant terms so that everyone is on the same page.

Here are some terms and concepts we recommend including:

  • Absence
  • Tardy
  • Excused absence
  • Unexcused absence
  • No-call, no-show absence
  • Job abandonment

If you skip this step and fail to define these and other relevant terms, your team members can claim that they didn’t know.

3) Create Guidelines For Excused And Unexcused Absences

Empty office desks

We mentioned the concepts of excused and unexcused absences — and why you need to define them — in the previous section. Now, it’s time to create guidelines that govern how you handle both.

In your attendance policy, do your best to clarify the difference between an excused (or approved) absence and an unexcused (or disapproved) absence.

It’s also extremely helpful to describe how you’ll handle each of these attendance infractions. That way, your employees are clear on when they may be in violation of your policies and what they can expect to happen next.

4) List Documentation Required For An Excused Absence

Most businesses will accept anything medically related as an excused absence as long as employees notify management within a reasonable amount of time or get permission to visit the doctor beforehand.

Other acceptable reasons for an excused absence will vary from business to business, as will the documentation required to “prove” the employee was where they said they were.

For medical issues, a doctor’s note will typically suffice, but your business may also choose to accept other documentation (for other types of excused absences) as well.

5) Make It Easy To Request An Absence

A big part of an effective attendance policy is making it clear how to request an absence and making it easy to do so. We recommend keeping the process as simple as possible with software, like Inch.

Inch allows your employees to submit time-off requests using a desktop, laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone running Windows, Android, iOS, or macOS.

Inch will then remind you of these requests when you go to assign tasks or create the next work schedule.

6) Establish How You’ll Deal With Tardiness

There are many ways to deal with tardiness within your attendance policy.

The most common methods of handling the issue are:

  • Tardiness is permissible if the employee makes up the time
  • Tardiness is permissible for the first one or two offenses
  • Tardiness is not permissible (a.k.a. zero tolerance)

Here’s how each one works.

Permissible But Employee Must Make Up Time

An employee can be tardy to work as long as they make up the time during lunch or after normal business hours.

Permissible First One Or Two Times

This method of dealing with tardiness allows one or two offenses (with a warning, of course). After that, if the employee is tardy again, they’ll have to face the repercussions.

Not Permissible

When you don’t permit tardiness in your attendance policy, your business will discipline an employee if they are late for work (even on the first offense).

7) Set Up Realistic Discipline

Meeting to discuss attendance policy

Going overboard and docking an employee a full day’s pay for being 15 minutes late is not commensurate with the infraction.

You may hope that such an extreme punishment will deter further absences, but it will only cause discord in the employee/employer relationship.

Do your best to set up realistic discipline that covers the consequences of unexcused absences, tardiness, and other breaches of your business’s attendance policy.

8) Implement A System For Tracking Attendance

Every attendance policy depends on how well your business tracks the comings and goings of its employees.

Your business may choose to use punch cards, paper timesheets, or a digital clock-in/clock-out solution. The latter is, by far, the best option of the bunch.

With Inch, for example, your team can track total work time (e.g., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) as well as the more specific time-on-task. You can even set up a geofence so that your employees can’t sign in for work when they’re not on the premises.

9) Keep Your Attendance Policy Simple

You may be tempted to try to cover every situation in your attendance policy. Do your best to resist this urge and keep the attendance policy as simple as possible.

Instead of listing every possible scenario, stick to general principles that you can apply to a variety of situations.

Create The Right Policy For Your Business

creating the right attendance policy

Creating the right attendance policy for your business depends on a wide range of factors, including:

  • Your company culture
  • The type of business you run
  • The requirements of the various jobs employees perform
  • The current behavior and actions of your team

Because there are so many variables involved in creating business policies, no two methods of doing so will be the same.

Make the policy right for your team and your business — regardless of what other companies are doing — and the system will be successful.

Sample Attendance Policy

We’ve included a very simple sample attendance policy based on some of the information in this article. Take it verbatim as your own, or use it as a starting point to build a system that works for your business.

An Absence Is:

  • Taking off one workday without one weeks’ notice
  • Taking off two to five workdays without two weeks’ notice
  • Taking off more than five workdays without at least two months’ notice

Unscheduled Absence Process

If you are sick or have an emergency situation, you must let your manager know you won’t be at work at least 1 hour before your shift so that they have time to find a replacement.

No Call, No Show Absences

If you do not let your manager know that you will not be at work, disciplinary action will be taken. If you miss work for three days without letting your manager know, you will be terminated.


If you are more than 10 minutes late on three different occasions, disciplinary action will be taken.

Inch Makes The Process Easy

Inch app for enforcing and creating attendance policy

The key to creating and maintaining an effective attendance policy is the Inch suite of tools.

We built Inch to simplify and streamline every aspect of your scheduling, task management, time tracking, attendance reporting, and team organization.

Those features — along with cloud-based operation and broad device- and operating-system availability — make administering your attendance policy easier than ever before.

Inch even gives your team members the flexibility to clock in and out right from their smartphone. The app then goes on to notify you when an employee is tardy, forgets to clock in, or is altogether absent from work.

That’s powerful attendance policy management in the palm of your hand.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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