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 it? By implementing well-defined policies and a tracking system.

Especially with hourly or nonexempt employees, the 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 a person to be there to serve customers.

It is also important for those employees who work a function in an automated process that requires a worker at each workstation for the process to complete a product or service. It is for workers in these situations that attendance policies generally exist. You'll rarely find an attendance policy that addresses the work of exempt or salaried employees.

Management and human resources departments will find that having an effective attendance policy in place creates a better work environment because employees know exactly what is expected of them.

What is Workplace Attendance?

Attendance is the act or fact of attending (being present at) work. Attendance is also used to define the number of persons present on a particular day at work. As mentioned, it most frequently refers to jobs of hourly paid employees.

Attendance is also referred to as present at work or presenteeism.

For example, an HR department may make notes like these in an employee's personnel file or in a company's assessment of its workplace challenges or goals.

  • Rob had a wonderful work attendance record; he rarely missed a day from 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 while employees recovered from their weekend fun. 
  • Obtaining qualified employees who want to work second shift with good attendance is challenging. Employees prefer to work days to have nights off or they prefer to work midnight shift so that they have days free. Second shift cuts across free time in both days and nights.

    What is an Attendance Policy?

    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 over 40 hours.

    Additionally, employees for whom attendance is tracked often perform jobs that are interdependent 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. My view is that an attendance policy is much more narrowly defined and limited to attendance, as opposed to absenteeism policies which address absenteeism management issues and more.

    A Sample No-Fault Attendance System

    A No-Fault Point System is one example of an effective attendance policy. The goal is to reward good attendance and eliminate the employment of people with poor attendance. It uses a point system and does not excuse absences.

    This leaves managers and supervisors out of the role of judges, a role they hate to play. It places maximum accountability and responsibility for attendance on the employee which is where it ought to be.

    In a no-fault attendance system, absences are recorded similar to this:

    • 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 so many points, they receive a warning that progressively worsens. A system like this allows both the employer and employee to know exactly what the consequences will be for poor attendance.

    Here is a detailed attendance policy to review. It includes rewards and penalties for hourly employee attendance.