People Leadership

Manage Employee Attendance with These Expert Strategies 

March 21, 2024

Employee attendance management 

  • The goal of attendance management is to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and cut lost-time costs. 
  • Ignored cases of absenteeism can foster resentment among employees. 
  • Attendance management must include fair and consistent reporting and tracking procedures. 

What is attendance management? 

The goal of any organization is to have perfect attendance, but perfection is unrealistic. Life happens. Although absenteeism is expected, you should not ignore the consequences. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that employee absenteeism costs Canadian businesses $16.6 billion per year. Besides financial burden, it also leaves other employees picking up the slack. Strengthening your attendance management strategy mitigates the consequences of poor attendance. 

Attendance management is overseeing presence at work to minimize the abuse of sick time, increase productivity, improve efficiency, and cut the costs of lost time. Effective attendance management does not punish workers for absenteeism that is beyond their control. A lack of trust among employees is a result of not having a consistent procedure for progressive discipline. This may lead to noncompliance, attendance expectations abuse, and dishonesty. The good news is that a comprehensive attendance management approach can help identify the root causes of absenteeism. Implementing an attendance policy and creating consistent and fair reporting, tracking, and disciplinary procedures are strategies to use. Introducing preventive measures, including flexibility and EAPs, promotes wellness and works towards addressing the root causes of absenteeism. Improving attendance should be a priority for every organization because when employees are present, goals are achieved. 

How to manage employee attendance

Establish expectations 

Before you expect employees to obey rules, you must establish the rulebook. Implementing an Attendance Management and Absenteeism Policy communicates employee attendance expectations. The goal of such a policy is to manage absenteeism fairly by outlining attendance expectations and processes for correcting unacceptable absences. Culpable and non-culpable absences should be among the definitions included in the policy. Non-culpable absences are due to illness, weather, or injury, whereas culpable absences are within an employee’s control. The scope should reach all employees, including those under hybrid and remote work arrangements. Within the policy, be sure to outline attendance tracking and reporting procedures and disciplinary steps. Employees should also know the expectations for reporting absences. Without a formal reporting procedure, it is difficult to track and prove unacceptable absenteeism. 

Sometimes non-culpable absences require accommodation. If you identify a need for accommodation, a Human Rights Policy and its associated legislation provide insight on how to best support your employee. In these cases, progressive discipline is unnecessary. Attendance accommodation is determined case by case. Remember, accommodation plans are unique to personal needs. 

Use attendance management programs, tracking, and reporting 

The goal of every organization is having all employees present and productive. While true perfection might be impossible, you can get pretty close. Attendance management programs and apps like Timetastic elevate attendance reporting and tracking processes. Without a consistent reporting procedure, employees may report to the wrong individual, and their absence might be tracked incorrectly, resulting in unnecessary disciplinary action. Attendance management programs eliminate the need for paperwork or never-ending spreadsheets by offering a streamlined digital platform. An organized platform lets you plan work schedules, approve time off requests, and manage multiple teams at once. Implementing an efficient and organized service ensures all employees are treated fairly. 

You need to identify patterns before you address poor attendance. Managing Attendance and Absenteeism Training for Leaders (Immersive) provides guidance on how to track attendance and identify absenteeism patterns. To see this or any of our other online training courses, book a free demo with our experts at a time that fits your schedule. Investigating patterns helps identify whether absenteeism is culpable or non-culpable, and whether accommodation may be needed. Patterns to look for include absences on desirable days like weekends, Mondays and Fridays, and days before or after vacation time or holidays. Other patterns may indicate that an employee is facing a personal or health issue, such as consistent late arrivals or early departures and unexpected absenteeism in employees who always had good attendance. Keeping an organized record of these patterns helps you identify the root cause of poor attendance and the next steps in addressing it. 

Adopt a consistent attendance management program and disciplinary practices 

Making a final decision without considering all factors of an issue is never a good idea. When analysing employee absenteeism cases, considering all contributing factors is essential to fair discipline. A good Progressive Discipline Policy outlines how to address and handle culpable absenteeism consistently and fairly. Progressive discipline should start with a formal meeting. During this meeting, you must identify that the attendance remains unacceptable and the reason for it. You should also set clear expectations, identify next steps if there is no improvement, and provide helpful resources. If the employee’s attendance shows no improvement, there are five stages to follow: coaching, verbal warning, written warning, final written warning or suspension, and termination. Hopefully, termination is unnecessary, and the employee fixes their absenteeism challenges. The intention is that the employee learns to maintain good attendance long term. If poor habits return after a long period of good attendance, the progressive discipline restarts at the first stage. Remember to document all communication during each stage of the process. When enforcing progressive discipline, managers and supervisors should be role models by following attendance expectations themselves. 

Implement preventative attendance management measures. 

Prevention is an efficient strategy to handle absenteeism challenges and prevent absenteeism before it becomes unmanageable. An Attendance Management Best Practice Guide offers an overview of strategies to prevent absenteeism from becoming an issue and help employees address factors that lead to it. Lack of employee engagement, stress, low productivity, health issues, and disabilities are root causes of poor attendance. Measures like wellness programs, EAPs, and flexible work arrangements work against these root causes. Wellness programs like gym memberships promote physical and mental wellbeing. Offering more sick and vacation days than legislation requires and introducing hybrid and remote work arrangements are further ways of incorporating flexibility in your attendance program. If your employees dread coming to work each day, a poor workplace culture may be to blame. Fostering a positive workplace culture through these measures ensures employees feel supported when they need to take a day off. A supportive culture leads to transparent time off requests and fewer no-shows. 

Why it’s important

Attendance management is essential to productivity and should be considered an organizational goal. When employees are absent, company goals are more difficult to achieve. Poor attendance leads to low productivity and employee morale. Fair tracking and reporting procedures are key elements to identify the reasons for absenteeism and keep schedules organized. To strengthen your attendance management approach, you must revise policies, establish consistent tracking and reporting, and address both culpable and non-culpable absenteeism. 

Need help creating or updating your organization’s attendance policies? 

If you’re looking to update or implement some of the HR policies mentioned above, HRdownloads can help! Check out our blogpost, 15 Essential HR Policies, and download our free Guide to Essential HR Policies for expert HR policy guidance.  

Our clients have unlimited access to tailored HR solutions like HR software, HR content, and HR support. We have thousands of accessible HR documents, HR policy templates, HR compliance resources, and more. Updating and creating new HR policies can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. With our assistance, HR policy creation is easy. Book a free demo with us at a time that fits your schedule today. Our HR experts are here when you need them, not the other way around!