Employee Attendance Policy [Save Time With Our Free Template]

Where there’s a clear policy, there’s freedom.

Sounds strange, but when you know where the boundaries are, you don’t have to worry about whether you’ve crossed them or not. You know what’s expected of you and what gets you into trouble.

For employees, an attendance policy is like that.

Attendance policies are about expectations. While you want to assume employees know they have to come to work at the time and on the days they are scheduled, you know that things don’t work out that way.

Personal emergencies. Oversleeping. Calling in sick. Job abandonment. Stretching their breaks. Employees need to know what’s expected of them, and what will happen when they fail to meet those expectations.

We frequently talk about the importance of communication between employees and management, and providing a clear employee attendance policy is part of that communication package.

But we know it’s not easy. 

That’s why we’ve come up with a basic attendance policy template, along with some tips to help you customize it for your own use and get you started.

Employee attendance policy template

With an understanding that your employee attendance policy is about laying out all expectations, your policy should define:

  • Absences. This includes unforeseen absences, absenteeism, and the result of absenteeism, including how it may affect pay or their job.
  • Tardiness and early departure. Outline what happens if an employee shows up late or leaves early, takes longer breaks than allowed, and what will happen if this occurs regularly. 
  • Presenteeism and overtime. Discuss what happens when employees are inefficient at their work and end up staying longer than their shift to get things done, thereby creating overtime issues.
  • Clocking issues. Define what happens when an employee repeatedly forgets to clock in and out, or resorts to something like buddy punching.
  • Job abandonment. Be specific about what constitutes job abandonment, and the resulting discipline that will happen based on that definition. Be very clear in how you define it, as confusion can lead to claims of unemployment, being fired, or being wrongfully punished because of illness.
  • Manager’s response. Managers need to know how they are to respond to these issues, and employees need to know what they can expect managers to do. This may include a series of warnings that ultimately end in termination. It’s important that managers are consistent in following these procedures to avoid legal issues with employees claiming they weren’t treated the same as others.
  • Excellence. No need to only focus on the negative. Communicate what your top expectation for attendance is, and any reward that comes with it.

With that in mind, let’s see what that would look like when packaged up in our employee attendance policy template. Please keep in mind that this is a template only, and that your legal or HR department will need to sign off on any employment policy you use. Employment laws may differ in your state or city.

All employees are expected to abide by our employee attendance policy for an effective and positive workplace.


We expect you to follow the schedule your manager has provided, being punctual in arrival and staying until the end of your shift or until your manager releases you to go home. Absence, tardiness, or early departure has a negative effect on everyone.

Good attendance is expected. That means employees should consistently report to work at their scheduled time. No overtime is worked unless approved by a manager, and work is done efficiently to avoid the need for more hours. All absences are excused or a reason is provided. Breaks are taken according to designated times.

We understand that sometimes life happens. We expect all employees to contact their manager before they are going to be absent or late as soon as they are aware it will happen. If that isn’t possible, we expect employees to contact their manager as quickly as they can after the fact. 


Absenteeism: Repeatedly not coming to work for whatever reason. This may include sick leave without doctor’s notes or reliable support of the claim.

Presenteeism: Though present for a shift, a lack of engagement or efficiency causes employees to stay longer, and accumulate overtime unnecessarily.

Unexcused absences: Any absence without a good reason for being absent. Family or medical emergencies are excused absences, though we may ask for some verification. Unexcused absences include oversleeping, heavy traffic, stormy weather, or skipping work for appointments or vacation. Employees will not be paid for them.

Tardiness/late arrival: Coming to work five or more minutes late, or taking longer breaks than you are allowed. 

Early departure: Leaving earlier than you are scheduled when you don’t have manager permission to do so.

Job abandonment: When an employee does not report for work for three or more consecutive shifts, and they have not contacted their manager, they will be considered to have voluntarily left their job.

Attendance policies

Managers are expected to monitor employee attendance.

They will make every effort to contact employees due to absence or tardiness to the best of their ability, based on the contact information employees have provided. They will speak to an employee who is often tardy or leaves a shift early to remind them of attendance expectations. If a manager believes an employee is abusing sick leave, they may ask for doctor’s notes.

While an employee might notify a manager of the reason for the unexcused absence, that does not excuse the absence.

Managers will use the following process with every employee when an unexcused absence, late arrival, early departure, or unapproved overtime occurs or is part of a suspected pattern of willfully ignoring attendance policies:

  1. Employee will receive a verbal warning and reminder of attendance expectations.
  2. Employee will receive a written warning that will be added to their employment file. 
  3. Employee will receive a written warning (see above) and may be suspended. They will be alerted that they have used their final warning.
  4. Employee will be terminated.

If a manager suspects employee mental health issues are affecting attendance, they may instead choose to talk to the employee and help them work with HR or mental health services towards recovery. 

Again, you may add your own ideas to the attendance policy template, but be sure that everything lines up with federal, state, and local employment laws.

Include your employee attendance policy in your employee handbook, and make sure that you have all employees sign and date it so they acknowledge that they’ve read it and agree to it. Keep a copy in their employee file.

Tips for writing a reasonable, effective attendance policy

For employees, attendance policies can be scary; we have all had those moments where we overslept or something happened and we couldn’t make it to work. So while we could give you lots of tips for writing an attendance policy, let’s hone in on being reasonable for a minute. 

What we mean by that is:

  • You’re not trying to put terror into the hearts of employees. You’re trying to help them understand what you expect of them, and encourage the stragglers to up their game. A policy where someone gets fired if they are late two times is cruel. Keep the rule of “treat others as you want to be treated” front and center.
  • Your managers have to feel comfortable with what you’re asking them to do. They’re going to be enforcing the policy, and they need to be trained on how to handle confrontation, how to deal with manipulative employees who might take advantage of any loopholes, and how to spot mental health issues. All managers must be equally strict or lenient; employees will spot any difference and complain or work the system.
  • Be flexible, but be fair. Within reason, try to be flexible with employees. If they are constantly struggling with a particular shift, talk to them. Perhaps they’d rack up fewer unexcused absences if you simply gave them different shifts or adjusted their hours. On the other hand, you must keep an eye towards being fair to all employees, and not expect others to pick up extra work or less popular shifts because of one employee.

So how do you write an employee attendance policy with that in mind?

Tip #1: Go for culture fit

If your work culture is one where there’s reasonable give and take, an attendance policy where one unexcused absence will get you fired makes zero sense. It’s not a culture fit and it’s confusing. 

If there’s a poor fit, the natural culture will be at war with the policy. Everyone, including managers, will struggle.

Tip #2: Keep it simple

Simplicity is necessary because it feeds into flexibility.

Keep your policy as clear and simple as you can. Complicated policies can scare off potential employees, and they are a headache for your managers to deal with.

A simple attendance policy doesn’t need to be a weak policy. Perhaps over time you’ll need to revisit, adjust, or add to your employee attendance policy as situations arise that you hadn’t considered. Start off with a broad and simple approach like we did in the template.

Tip #3: Communicate with employees

Remember that if you make significant changes to the employee attendance policy, they must be communicated to all employees. Whether it’s one-one-one or a group meeting, go over the changes and let them ask questions so they understand. You’ll want them to sign off on those changes so there is signed proof that they agree to the new policy.

When I Work can help make employee attendance policy management and communication easy. You can monitor employee absences, tardiness, overtime, and time clock issues from the dashboard, communicating directly with one or all employees in the app. 

That makes it easy to update employees on attendance policy changes, get employee signoff, and save attendance documents (including disciplinary write ups) within the employees’ digital files.

Combine that with the option to let employees swap shifts and self schedule, and you can help them avoid unexcused absences by finding others to take the shift they can’t get to.

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