Develop an Effective Attendance Policy

January 14th, 2008 | By Jules Halpern Associates | Employee Attendance, Employee Relations, FMLA, Human Resources, Wellness Programs

Every employer should develop an attendance policy which can be easily referenced by its employees (usually in an employee handbook). The best tip for creating an effective attendance policy is to be crystal clear in what is expected from employees. Employees should be made aware how much vacation, sick time and personal days they are entitled to, when they can use such days, and how such days are earned/accrued.
Likewise, an attendance policy should state the consequences that follow unscheduled absences and how such absences negatively impact the company. The attendance policy should then be enforced consistently throughout the Company.

Provide Incentives/Rewards

Providing employees with incentives or rewards to come to work regularly can be as simple and cost-effective as providing employees with a clean, friendly, positive work environment. The more an employee enjoys coming to work, the less inclined he or she is will be to miss work for non- health-related reasons.
Incentives/rewards can also include:

  • Allowing employees to cash-in unused sick days;
  • A small reward to employees for every month of perfect attendance;
  • Gift certificates to a local store/restaurant for the employee with the best attendance in a given month; or
  • An extra personal day for employees with no unscheduled absences.

Promote Employee Health

There are many steps employers can take toward promoting employee health and preventing illness and disease.  Employers can provide employees with flu shots, screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol, and health seminars.

Employers should encourage frequent hand washing and good employee hygiene. Restrooms should be clean and well-stocked with soap. It is also a good idea to supply employees with hand sanitizers, as this will help reduce the spread of diseases such as the flu and staph infections.
Depending upon the worksite, employers can also provide employees with health-conscious cafeteria food, healthier snacks in vending machines and gym membership discounts. Fostering a healthy and fit lifestyle will help reduce the number of sick days taken by employees.

Be Familiar with Applicable Federal and State Law

It is critical that employers be aware of the interplay between employee absenteeism, federal and state law.
The main federal laws that affect how employers deal with employees with attendance issues are the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

Title I of the ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees and prohibits discrimination in employment against disabled employees and job applicants. Employers are required to provide disabled employees “reasonable accommodations” unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer. While “reasonable accommodations” can include reducing or altering a disabled employee’s work schedule, an employer might not be required to put up with excessive absenteeism or irregular attendance if doing so would constitute an “undue hardship” under the ADA. Likewise, the ADA does not necessarily require employers to grant additional paid leave (beyond the sick days normally afforded under the employer’s policy) to employees considered “disabled” within the meaning of the law.

The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a 12- month period for any FMLA qualifying event (i.e., serious health condition of employee, serious health condition of employee’s spouse/child/parent, birth and care of newborn child of the employee). Employers should not take FMLA leave into account when disciplining an employee for poor attendance because such action could be found discriminatory under the FMLA.

In addition to the federal FMLA, many states (such as California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and Oregon) have enacted their own family and medical leave laws.

Poor employee attendance is one of the most prevalent issues in the modern workplace. Employers should develop an effective attendance policy, provide incentives/rewards for good attendance, promote employee health and be familiar with applicable state and federal employment laws.

Jules Halpern Associates LLC

Workplace and Education Law Advisors

Jules Halpern Associates LLC
JULES HALPERN ASSOCIATES LLC is a boutique law firm committed to serving our clients in all facets of their workplace issues. We provide personalized, practical advice that resonates with our clients’ business objectives.
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Jules Z. Halpern

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