- Employee attendance affects your overtime pay, your customers' experience and your overall finances.
- Challenges to your employees' attendance include unexpected absences, late arrivals, early departures and sick employees coming to work.
- You should craft attendance policies and use time and attendance software to measure employees' hours.
- This article is for employers who want to learn how to track and manage employee attendance.
Although remote work is on the rise, not every job can be done from afar – and even those that can often demand firm employee schedules. To keep your employees in line with these schedules, you'll need to manage employee attendance remotely for your whole team of full-timers, part-timers, hourly employees and salaried professionals. There are many moving parts involved, but with a few simple tips, you can monitor your employees' time and attendance with ease.
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What is employee attendance?
Employee attendance is the presence of your employees at their designated worksite during the required hours. In retail, employee attendance means an employee showing up for and fully working their scheduled shift for the day. For remote desk jobs, it could mean an employee clocking in at 9 a.m. and clocking out at 5 p.m. every weekday.
Free Download: Create your own employee attendance sheet with our free attendance template.
Importance of employee attendance
Tracking employee attendance is important for a few reasons:
Proper employee attendance ensures that your employees aren't engaging in time theft, which is when your company pays employees for hours they didn't actually work. Time theft is more common among hourly employees, since they can fudge their time clock numbers.
That said, time theft isn't unheard of among salaried employees. Salaried employees who use the internet for personal matters during work hours are technically stealing your time. However, if your employees set their own hours or you pay them a flat salary regardless of how much time their work takes them, time theft may be a nonissue so long as productivity is consistent.
Hourly employees are nonexempt from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), so you must pay them overtime. Both you and these employees must track the hours they work, and you must pay time-and-a-half for all time an employee works beyond 40 hours in a workweek. For example, if an employee who makes $20 an hour works 45 hours during a workweek, you must pay them $30 (their usual $20 wage multiplied by 1.5) for each of those final five hours.
Salaried professionals are exempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions, which is another reason why tracking attendance matters more for hourly than salaried employees. Learn more in this guide to exempt employees.
Tracking employee attendance can reveal patterns of behavior, such as certain employees not showing up for their shifts. This repeated missing of shifts is known as absenteeism, and it can have a substantial impact on your finances. A repeatedly absent employee can stretch your team thin, reducing the quality of your services. In cases where you accidentally still pay absent employees, absenteeism can become time theft.
Hourly positions are common for customer-facing roles such as retail associates, restaurant servers and call center agents. In each case, proper employee attendance gives each team member adequate time to interact with customers. As a result, customers won't feel rushed or neglected and are thus more likely to buy from you again.
In manufacturing plants, assembly-line employees may be hourly workers, and their presence may be crucial for even heavily automated processes. For example, if the employee on your dessert production company's cake assembly line isn't around to smooth out the icing, you'll be left with a massive gap in your production. This absence could lead to a backlog that disrupts your whole supply chain.
Key takeaway: Employee attendance has implications for overtime pay, the customer experience, and your general finances, so you must monitor time and attendance to ensure accuracy.
Challenges of employee attendance
These are some of the challenges you are likely to encounter in your attempts to monitor and improve employee attendance:
- Late arrivals and early departures. Let's say you've scheduled an employee to handle the day's first customers when your storefront opens at 9 a.m. If that employee arrives even a few minutes late, there might not be someone present to help the customers. These customers might go elsewhere, sending would-be revenue to a competitor.
- Late starts and early ends to the workweek. Even if you love running your business, you probably understand why so many people hate Mondays. That said, you might not feel a ton of sympathy for the employee who comes in excessively late at the start of your workweek. The same goes for the employee who always takes off early on Friday afternoons. Both occurrences are quite common among all kinds of small businesses.
- Excessive breaks. No one should have to work a full eight-hour shift in one go, but an employee whose breaks are too long or frequent can disrupt your operations. Nobody's saying that you should scold an employee for returning a minute or two later than planned, but you should make sure another employee is available whenever a staff member is on a break.
- Unexpected absences. At the end of the day, employees are still people with lives and needs outside of work. They might fall ill, have family emergencies or just need mental health days. You shouldn't hesitate to grant them time off for these occasions, but you also need to fill the gaps that these employees' absences leave.
- No improvement after warnings. Although absenteeism may be the most common reason for employee discipline, you shouldn't jump straight from observing a problem to acting on it. Give the employee a kind but firm warning or two; just remember that warnings don't always lead to change.
- New attendance problems after warnings. Not everyone you hire will be happy at work. These employees may show up late or leave early, and if you warn them about one type of absenteeism, their absenteeism could change form. For example, if you warn an unhappy employee about failing to show up on time, they could start leaving early instead.
- Sick employees. A late 2019 survey found that 90% of employees have gone to work sick, also known as presenteeism. Especially now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, you should encourage sick employees to stay home even if your bottom line takes a hit. The short-term absence of an employee is certainly better than your whole team catching that person's illness and calling in sick.
Key takeaway: Employee attendance challenges include late arrivals and early departures, unexpected absences, and presenteeism (sick employees coming to work).
How to manage employee attendance
Proper employee attendance management procedures come in handy to address the above challenges.
- Measuring employee attendance: To start managing your employees' attendance, set up a structure for measuring it. Consider purchasing time clocks, biometric systems or other time-tracking devices.
- Creating attendance policies: A thorough attendance policy in your employee handbook should tell your employees how to request vacation time or take sick leave. Your policy should state how much of each leave type your employees receive. It should also explain the consequences of excessive absences or other policy deviations.
- Determining why employees are absent: An employee who often finds themselves in conflict with another employee may stop showing up to your workplace. So might overworked employees or those with life circumstances protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Always ask why an employee is skipping work before you take action, giving you a chance to address the issue together.
- Giving attendance awards: Rewards for excellent attendance may incentivize your employees to show up and do better work. Cash bonuses, "employee of the month" programs, and extra paid time off for good attendance are all great incentives. You may also see advice to implement a "no-fault" attendance policy as an incentive, which means employees incur "points" for each absence (regardless of the reason) and are disciplined or fired when they meet a certain point threshold. However, these systems can actually lead to legal troubles for your company.
- Adequately training supervisors: If your company has several department heads who each manage their own employees, you should train these supervisors in how to spot and handle attendance issues. Encourage these supervisors to track and document absences, and discuss how they should approach employees about repeated absences.
- Allowing flexibility: Though perhaps not possible for customer-facing hourly employees, flexible work schedules can bolster employee attendance. If you need 40 hours of weekly remote work from your employees but don't care when during the week it gets done, say this in your company policy. Employees who set their own schedules, even seemingly bizarre ones, are often more productive.
- Using time and attendance software: Time and attendance software (as well as other remote work business tools) makes all the employee attendance management approaches above much easier. As you choose your time and attendance software, look for extensive and accurate tracking, user friendliness, and ample integrations. You can also find some brand recommendations in our time and attendance software reviews.
Employee attendance template
To get started with proper employee attendance management, you can download and use our free template.
Our template includes attendance tracking for each month and a list of all U.S. public holidays. It is available as a Google doc which makes it easy to copy and customize or download into another file type.
Free Download: Employee attendance template
With this sheet handy and the employee attendance management methods we've outlined at the front of your mind, you should be able to reduce your team's absenteeism in no time.