an Absence Policy
Should you have a formal attendance policy? You may want to
develop a policy for your own use, so that you can be sure
you're treating employees fairly and similarly from incident to
incident. However, we don't recommend that you put your policy
in writing and give it to your employees, unless you have a
large number of employees and absences have historically been a
significant problem in your business. By putting a policy in
writing, you can unwittingly create a contract between you and
On the other hand, a formal, detailed policy that addresses
absences, tardiness, failure to call in, and leaving early can
serve to prevent misconceptions about acceptable behavior,
inconsistent discipline, complaints of favoritism, morale
problems, and charges of illegal discrimination. General
statements that excessive absenteeism will be a cause for
discipline may be insufficient and may lead to problems.
What kind of policy? There are two basic kinds of
absenteeism policies — traditional policies and
"no-fault" policies. Traditional absenteeism policies
distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. Unexcused
absences can result in progressive discipline.
A "no-fault" system permits a specified number of
absences — either days or occurrences — annually. You do not
require or inquire as to a reason. The no-fault system is easier
to administer, but some employees may believe that the system is
not flexible enough.
Kaye's employer has a traditional absenteeism
policy and is allotted five sick days per year
and 10 vacation days. Kaye missed 12 days
between September and December because she
caught the flu twice and her baby-sitter quit
In a traditional absenteeism policy, Kaye's
first five absences would have been counted as
sick days. The remaining seven days would either
have had to be charged to Kaye's vacation time
or would be leave without pay.
Now picture the same circumstances, except
that Kaye's employer has a no-fault absenteeism
policy that allows Kay 15 days off, no questions
In this situation, Kaye charges the 12 days
and still has three days left to use, either as
vacation, personal, or sick time.
Some no-fault plans avoid the problems inherent in the second
example above by counting multiple days of continuous absence as
a single occurrence.
Include in any no-fault policy an adequate warning system so
that employees know when they are getting close to the limit.
And, be sure to specify what happens in the event that an
employee's absences exceed the allowable number of days or
Among the Business Tools is a
absence policy that you can adapt to your
use if you decide to have such a policy.