Employee Attendance Policy and Procedure Guide

Megan Thompson · September 21, 2021

All too often the importance of employee attendance gets overlooked in business. But working hours lost can be a drain on productivity and comes with a cost. If you’re thinking of implementing an employee attendance policy and procedure, look no further.

One of the things that successful businesses have in common is excellent employee attendance. Having an attendance policy in place sets expectations for employees and helps employers to keep on track. It keeps everyone on the same page.

Since the pandemic, the way we work has been shaken up. Home working and hybrid work models mean attendance policies are well overdue for a review.

A transition from the traditional office-based 9 to 5 is likely to make attendance policies more complicated.

Our guide to employee attendance policy and procedure tells you everything you need to know.

What is an employee attendance policy and procedure?

An attendance policy is a document that sets expectations on working hours, outlines leave policies and explains how absenteeism, lateness, leaving early, taking long breaks, and different types of leave will be handled.

Essentially, it’s a set of rules relating to all aspects of attendance for employees. A key aim of having an attendance policy is to ensure a supportive and inclusive working environment that encourages employees to optimise productivity and manage their health and wellbeing.

Why you need an employee attendance policy and procedureEmployee Attendance Policy and Procedure

An attendance policy contributes to the wider cultural aspects of any business. It ties into work ethics and contributes to workplace morale. Consider how employees who are consistently late impact a team. There is a burden on colleagues to shoulder their share of the work at the beginning of the day. This can allow resentment to build and impact morale.

It creates a vicious circle because low morale affects attendance and performance. Fair policies on all aspects of work, including attendance, contributes to a culture of fairness and trust.

An attendance policy, just as with any other work policy, is also a valuable resource for managers and staff.

Consider what happens when you don’t have an attendance policy. Without a company-wide policy, attendance across departments can become extremely fragmented. When every manager has his or her own rules, this can cause resentment between employees. Think of the problems that may be caused if one manager is relaxed about timekeeping, while another is stricter. It’s important that employees are all treated fairly with the same rules.

Importantly, Covid-19 has shaken up the working landscape, with a shift to home working, increased sickness absence due to coronavirus, and employees needing to self-isolate. Attendance policies will have to be adjusted to recognise the growing requirement for flexibility.

There are several steps employers should take to effectively manage attendance, alongside unexpected absenteeism and sickness. A clear written policy is the essential starting point.

The benefits of a robust attendance policy

There are several benefits that come from having a robust employee attendance policy. It:

  • Keeps everyone on the same page and let’s employees know what is expected of them
  • Helps to bake accountability into the working culture
  • Helps to ensure timely and regular attendance
  • Ensures effective working and performance, which relies on attendance and punctuality
  • Protects employers from possible litigation
  • Provides opportunities for discussing problems
  • Enables the development of initiatives to improve attendance and working conditions
  • Helps management make staff-related decisions

An attendance policy ensures data on attendance is not only collected but also reviewed. This data helps an organisation to know what the needs of employees are. If a cohort of employees who travel by train to work are arriving 10 minutes late, perhaps their start time needs adjusting. It can be as simple as that! Other more complex problems can also be identified.

What’s in an employee attendance policy?

Employee Attendance Policy and Procedure

An employee attendance policy and procedures document explains all aspects of employee attendance, including how various absences and lateness are dealt with.

The document should include definitions so that all terms are clear. Key sections should include:

  • Absence policy
  • Lateness, including the procedure for notification
  • The different types of leave and what is considered unexcused absence
  • How to report absences, including when and who to contact
  • How employees should keep in touch while off work
  • When an employee needs a fit note (used to be called a sick note)
  • Returning to work, including when a return-to-work interview will be required and who with
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Confidentiality

The definition of attendance must be redefined in today’s workplace, especially now remote and hybrid ways of working are becoming the norm for many.

Supporting good attendance at work in the post-covid world

According to CIPD (the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost.

Managers have a critical role to play in identifying stressors and influencing how employees feel about their working life. CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work in 2021 survey report notes this as a key challenge for managers, who must now also manage people remotely.

The way people work has changed rapidly beyond recognition and employee wellbeing will be critical to how it plays out. Attendance at the workplace or ‘presence’ when working from home will be an essential part of its success. If an employee is unwell or is struggling with their health, employers will need to know about it.

Employers have an opportunity and responsibility to equip line managers to have sensitive,
and sometimes difficult, conversations about health, spot early warning signs when someone
is struggling, and effectively signpost them to further sources of help. This is an essential piece of the employee attendance jigsaw. Attendance policies and procedures will provide a framework for this.

Stress continues to be one of the main causes of short and long-term absence (identified in the aforementioned CIPD report). Ensuring good attendance in the workplace, or presence during hours worked from home, relies on identifying the causes of stress and tackling them.

The starting point for maximising attendance is to set a clear policy and to ask your employees what is causing them stress and what would help them to perform better.