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Three Tips for Effective Attendance Management

by | Sep 2, 2015 | Blog, Thought

Three Tips for Effective Attendance Management

Showing up to work on time is a good practice for any employee, but in some environments, every minute really matters. In a range of industries, including healthcare and manufacturing, individual work depends on colleagues being present. When employers need to precisely manage attendance, they often put an attendance tracking system in place.

Attendance tracking generally refers to a policy of assigning points to employees for each late arrival (tardy) or absence, with escalating penalties once certain point levels are reached. These policies, sometimes referred to as no-fault attendance policies, motivate employees to be stewards of their own schedule, and—when they’re working—reduce the number of last-minute absences.

If your business is considering an attendance tracking system, consider the following three questions:

Do I know that it’s compliant?

Make sure to get legal counsel’s guidance on any policy of assigning attendance points well before you finalize it, or you may be putting the organization at risk. These “no fault” attendance policies, have been ruled unlawful in multiple courts because the policy was found to have violated an employee’s FMLA and ADA rights, or perhaps other medical leave or discrimination laws. Make sure that any policy you implement takes job-protected leave and disability accommodations into account, or the benefits may be outweighed by the policy’s risks.

Also, take care to distinguish attendance tracking for the purposes of calculating pay from attendance tracking for discipline schemes. For instance, while your organization may have rounding rules in place for calculating pay that allow someone to arrive 10 minutes late and still receive the full hour’s wages, you may still be able to give that employee a point for a late arrival. No matter what attendance tracking practices you put into place, counsel should always review and advise before new policies take effect.

Can this be a positive for employees?

Attendance management is often disciplinary, but does not have to be. Some employers are reversing policies so that rather than penalize the least reliable workers (based on attendance records), they reward the individuals who regularly show up on time. These incentive programs, which should be reviewed with an attorney for legal compliance, can have a quarterly or annual payout, and can also serve as a retention tool if your environment has a high turnover rate. Just as discipline programs can have multiple tiers, so can a reward version. One example is to have a threshold attendance number, say 95%, and all workers that attain that goal over the measurement period get a small bonus—but any workers who achieve 100% attendance get a larger one.

In addition, your employees who do consistently show up on time, as scheduled, may appreciate that their consistency is recognized. Whether your system has disciplinary or reward components (or perhaps a bit of both), there is an opportunity to position it as a benefit to your best performers. Stress that attendance is important because the contributions of each employee are important to the productivity, and even the safety, of the larger group.

What are the right incentives?

If you automate attendance tracking with a time and attendance software, even a complex policy can be easy to manage. Attendance software can fairly administer points and provide detailed reporting on attendance histories across teams, locations, and shifts. What’s left for you to determine is how to structure the program.

It’s common to have discipline schemes that begin with a verbal warning, escalate to a written warning, and eventually lead to a termination. Incentive programs are often cash-based, distributing bonuses to the workers with the best attendance records. However, there are lots of options available to you, including time-off and scheduling seniority, that may be equally valued (or more so) by your staff. Please bear in mind that incentive structures should also be run by legal counsel to make sure they don’t conflict with employment laws, union contracts, and other in-place agreements. And plan to train managers on not only how to administer the program, but to communicate its benefits to their staff.

With the right system in place, you can test out different incentives or disciplinary steps over time to see which options yield the best results.

No matter how your attendance management policies shape up, making sure they’re compliant, employee-friendly (to the extent possible), and provide incentives that matter to your workforce, are three keys to success.

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