Setting an effective employee attendance policy

Employee scheduling is a crucial part of any small business’s operations. While a missed shift may be a drop in the ocean for large firms, small businesses can end up scrambling and suffering if an employee is late for a shift, so it’s important to have an effective system in place. While the final responsibility, of course, falls to the employee, having a clear policy in place can minimise the chances of disruption.

To counter this, we’ve pulled together some of the best practices on setting attendance policies that work to encourage punctual attendance from all your employees. You can also find some tips here to help you improve employee punctuality

Be clear on your expectations from the start

Every business is different in how it can cope with unexpected absences, and this will inform your attendance policy accordingly. Consider what the impact would be if an employee turned up sick for a shift versus the impact if they called in sick at the last minute. While you can’t ask your employees to work when they’re seriously ill, you can promote an understanding on their impact on the business so that they are quick and considerate to communicate with you when an illness or absence occurs.

For instance, a restaurant with several serving staff might be able to absorb the extra workload of one waiter or waitress calling in sick, and this could be preferable to their spreading germs to colleagues and customers - you definitely don’t want to run the risk of anyone sneezing as they’re carrying food!

On the other hand, if the employee in question is a lecturer scheduled to teach students in the run-up to their exams, a missed lesson could be catastrophic for the students’ preparation. In this case, you would ideally want sufficient notice of the absence to arrange cover, or for them to manage the lesson if they’re a bit ill but can cope for an hour or two.

It’s important to ensure that you stay the right side of the line when it comes to the latter example - while understanding the impact of missed shifts is important, you still need to run a safe and healthy workplace and forcing or guilt-tripping employees to work when really unwell is not acceptable.

Build trust by giving trust

It’s important to show faith in your employees and to believe the best in them. If an employee is often missing shifts or showing up late, it’s up to you to approach this subject with compassion. Your “angle” for the conversation shouldn’t start out from a place of blame, where you’re pointing out their inability to live up to the standards set in the business.

Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that something is behind these absences or tardiness besides a poor attitude. Are they struggling with their health? If so, maybe they could cut back on their hours temporarily. Has their commute changed? A later start to their shift might allow them to make it in on time. It may even be that part of the job is proving stressful to them and they’re trying to avoid it. In this case, consider ways to help them overcome this, through further training, reassignment of responsibilities, or extra help on the job. The key is to focus on what you can do as a manager to help them achieve the high levels of performance of which you know they are capable.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that any ill-health could be a result of the environment in which they’re spending a significant proportion of their day: your business! With back problems among the most-cited reasons for workplace absences, you may be able to make small changes, like ergonomic chairs, that cut down on these issues. You can find more tips on how to stay healthy when working at a desk all day here.

Use time-clocks and tracking to keep worked hours accurate

It’s easy to think that timesheets are a chance for dishonest employees to sneak some extra hours into their paycheck. But even if you have built a culture of trust, there are still likely to be errors. In fact, about 80% of timesheets need to be corrected after submission, and typically this is because employees simply can’t remember the exact times they arrived and left each day. On top of this, manual tacking and entering of timesheet data adds up to a lot of hours each week—time that could be better spent on serving customers and achieving a more efficient operation.

Findmyshift has plenty of features to help you track time with ease, including time-clock functionality, automatic reporting, and in-built payroll calculations based on actual timesheet data. If your employees know that their arrival and departure times are being tracked, they are more likely to turn up on time to ensure they get the full rate for their shift.

Reward excellent attendance records

Time and again, psychology studies have shown the power of positive reinforcement, as well as the fact that it is far more effective than negative reinforcement! Being rewarded for a job well done is much more likely to make people repeat that behaviour. This means you can further boost the performance of your punctual employees by rewarding them for consistently being on time. These employees will feel recognised and appreciated, while other will work harder to ensure they get the same positive treatment next time around.

Be sensitive when taking individual circumstances into account. If an employee who’s usually hardworking and punctual is late for or misses a shift from something outside of their control, like a family emergency, don’t hamstring their attendance record just for that. As long as you treat everyone fairly and compassionately, you’ll find these rewards quickly instill a sense of recognition for your employees’ good behaviour.

We hope you’re able to use these ideas to see positive changes in your own business’s attendance records - best of luck!

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.