What is Workplace Attendance?

Learn How to Implement an Attendance Policy and Tracking System

Businessman punching the clock
••• Getty Images/Lane Oatey/Blue Jean Images

Tracking your employee's attendance is important to your company's bottom line. Attendance is defined, quite simply, as showing up for work, but how can you track every employee's attendance? While it may seem like a daunting task, it's quite simple if you implement a well-defined policy and a tracking system.

In regards to hourly or nonexempt employees, an attendance system clearly defines when employees are supposed to show up for work. This is especially important for nonexempt employees who frequently perform jobs that require another person to be present to serve customers.

It is also important for employees who are a part of an automated process that requires a worker to be present at each workstation in order to produce a particular product or a service. In general, attendance policies exist because of these kinds of workers. They do not exist for the sake of exempt employees. Attendance is also used to define the number of persons present on a particular day and most frequently refers to employees who are paid hourly.

Present at Work and the HR Department

Attendance is also referred to as "present at work" or "presenteeism". For example, an HR department may make notes in an employee's personnel file or in a company's assessment of its workplace challenges or goals.

Examples of "presenteeism" notes kept by HR include:

  • Rob had a wonderful work attendance record; he rarely missed a day of work.
  • Mary has a challenge with attendance and arrives late to work at least two days a week.
  • The attendance on first shift averaged only 75 percent on Mondays because employees were recovering from their weekend fun. 
  • Obtaining qualified employees who want to work a second shift with good attendance is challenging. Employees prefer to work days as opposed to working nights or, they prefer to work the midnight shift so that they have their days free. Second shifts cut into employee's free time in both days and nights.

    What is an Attendance Policy?

    Simply put, an attendance policy provides the guidelines and expectations for employee attendance at work as defined, written, disseminated, and implemented by an organization.

    Attendance policies exist most frequently for hourly or nonexempt employees for whom an organization must generally track hours and pay for overtime exceeding 40 hours a week.

    Time-at-work record keeping is required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which governs the payment of overtime.

    Additionally, employees for whom attendance is tracked often perform jobs that depend on other employees being in attendance. Such jobs include production line work in a manufacturing facility.

    An attendance policy is sometimes used interchangeably with an absenteeism policy. However, an attendance policy is much more narrowly defined and limited to attendance, as opposed to absenteeism policies which address absenteeism management issues.

    A Sample No-Fault Attendance System

    A No-Fault Point System is one example of an effective attendance policy. The goal of this system is to reward good attendance and eliminate the employment of people with poor attendance records. Because it uses a point system and does not excuse absences it leaves managers and supervisors out of the role of judge and jury. It is an objective system that places accountability and responsibility for attendance on the shoulder of the employee which is where it ought to be.

    In a no-fault attendance system, absences may be recorded using this system:

    • Each absence = 1 point (no multi-day occurrences)
    • Each late-in (tardy) or early-out = 1/2 point
    • Each no-show for work = 2 points
    • Each return with no prior call = 1 point
    • Each absence-free quarter eliminates all points and rewards the employee with a day off with pay.
    • Each employee starts fresh, with no points, each year.

    Progressive disciplinary action accompanies a no-fault attendance system. If an employee earns a certain amount of points, they receive a warning that progressively worsens. A system such as this allows both the employer and employee to know exactly what the consequences will be for poor attendance.

    It's important to get your employees on-track with a detailed attendance policy that includes rewards and penalties for hourly employee attendance.