Managing Employees with Attendance Issues

Employee Time Management, Employee Tardiness, Employee Discipline

Managing Employees with Attendance Issues

Establishing clear expectations is the first step in encouraging good attendance. For instance, do your employees have some freedom regarding when they can arrive at work or are they compelled to report for duty at a set time? Do your staff members understand the rules regarding attendance? With clearly communicated guidelines for attendance, many employees will have relatively few issues with showing up to work, but you will still have a few who need some extra coaching on attendance.

Focus on Fixing the Problem

Focus on resolving the issue rather than punishing the conduct when it comes to attendance problems. This is crucial when the individual is generally a solid worker. In the end, you prefer to assist the employee in addressing the issue that is contributing to their attendance issues than to fire them and hire a replacement.

As soon as there are concerns with attendance, address them. A problem with attendance is reinforced if it is left unaddressed. If a manager doesn’t address an employee’s habit of arriving 20 minutes late, the employee will begin to believe that being tardy is okay. Find out the employee’s history of attendance before meeting with them. Note the days they were absent or late, along with the justification. A calendar with attendance entries provides a useful visual. You might observe, for instance, that the employee frequently skips Mondays.

Review the employee’s attendance history and reaffirm your expectations when you meet with them. Inform the employee of the impact one person’s frequent absences or tardiness has on the team as a whole. Identify the cause of the employee’s poor attendance and engage with them to find a solution. One day, a worker confided in me that he frequently arrived 15 minutes late to work because he struggled to get dressed quickly in the morning. The employee was gently urged to set his alarm for 15 minutes earlier.

Consider moving an employee’s start time back if you can, for instance if they complain that it is difficult to be at work on time because of the time their child’s school starts. Simple fixes exist for some attendance concerns, and it may be advantageous to collaborate with the worker to address their needs. Just be careful not to give some employees the option of such schedule adjustments while denying it to others. To prevent unfair attendance management procedures, be fair.

As with any employee issue, document your conversation, and follow up to see if there is improvement. If an employee continues to have attendance issues after you have tried to work with them on solving the problem, follow through with your normal corrective action process.

Accommodating Disabilities

Sometimes the underlying cause of an attendance issue is health-related. In such cases, an employee may have a right to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A few years ago, I was speaking with a worker who frequently called in to let her boss know she would be running late. When I questioned the employee about her tardiness, she explained that she was suffering from arthritis, which occasionally made getting out of bed and getting ready for work very laborious. I walked the employee through the interactive process with her, and I provided her a flexible start time so she could linger in the morning on days when her arthritis was bothering her.

Employees with health issues that affect attendance may also be eligible for a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and state leave laws. If you find that an employee is missing every Wednesday because it is the day after they need to recover from ongoing treatment, they may qualify for intermittent leave under the FMLA.

Allow Some Flexibility

We all have personal business to attend to that sometimes interferes with the work day. Employees who work at companies with restrictive policies around attendance are more likely to call in and pretend to be sick when they need to attend to personal business during the day. Have some flexibility with attendance, so employees feel comfortable scheduling time off for such appointments in advance. After all, it is much easier to plan for an absence when you have some notice.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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