Every well-run business has an attendance policy that is clear, communicated, and complied with. Strategic development of an attendance policy that fits your business helps you be productive and competitive, both as a business and an employer. You have a lot of choices that help you manage, and also align your attendance policies with your company culture.

If you don’t already have an attendance policy, for instance if your business is growing rapidly and you have only recently begun to hire employees, you might not have gotten to it yet.  If you have had stellar experience with your employees so far you might not have noticed the need for one.  It is not uncommon for small business owners to wait until they experience an instigating event that uncovers the need for a policy. But by then attendance is already a problem that is costing money and productivity. Better to develop your policy as soon as you are ready to hire employees, and then set a regular cycle for updating it as your business grows.

There are certain components in an attendance policy that are fairly standard. These pieces of the policy are typically given a specific allocation of days per year. Some of the categories are even allowed to carry over into the next year if allocated days are unused:

  • Sick days
  • Personal days
  • Vacation days
  • Bereavement leave
  • FMLA

In addition to some of the major categories for attendance policy, however, there are elements that are unique to you and your business. The manner in which you manage attendance reflects your company culture.  For example:

  • Whether you use a time sheet or a time clock. The time sheet assumes that there will be accurate tracking by employees, submitted on a timely basis. The time clock provides extra precision for hourly workers, and it also provides a higher level of oversight over worker-related costs. For certain professions there are also apps for phone or tablet that can be used in place of paper timekeeping, and they can help to allocate specific time allotments for billing hours to an employee’s clients.
  • How tolerant you are when attendance infractions happen. What is your reporting process? After how many infractions does the employee incur disciplinary action? Remember, with every action you choose to take (or not) regarding attendance problems you are communicating your actual standard. The words you have written in your employee handbook don’t hold up when your behavior is different than whatever is prescribed in it.
  • Your flexibility with the actual times that people work versus the number of hours they work. In some businesses and some jobs it absolutely matters that someone is available on the phone between the hours of X o’clock a.m. and Y o’clock p.m. In others, particularly where individuals are doing independent project work, it might not matter if they work from 6 p.m. till 2 in the morning as long as the project is completed.
  • Your willingness (or ability) to have people work offsite. Many businesses now have a significant proportion of offsite workers. Managers with experience in a more traditional office setting sometimes mention concerns about knowing whether a particular remote worker is “really putting the hours in”. The employee’s accessibility by email and phone during the business day, and the measurable work output become more important than how many hours per day a manager physically sees someone working. Success with remote workers relies significantly on a solid definition of work expectations, communication standards, and results measurement.

These are only a few examples of the ways in which you can tailor your attendance policies to your business so you can be productive and competitive as both a business and an employer.  Alternative HR has years of experience in helping owners create and/or update employee handbooks, including attendance policies.  For more information, contact [email protected]