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Tardies, Call-ins and No-shows, OH MY!: How to Take Control of Employee Absences
May 23, 2022
Slightly stressed female manager looking at wrist watch

When it comes to employee attendance, many small business owners choose to look the other way. Employees come in late or call out unexpectedly (or worse, don’t show up at all) … but you’ve got more important things to do.

Guess what? Employee absenteeism is a bigger deal than you might think.

Chronic employee absenteeism can cost your business money, undermine performance, and impact staff morale.

A publication from Circadian, Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer, reports that unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 a year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees. And for businesses’ feeling the damaging effects of excessive absenteeism, an attendance policy is the first step to regaining control.

Here Are the “Must-Haves”

Crafting an attendance policy from scratch can be daunting, due to all the important details you must cover. To get started, focus on the basics. At a minimum, your attendance policy should address:

  • Work hours: Establish when work starts and when it ends. Maybe all employees must be at their desks before 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Or perhaps your business offers more flexibility, and you just require staff to work a minimum of 40 hours each week. Do employee schedules change every week? If so, let your employees know when and where schedules will be posted.
  • Leave benefits: Everyone needs a day off now and again. In this section, you should let your staff know how they earn leave and what the time-off request process entails. For example, how many PTO days do workers get? Do they accrue a certain number of hours per month or a lump sum each year? What paid holidays do employees receive? These questions and others relating to leave benefits should be answered in your policy.
  • Call-in policy: Employees need to know the correct process for reporting an absence or late arrival. You also should define what is considered an “excused” and “unexcused” absence. Be sure to list any requirements for leave approval, such as a doctor’s note after missing a certain number of days.
  • Discipline and consequences: Here, you want to describe the actions you’ll take for certain violations. For example, not reporting to work without supervisor notification may be grounds for discipline, up to and including termination.  You have a great deal of leeway in establishing the rules, but you need to set parameters and enforce them consistently for employees in similar roles.

Once you’ve crafted a policy, you’ll need to share it with every employee. Get signed acknowledgment and store the sign-off in the employee’s personnel file. This will send a message to staff that you’re serious about attendance and will deal appropriately with those who break the rules.

Review your policy periodically and update it as necessary. When you make changes, redistribute and have employees sign and date.

Additional Guidance Is Available

A formal attendance policy is the first step in controlling absenteeism, but there’s more you can do. Check out The Five Hidden Causes of Employee Absenteeism – and What You Can Do About Them. This free, on-demand webinar presents other ways you can improve attendance, and in turn, increase productivity and engagement.

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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