A free employee attendance policy template for businesses

by Carlo Borja
Employee Attendance Policy

Want to learn how to create an employee attendance policy?

Many successful companies around the world have this one thing in common – all of them strive for excellent employee attendance. 

But what happens when your employees don’t turn up?

Team processes can get disrupted, you might face a personnel crunch, and you could even end up missing deadlines. And with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting businesses everywhere, monitoring employee attendance remotely is becoming a more difficult challenge for many.

Doesn’t sound ideal, right?

A detailed employee attendance policy can be an efficient way to limit these attendance concerns. 

It’ll outline everything your employees should know about turning up for work and the potential consequences of poor employee attendance.

In this article, we’ll cover what an attendance policy is, why you should have one, and what you should consider including in your policy. We’ll also include a free employee attendance policy that you can download and use right away.

Before we go on, it’s important to remember that laws surrounding employee attendance policies vary by location and can change over time. For this reason, we advise that you seek professional legal counsel before moving forward with your employee attendance policy.

Table of Contents

What is an employee attendance policy?

An employee attendance policy is a document that provides your employees with specific policy guidelines regarding attendance. It should contain information on how employees are expected to attend work, the levels of attendance expected, and even the potential problems associated with attendance policy violations.

For example, an employee attendance policy will often cover a variety of common attendance problems.  These attendance issues can range from tardiness to unscheduled absence, and can even include guidelines on sick days and personal leave. 

This policy also helps you explain potential disciplinary action for those that fail to adhere to the company’s attendance requirements.

The goal of a good attendance policy should be to give transparency to the processes of tracking, recording, and enforcing employee attendance, while also serving as an agreement between employer and employee regarding what’s expected.

Since there are specific laws and regulations surrounding employee attendance policies that vary across regions and change over time, we recommend that you consult professional legal counsel before implementing one.

What goes into an employee attendance policy?

Now that you have a better idea of what an employee attendance policy is, let’s examine what elements should be included in an employee attendance policy.

 National and regional regulations will shape exactly what’s required for your company, but here is a general guideline for what you should include.

1. Clarification of all aspects of attendance

How can you design your attendance policy to be as easily understandable as possible?

It’s a good idea to cover a wide variety of attendance issues in your policy.  

However, having too many terms could start to confuse your employees.  

Clearly explaining the different terms used in the policy can help you avoid any possible confusion about employee attendance expectations.

Here are some examples of terms you may want to define in your policy:

A. Absenteeism

When you start to define absenteeism in your policy, you should be specific about what marks an employee as absent. Remember, absenteeism can include vacation days, medical leave, or jury duty.

Your employees also need to know what they should do to avoid negative attendance points or disciplinary action.   

Remember to also include what you view as excessive absenteeism or job abandonment, and the disciplinary action for those attendance infractions.   

B. Approved absence vs. Unexcused Absence

Even with an attendance policy designed to reduce employee absences, there will be times when employees cannot stick to their work schedule.  By clearly explaining approved absences in your policy, employees are less likely to be unnecessarily marked absent.

Approved absence can be verified by using official documents such as a doctor’s note or jury duty notices. These circumstances can be handled by your human resource department when needed.

C. Exempt employees and non-exempt employees

Your policy also needs to include the difference between exempt employees and non-exempt employees. The FLSA regulations clearly state that exempt employees cannot claim for overtime pay. 

A non-exempt employee, on the other hand, CAN claim overtime pay for any additional hours they worked.  

The laws and regulations around this and other policy concerns change over time, so it’s important to continuously review these elements with your legal counsel.

D. Sick day vs personal leave

Will you be allocating paid sick leave in your policy? 

What needs to be provided to qualify for that sick leave?

These are just some of the questions that an attendance policy should answer. 

An attendance policy can also include personal leave options so that your employees don’t use up their sick leave unnecessarily.  You can also include an additional paid time off option such as a “Vacation Day” for added flexibility.

E. FMLA protected leave

Family and Medical leave act


Is your company covered for FMLA leave?  

According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are entitled to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period.   

It’s recommended that your work attendance policy takes this into account and clearly explains this process.

F. Tardiness

How do you define tardy behavior?  

Your policy should also include how you define tardiness.  This clarification can help employees understand how important punctuality is and how it will be measured.

For example, will an employee be marked as tardy if they arrive 15 minutes late for their scheduled shift?  Or will you be more lenient when it comes to the start time of a work schedule?

If you want to further address tardy behavior, consider setting up a tardiness policy to accompany your attendance policy.  

2. How will you measure employee attendance?

Once you’ve clarified all the important terms in your policy, it’s important to define how your company will track and measure the attendance of employees. 

This section is where you should explain your attendance management system.

For example, will you be using logins, biometric scanners, or simple timecards? 

Or, with remote working becoming so popular, will you be using online tools to track attendance instead?

Explaining this in your attendance policy is important because it helps give employees clarity regarding the attendance process and can help prevent potential misunderstandings in the future.

3. Will you be adding an attendance bonus?

Awarding employees for excellent attendance is a great incentive that can also work as a great employee morale booster.

Here’s just one suggestion on how you can measure  good attendance by evaluating the following:

Consistently on time for work.

Not leaving the office to run personal errands.

Always informing their supervisor about potential leaves.

Assigning attendance points to each of these activities can help you accurately measure and reward the regular attendance of your employees.

But how often should you reward good attendance to work as an employee morale booster? 

Consider rewarding good attendance either on a monthly or annual basis. This should give you enough time to accurately measure and record employee attendance.   

4. Disciplinary procedures

When you outline the disciplinary procedures in your policy, your employees can better understand the consequences of poor employee attendance.  

One way to create transparency is to  use a simple “point” system to track any employee attendance infractions For example: 

Absent, with proven reason: 1 point.

Absent, no call or excuse: 2 points.

Tardy: ½ point.

Failure to report for work at the scheduled work time: ½ point.

Late return from lunch or break: 1 point (over 30 minutes).

Not at workstation during work hours: 3 points

You can use these poor attendance points to calculate the employee’s attendance infractions, and assign the progressive disciplinary actions: 

15 points: Verbal warning is given.

30 points: Written warning is given.

45 points: Meeting with supervisor, possible solution, or suspension.

60 points: Employee will be subject to termination.

By sharing this type of methodology, you can reduce any confusion (both for yourself and your employees) about how most attendance infractions will be tracked, recorded, and addressed.

Employee attendance policy template

A template provides you with a framework you can use to build and implement your organization’s policy faster. Get started by downloading an employee attendance policy template and customizing it to meet your company’s needs.

Key reasons you should have an attendance policy

Having an employee attendance policy has several benefits. Here are a couple of key ones: 

1. Helps keep everyone on the same page

An attendance policy can help your employees better understand what is expected of them when it comes to attendance at work.  This policy should also explain why their punctuality and regular attendance are important.  

An attendance policy that clearly outlines the consequences of not following the attendance guidelines helps to keep everyone aware of what behaviors they should avoid.

2. Helps guard against possible litigation

What happens if employee absence and the subsequent punishment results in unfair treatment claims by that employee?

To best position yourself against this, your attendance policy can serve as a legal document. When it clearly covers a wide variety of attendance issues, – it can serve as a documented policy that informs each employee or what can be expected with regard to attendance.

This way, in case of any potential litigation, you can refer to the policy in their employee handbook as evidence that you provided all the necessary information and that the employee consented to follow the designated guidelines.

Although a clear and thorough employee attendance policy is a great defense against potential litigation, no policy can completely protect against the potential for legal issues. Employee attendance laws differ across regions and change over time, so companies should consult legal counsel and continuously review and update their policies.

Disclaimer: This policy recommendation we’ve provided is only meant to be a general guide, and should only be used as a reference. This policy template may not account for local, state, or federal laws and other applicable laws, and should not be considered a legal document. Neither the author nor Time Doctor will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this sample Employee Attendance policy. 

Wrapping up

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when drawing up your attendance policy is that your employees are human. Having an empathetic outlook when drafting up this policy will encourage fairness and help you create a system that works for everyone.  

With the help of this guide and the advice of your professional legal counsel, you can create a detailed employee attendance policy that sets a fair precedent, informs your organization, and provides some legal protection.

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