Attendance Policy Examples for Your Restaurant or Store

a photo of a grocery store employee helping a customer

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Your attendance policy is where you tell your employees what to expect with regard to their time and attendance. It may be its own document or part of a larger staff member handbook.

When all employees show up to work on time and carry their share of the workload, it allows for better customer service and a superior customer experience.

Below, you will find attendance policy examples that you can adapt to your business. We focus primarily on small grocery stores and independent restaurants for these examples, as managers at most major chains likely do not have as much control over policy.

Regardless of the size or type of your business, your attendance policy should begin with a purpose statement, such as:

The purpose of this document is to set forth the employee attendance policy for Jenny’s Bar and Grill.

Employee Attendance Policy Statement and Examples

Following the purpose statement, your policy should begin with an overall policy statement, such as:

It is the policy of Jenny’s Bar and Grill that all servers will report to work at the scheduled start time. Servers will also remain at work for the required number of hours scheduled.

The two exceptions to servers not reporting to work include prior approval to be absent or an emergency.

Leaving Early and Arriving Late

Your policy should include a statement about what to do if an employee needs to leave work early.

For example, you may want to let employees know that they must notify a supervisor immediately if they must leave work before the end of their scheduled shift. Reasons this might be allowed include childcare duties, doctors’ visits, and other responsibilities.

For example, you might include the statement:

  • If you must leave work early for any reason, you must first get approval from your supervisor.
  • Let your team members know they must notify their supervisor before the scheduled start time when they cannot report to work as expected. This will allow their supervisor to make other arrangements to ensure that the business is adequately staffed.
  • If you will be arriving more than 15 minutes late to your shift, you must notify your manager by text message. A manager’s override will be required to clock in on the timeclock.

Time Theft

Related to the attendance policy examples above, time theft occurs when one employee clocks in or out for another who would otherwise be considered early or late.

This is known as “buddy punching.” Your attendance policy should make your stance on buddy punching clear to staff.

It should also include what sort of disciplinary action will be taken should an employee engage in time theft.

Excused vs Unexcused Absences

As part of your policy document, you should explain the difference between an excused absence and an unexcused absence.

You should also consider how many unexcused absences will be permitted before certain disciplinary measures are taken. This will require you to also consider what disciplinary measures to use.

(For some suggestions, you can check out our previous article on creating an employee attendance policy.)

You may want to provide a few examples of excused versus unexcused absences, such as:

  • When an employee must miss work for a scheduled parent-teacher conference at their child’s school, they must notify their supervisor ahead of time. The supervisor will excuse the absence and find another employee to cover the shift.

It is also a good idea to encourage employees to submit requests for excused time off in a formal way. If you’re not using TimeForge to handle availability and PTO, a free leave of absence letter template can come in handy. That way you can avoid any ambiguity, and ensure everyone is on the same page about their responsibilities.

Medical Leave and Doctor’s Note

Medical leave is typically considered an excused absence. Your policy should advise employees what to do if they must be absent from work due to illness or medical emergency.

You should inform your employees that it is their responsibility to notify their manager or supervisor. You should also inform employees that if they are unable to call in, they must have someone else call in for them.

That said, you may decide that a doctor’s note is required for all excused medical absences. For example, your attendance policy might state something like:

  • Per policy, employees with more than three consecutive days of excused absences due to sickness or an injury must provide a doctor’s note. The doctor’s note is required as a fitness-for-duty release before the employee can return to work.

If you live in a state with additional laws regarding COVID, make sure to distribute your policies around that subject, as well.

Remember: some states mandate that employees be given additional leeway when it comes to COVID-related absences. California in particular requires that you create and distribute a written handbook for dealing with possible COVID cases and limiting exposure.

Other Types of Leave

In addition to PTO and annual vacation, you should mention other types of leave in your attendance policy. These may include things like military duty and bereavement.

Employees may also be absent if they qualify for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Maternity and paternity leave are common examples of additional leave types. If your business employs men or women in the reserve, you might include a statement such as:

Employees enlisted in the National Guard or military reserve must advise their supervisor as soon as they receive military orders to report for duty.

When an Employee Fails to Call In

Finally, your attendance policy should explain what happens when an employee is repeatedly tardy or has one or more unexcused absences. Your policy should also outline the grounds for termination for an employee who is considered absent without leave (AWOL). For example:

Jenny’s Bar and Grill will terminate the employment of any server who does not report to work for three or more consecutive days without contacting their supervisor.

Disciplinary Action Up to and Including Termination

As mentioned above, you should put some thought into how you will handle unexcused absences and tardiness. Your attendance policy should stress that excellent attendance is an expectation of all employees. As well, it should clearly lay out the grounds for disciplinary action. You might include a statement such as:

  • Any grocery store employee who has two or more unexcused absences within 30 days will receive a written warning.


  • Any server with 4 unexcused absences within a 12-month period will be terminated and deemed ineligible for rehire.

Written Warning Requirement

In one of the examples above, we mentioned a written warning. Attendance policies often require supervisors to give employees a written warning before taking more serious disciplinary action.

You may wish to consider a similar policy for your business. For example:

  • This written notice is to inform you that your absence yesterday is unexcused. If you incur another unexcused absence within the next 30 days, you will be subject to a day’s suspension without pay.

From Example to Application: How to apply these attendance policy examples to your business

Having a well thought out attendance policy for your restaurant or grocery store is only the first step.

The second step is to distribute your policy and collect acknowledgments from your staff to ensure they have read, understand, and will abide by the rules. This is especially important if you operate in a state like CA, where lawsuits against employers are more common.

Inform Your Staff

When your staff attest that they have read, understand, and will follow your policy, it is much more difficult for them to claim later that the rules weren’t clear or that they weren’t properly informed.

Human resources software can help you share your policy and collect signatures from your employees. The signed document then remains part of the employee’s HR file as proof.

Even if you do not do business in CA, it is highly recommended that you protect your business in this way.

Enforce Your Policy

The third step is to ensure that you can monitor and enforce your policy.

In addition to understanding and incorporating the oft-dizzying labor laws for their city and state, this can be one of the most difficult steps.

We can help. With TimeForge, you can easily configure your time and attendance policies into the software. (Or we pre-configure them for you, based on the labor laws in your state.) Then, let the software handle the enforcement piece.

Our application virtually eliminates time theft and ensures that staff abide by the policies you have set. When an employee is late, for example, TimeForge can prevent them from clocking in, thus requiring a manager override. This allows managers to take proactive steps toward preventing further issues.

Sign up for a demo, and we’ll show you exactly how TimeForge can be used to apply and enforce your attendance policy.

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