How to Establish a "Perfect" Time and Attendance Policy

Absenteeism in the workplace is a real issue and it has become a major problem over the past few years. There are three different types of absences that can potentially impact your business: scheduled, unscheduled, and partial shift absences. Scheduled absences consist of vacation or personal time, such as PTO. Unscheduled absences include sick days, disability, and Worker’s Compensation leave. Lastly, partial shift absences are when a worker arrives late at work, takes longer breaks than allowed, or leaves early. There are different causes for absenteeism, some an employer can control such as bullying and/or harassment in the workplace or employee burnout and there are others that cannot be controlled by an employer such as bad weather, childcare, or even job hunting. Whatever the case may be, employers should be aware of how often their employees are absent from work without a valid reason. Being proactive about managing attendance and talking to those employees that miss work often is a good start, but having a perfect (or almost perfect) time and attendance policy is imperative. If you don’t already have one in place or are thinking about making your current time and attendance policy better, consider the following.

Make Sure It Reflects Your Company Culture

If you’ve read any of my past blogs, you already know I am all about company culture. To me, working in a place where I am valued, trusted, and respected is one of the most important things. Company cultures vary from business to business, depending on the industry they are in. Some businesses require a certain dress code, being in the office at all times, or have very strict policies that all employees must follow, while other businesses may be more lenient and have a casual dress code, flexible scheduling options, unlimited PTO, the option for employees to work remotely, and so on. This is why it is important to analyze your company and your employees before implementing a time and attendance policy. After all, you also need to make sure that your policy is fair for everyone. Part of your company’s culture includes values, systems, language, beliefs, and habits, such as employees coming in late or forgetting to call in when they can’t make it to their shift. When thinking about your new time and attendance policy, keep in mind some of the factors may be impacting your employee attendance or absenteeism. For example, some employees might have a long commute and can sometimes get stuck in traffic, or maybe they have families and they have to take their kids to school. If you decide to implement a zero-tolerance absence policy, this might quickly put them out of job. Be sure to always consider these scenarios and, if possible, survey your employees and ask them what they would prefer. It is hard to please everyone, but if employees notice that you are working hard on being fair to everyone with your time and attendance policy, they may be more understanding.

  • Understand all the benefits of an integrated Time & Attendance software in our definitive guide.

Define Employee Work Hours

Most companies have defined hours of operation, but that doesn’t mean that all departments work the same exact hours. This is more obvious and common in industries like retail, food & beverage, and medical. Some companies have employees on different schedules, which means that outlining all the different shifts is very important.  When scheduling your employees, be as fair as possible. What I mean by this is that there is such thing as “scheduling abuse”. Scheduling abuse comes in different forms, with one of the most common being “on-call scheduling”. This means that employees must block those hours out of their day so that they are available if their employer calls them and tells them to go into work, but there is no guarantee that they will actually work during that time. This prevents employees from doing other things during that time such as running errands, going to the doctor, and so on.

Scheduling abuse not only comes from employers or managers but also from employees. There might be times when an employee asks for the day off, or to change shifts with someone else, which is not a terrible thing to do, as long as it doesn’t become a weekly issue. Other examples of schedule abuse are the following:

  • Asking to leave early multiple days in a week.

  • Asking for Fridays or Mondays off.

  • Switching shifts with people to get shifts that bring higher tips.

  • Avoiding shifts with harder tasks, such as opening and closing times.

  • Canceling your employee’s shift last minute.

  • Making the schedule a day in advance.

  • Updating the schedule too frequently with no warning or without giving employees enough time to plan ahead.

Identifying schedule abuse is possible as long as you have the right employee scheduling software. In addition to that, managers should communicate the schedule to their employees in a clear and effective way. Because every organization is different, your workforce might not fall under one specific generation and how they prefer to be communicated with may not be the typical generational style. Be sure to select an employee scheduling system that can accommodate the needs of all your employees. For tips on how to schedule your employees, read here.

Establish Your Policies & Disciplinary Actions

Your time and attendance policy should be written in a document that can be accessed by everyone. For example, it’s coming to include it in the employee handbook. If possible, you should upload an electronic copy of into your HR Software, where it can be accessed at all times. The policy should define absence and tardiness, rules for attendance, and should describe disciplinary actions. It should also answer any questions your employees might have regarding time and attendance. When writing this document, make sure you are as clear and direct as possible, leaving no room for confusion.  These are the following things you should include in your written policy:

  • Definition of attendance in your business (e.g., shifts, days, or weekly work hours)

  • Method for tracking attendance (e.g., payroll timekeeping system or digital time card)

  • List of approved absences and required documentation

  • Difference between an approved, paid absence vs. an unexcused absence

  • When disciplinary action is taken

  • Procedure for requesting absences

It is very important to be clear as to what disciplinary measures will be taken if employees are late or absent too often. The following is a good example by Vanderbilt University of occurrences and the disciplinary actions that are taken for each.


Many companies use a points and incidents system, where workers accrue points for tardiness and other infractions –other companies opt to use a rolling attendance system –where the attendance infractions on a six-month or 12-month period are recorded. When the time period ends the record is cleared and the calculations begin again. If lateness persists, a formal disciplinary procedure may be necessary.

Invest in a Cloud-Based Time & Attendance Software

Investing in an automated cloud-based time tracking solution means your hours flow directly into payroll, making your work more efficient, saving you money in the long run, and eliminating any chance for human error. Your time and attendance software vendor should help you set up your system so you can get the most out of it. Take your time to learn about all the features that are available to you, and if possible, ask for tips and ideas on how to better manage employee time off requests according to your specific industry.

Simplify attendance and time-off tracking by moving your timecards to the cloud. Dominion’s Time &  Attendance and Time Off software both integrate with our payroll software.  With Dominion’s software you get simplified scheduling, you can approve and review hours, you can quickly pull reports to see which employees are available to work and which employees are close to hitting overtime, and you can ensure you are staying compliant by quickly pulling reports of hours worked and paid.

If you are interested in Dominion’s Time & Attendance Software and would like to receive your first month FREE, click here.