Creating an Employee Attendance Policy

photo of a happy employee actively helping a customer at a grocery store

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If you want the work to get done in a timely manner, you need employees who will show up. Even the most dedicated and motivated employees can benefit from a clear employee attendance policy. Here are some things to think about as you try to create a policy for your store or restaurant. Depending on the size and nature of your business, not all of the examples and suggestions here will apply to you. This post merely serves as a guide to help you get started.

The Basics of an Employee Attendance Policy

Every company is different, but there are a few basic concepts that should be included in an attendance policy, such as:

Keeping Time

First, think about how you want to keep time. Are you planning on using a timeclock to track attendance and enforce schedules rigorously? Or do you prefer a policy that allows employees a bit of leeway to choose their own hours? The best choice usually depends on what sort of tasks your employees do and how you choose to pay them. For instance, if you run a grocery store, you’ll most likely want cashiers to work a set schedule that is based on the store’s sales figures.

You’ll also want to consider how early or late staff can clock in and whether they can work overtime. If you’re in a state with strict labor laws, you’ll want to make sure that your staffing policies are in line with what your state requires. This might even include mandatory meals and rest breaks. (If you’re not sure, feel free to reach out to us – we help with labor compliance all the time.)

Update: Special considerations for restaurants

If you work in the restaurant industry and in a state that does tip credits, take heed. The Department of Labor revised its 80/20 tip rule in December of 2021. The revised rule poses extra challenges for restaurants that wish to claim a tip credit. For tips on how to stay compliant and manage your labor well, see what is the 80/20 tip rule.

Sick Leave and PTO

Next, think about potential exceptions to the rules. You need to come up with a policy for handling sick leave and paid time off (PTO). Think about things like how many waiters can take off a major holiday. Should they be required to give you two weeks advance notice? Three? How often will you permit employees to take time off? It’s important to lay out these expectations clearly so that employees can act accordingly.

Keep in mind that many states have special rules around sick leave, especially in light of COVID.

Tardiness and Absence

Finally, consider what happens when an employee doesn’t make their shift or arrives before or after the grace period. You need to set guidelines and expectations around tardiness and absences. Think about whether the tardy employee still gets paid and whether they face consequences. When employees skip work altogether, you need to consider fair disciplinary actions and decide how many absences will count as job abandonment.

You’ll also want to set some rules about buddy punching. Buddy punching happens when one employee clocks in or out for another. This form of time theft can be prevented with biometric timeclocks, but if you’re not ready to adopt timeclocks, there are other things you can do to help keep it from happening.

Some other things to have in your policy include:

  • Lists of what counts as approved absences. For example, being sick or having a family emergency.
  • Discussion of what sort of attendance is expected. You may decide having three unexpected absences is unacceptable for some roles, for instance.
  • Clear explanation of the procedure for requesting absences. Do they call their manager or should they use your company’s attendance software?
  • How employees should handle emergency situations, such as inclement weather.

Keeping Attendance Management Fair

A good rule of thumb in any attendance policy for a restaurant or grocery store is to think about whether it is a policy you would want to work under. Having different rules for different types of workers can breed a lot of resentment and conflict in the workplace. Whether an employee is a part-time cashier or shift lead, the same basic rules should at least in principle apply to them.

Of course, there may be some slight differences between policies since different positions have different attendance needs. However, in general, try to keep the same overall outlook. Tardiness and frequent absences should result in the same disciplinary process across positions.

Here are some things you can do to ensure all employees are treated fairly:

  • Have time tracking policies for employees of all skill levels.
  • Require doctor’s notes for all types of sick leave.
  • Give written warnings for all types of unexplained absences.
  • Don’t allow one position to take longer breaks than others.

Provide Clear Disciplinary Actions and Consequences

When there are absolutely no consequences for breaking an attendance policy, the policy becomes effectively useless. Unless your restaurant or store is extremely lax, you probably need at least some sort of disciplinary framework. Being clear and up front about the consequences will provide an incentive for employees to comply with the policy.

At the same time, you do not want a policy so harsh that it seems unreasonable. Finding the right types of discipline can be a balancing act. Many stores avoid discipline for first offenses. Consider a progressive discipline process where repeat offenders may face more consequences than an employee with good attendance who makes one mistake.

Some ideas for reasonable disciplinary action include:

  • Loss of expected bonuses or benefits.
  • Requirements to work later to make up for lost time.
  • A switch to later shifts.
  • Deduction in paycheck.
  • Deduction in personal time off.

As always, make sure you understand your state’s requirements and that you build your policy accordingly. It’s a good idea to make sure your employees read and agree to your policy at the time of hire, to protect yourself from later complaints if things don’t go the way they want them to.

Get Input From Employees on Your Employee Attendance Policy

It is important to make sure you consider your company’s culture. Doing something like suddenly implementing a strict policy with zero tolerance for lateness in a previously relaxed coffee shop can cause a lot of hostility and complaints. If you want your business to run smoothly, it can be a good idea to get feedback.

Having employees provide input on the policy is a smart move. In addition to reducing resentment, it also encourages them to follow the policy they had input in. When employees feel like they have a hand in making the rules, they are more committed to following them. Try consulting with human resources or sending out an anonymous survey that asks for attendance policy preferences.

Be Willing to Adjust Employee Time Policies During COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed the way a lot of companies handle attendance. It may be necessary to be more flexible during these unprecedented circumstances. Employers need to focus on public safety over adhering to old rules and ways of doing things. Furthermore, with many shops switching to delivery-only or ghost kitchen models, traditional rules might not apply. Or you may even need to add in additional guidelines to cover new scenarios.

Some ideas for how you can create a reasonable policy during COVID include the following:

  • Extend the amount of unpaid or paid time off employees can ask for.
  • Let employees use sick leave to quarantine or care for ill family members.
  • Consider flexible attendance schedules that let employees stagger shifts.
  • Let employees use shift swapping software to find the right schedule for their needs.
  • When possible, allow non-customer-facing employees to start their workday earlier or later than usual.

Again, keep in mind that your state may have mandates around attendance during COVID. Make sure you know and abide by the laws, so that you don’t face penalties for non-compliance.

TimeForge provides a seamless, centralized platform for handling all aspects of labor and workforce management, including employee attendance, scheduling, team communication, human resources, and more. With our tools, each employee can view their attendance online, and you can ensure they comply with your employee attendance policy. To learn more about our smart labor management software, give us a call today.

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