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Keeping Employee Tardiness and Absences to a Minimum

It would seem unnecessary to have a written policy requiring workers to show up in order to keep their jobs and be paid. Yet employers often experience problems with no shows and tardiness, so it’s best to issue clear written directives mandating attendance, laying out work hours and days, and the procedure for employees to notify the business when circumstances render it impossible to keep the schedule.

The policy should provide examples of reasonable, legitimate circumstances for absences, including illness or family emergency, and can include examples of what is not, such as an urge to go to the beach.  Some companies also specify bonuses for wellness, i.e, consistent attendance and productivity, although they should not encourage people who are ill to come to work if it will jeopardize their own health or that of others.

Some suggested elements in such a policy are:

Employee work hours – Define a work day, including the times for starting, taking meals, and ending work. Provide the schedules for each shift if the company has more than one. Also inform workers of their rights to take paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks;

Define lateness – Be clear about what the company considers lateness (including any few excused minutes) and whom to notify, as well as any procedure for doing so if one is going to be late;

Lay out leaves applicable to the business, for example:

Discipline and consequences – The policy should also specify the company’s right to determine consequences for attendance policy violations. The standard should leave room for discretion based on the facts, i.e., a business should not specify unvarying discipline for an infraction because circumstances of each situation are different. Of course, an employer’s disciplinary actions may not ever discriminate on the basis of gender, race, national origin, older age, and the myriad of other protected classifications.

“At-will” status permits either the employer or the employee to freely end the relationship even with no advance notice and for no reason at all. Therefore, a business can legitimately terminate an “at-will” worker who fails to arrive or is late.

While there can be exceptions to anything, management should generally not make such a significant move on a single instance or a few isolated occurrences. Termination is rarely the first solution since a company has usually gone through some expense and time to train an individual worker. The majority of absent or tardy employees are willing and able to improve their reliability by a discussion alone.

Companies should employ a system for documenting in writing employee lateness and absences and any discipline it metes out for such infractions.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

September 12, 2018