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Ready-to-Use Attendance Policy Template for Small Businesses

Attendance policyAttendance policy
min read
September 18, 2023

Chances are that if your employees never missed a day of work or arrived late, you wouldn’t be looking for an attendance policy. You likely know that even the most committed employees still have to miss days or arrive later than expected for unforeseen reasons. 

An attendance policy lets employees know what to do in these situations. But what, exactly, should you include in one? And how much leeway should you give team members? We answer those burning questions and include a free template for you to customize, so keep reading!

What Is an Attendance Policy?

An attendance policy is a legal document explaining your company’s rules, procedures, and disciplinary actions for employee absences, tardiness, and early departures. 

It lets employees know what’s expected of them so they can meet the company’s standards. It also outlines how attendance issues are handled if they don’t follow the guidelines. 

What Is a Reasonable Attendance Policy?

A reasonable attendance policy expects employees to be ready to work five minutes into their shift, present until the end of their scheduled time, and notify the company of unplanned absences at least one hour before their regular start time. 

Unplanned lateness or leaving early should also be reported as soon as possible, but generally, before the employee is scheduled to start work or before they leave. 

Planned personal days, late arrivals, or early leave should be requested at least 48 hours before. You can also require that workers ask for vacation time at least two weeks in advance. 

If your company has a flexible attendance policy, you might ask that workers arrive within a certain window, such as between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., or allow them to take extra time for lunch—as long as they make it up later. 

When it comes to paid time off (PTO), the BLS reports the average is seven sick days per year for employees with less than 20 years of service. For vacation days, 10 to 14 is the norm for up to 10 years of service or 15-19 days for those with more years. 

It’s not uncommon for employers to offer 30 PTO days. But don’t let that number leave you in a panic—it covers all paid time off, like holidays and vacation, personal, and sick days. 

Attendance Policy Template

You don’t have to spend hours creating yours from scratch. Use our attendance policy template below or download it here to get started. Just click "Make a copy" to customize your own.

Attendance policy template

Here's what's included in our template:


ABC Insurance Co. values workers being present and on time because it helps our daily operations run smoothly and efficiently. This attendance policy outlines our employee attendance expectations and procedures. It applies to all exempt and non-exempt employees. 

This attendance policy does not include exceptions under the Family Leave Medical Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other protections provided by federal law. Those will be handled on a case-by-case basis, so speak with a manager as soon as you can if they apply to you.

It also doesn’t detail paid and unpaid leave benefits provided by the company other than paid personal and vacation days. This includes bereavement leave, jury duty, holidays, and educational leaves of absence. These policies are outlined in the employee handbook.

Key Terms

Absenteeism: Being frequently absent from work without good cause. This includes taking excessive sick leave without being able to provide a doctor’s note or arriving at work long after your scheduled work time. 

Unauthorized overtime: Consistently working beyond your scheduled hours without prior approval. ABC Insurance Co. believes employees should work their determined hours to avoid burnout and productivity losses.

Tardiness: Arriving late to work or taking longer breaks than allowed. 

Early departure: Leaving work early, with or without a valid reason or prior approval. 

Excused absence: When the employee has enough paid time off (PTO) for the absence, and a supervisor approves the absence before it’s taken. It can also include unplanned absences for certain unexpected reasons, such as emergencies and illnesses. 

Unexcused absence: Absences taken without prior approval from a manager, such as taking a personal day without asking for authorization first. 

Work Attendance Expectations

You are responsible for your punctuality and being present at work every day you are scheduled. Remote workers must be logged in and ready to start on company tasks at the agreed time. 

Moreover, ABC Insurance Co.’s general work attendance policies are:

  1. Regular working hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. You are required to take a one-hour unpaid lunch break.
  2. You must start and end your shift as outlined in your work schedule. 
  3. You must clock in and clock out on the company app when starting and ending your workday or lunch break. 
  4. There is a five-minute grace period for starting or ending a shift or lunch break. For example, it’s acceptable to start your shift anywhere between 8:55 a.m. and 9:05 a.m. if you’re scheduled to start at 9 a.m. 
  5. You are expected to be ready to work at the start of your shift and remain working for the remainder of your schedule. 

Good Attendance

ABC Insurance considers your attendance history during performance reviews and when weighing decisions for promotions and raises. We consider an employee to have a good attendance record when they:

  1. Have regular attendance.
  2. Have no more than one unexcused absence or lateness throughout the last 12 months.
  3. Have planned absences, late arrivals, and early leaves approved in advance. In cases of emergencies, they follow the proper procedures as outlined in the next section. 
  4. Provide acceptable reasons for being absent or late.
  5. Do not have more excused absences than allowed for by PTO, FMLA, bereavement leave or other types of leave outlined in the employee handbook. 
  6. Clock in and out of work and lunch within the five-minute grace period. If you forget to do so, please see HR so that they can correct your time card. 
  7. Are present at work for the entirety of their shift.

Paid Time Off

Full-time employees are eligible for 10 vacation days starting their first full calendar year. After 20 years of service, full-time employees are eligible for 20 vacation days. 

You are also eligible for 10 paid personal days annually if you are a full-time employee for more than one calendar year. Part-time employees are eligible for five paid personal days annually. These personal days may be used for doctor’s visits, sick days, personal appointments, moving, religious observances, etc. 

During your first calendar year at ABC Insurance, your number of paid personal days allowed depends on your hire date:

Hire Date:

January 1 - June 30: 10 days for full-time employees; 5 days for part-time employees

July 1 - December 31: 5 days for full-time employees; 2 days for part-time employees

Please note that personal days usually aren’t approved within the first 90 days of employment. Managers must also approve personal days before a team member takes the time off. The number of personal days allowed resets each calendar year.

Any unused PTO does not carry over to the next year and is lost when you end your employment. We also do not allow payment of personal or vacation days in place of taking time off. 

For a more in-depth look at our PTO policy, please see that section of our employee handbook.

Reporting Absences, Tardiness, and Early Departures

ABC Insurance expects you to provide advance notice of planned absences, late arrivals, and early departures when possible. We also expect you to notify your manager as soon as you’re able when an emergency or illness prevents you from working as scheduled. 

Below are more specific details on our planned and unplanned time off policies.   

Planned Time Off

Planned personal days, late arrivals, and early leave must be requested and approved on the company’s time-tracking app. You should request these as far in advance as possible, but no later than 48 hours before taking off. You must give at least two weeks’ notice for vacation days. 

Unplanned Time Off

If there’s an unforeseen circumstance and you know that you won’t be able to make it to work on time or at all, please call your manager as soon as possible. This should be no later than one hour before your scheduled start time. If you unexpectedly have to leave early because you feel ill or have another emergency, please talk to your manager directly.

If your manager doesn’t pick up, please leave a message explaining your situation. Also call a human resource manager (HR) at 123-456-7890 and leave a message if you aren’t able to talk to your manager.

Managers and human resources will confirm that they have received your notification. 

If you are absent for over a day, you are required to let your manager know when you expect to return to work. Please let them know if this date changes. Your manager may ask for proof of the reason for your absences, such as a doctor’s note listing the dates you must remain out of work. 

Please note that a manager may ask you to stay home until you are well enough to work if you arrive or become ill while on the job. 

Excused and Unexcused Absences

If you’re absent or late because of a medical or family emergency, serious accident or illness, or similar circumstances outside your control, it is considered an excused absence. Excused absences and late arrivals aren’t subject to disciplinary action. However, your manager may ask for proof of why you were late, such as a bill from a towing company after a car breakdown. 

It’s considered an unexcused absence if you have an unauthorized or unscheduled absence or late arrival without good cause. Some examples include:

  • Taking a personal day or other PTO without prior approval in non-emergency situations
  • Taking a religious holiday not covered by the company without notifying managers first
  • Taking PTO after your request was denied
  • Leaving work early for personal reasons not related to illness, injuries, emergencies or other similar situations without using PTO or receiving prior approval
  • Arriving late because your alarm didn’t ring
  • Arriving late because of traffic or weather conditions

Unexcused and unreported absences are subject to disciplinary action. 

Disciplinary Action for Attendance Infractions

ABC Insurance takes a progressive disciplinary approach to unexcused, unreported, or excessive attendance issues like absences, lateness, and leaving early. Our procedure is:

  • Verbal warning: First and second attendance violation
  • Written warning: Third attendance violation
  • Disciplinary meeting, possible suspension: Fourth attendance violation
  • Final written warning: Fifth attendance violation
  • Termination: Sixth attendance violation 

All attendance infractions reset annually on January 1st.

Job Abandonment

If you fail to report to work for three or more consecutive days without notifying your manager or HR, the company considers it as you abandoning your job and voluntarily ending your employment. 

Manager Responsibility

You are responsible for monitoring and addressing attendance issues for employees reporting to you. If someone from your team shows excessive absenteeism or is frequently late, set up a private meeting to discuss any challenges preventing them from working as scheduled. 

Together, you can work to find solutions. Offering flexible working arrangements, such as flextime or working from home, may be possible. 

If you suspect there may be mental health issues or feel the assistance needed is beyond your scope or expertise, you may set up a meeting with HR. HR can better direct your team member to the resources they may need. 

You should also contact HR and start progressive discipline if you believe your team member is abusing the attendance policy or is intentionally tardy. 

Employee Acknowledgement

By signing below, I acknowledge that I have read and understand ABC Insurance Co.’s attendance policy. 

[Insert lines for signature and date at signing]

Disclaimer: This employee attendance policy template is meant to be used as a guideline and reference. It is recommended to have your attendance policy reviewed by an employment lawyer to ensure it complies with local, state, and federal laws. Neither Hourly nor the author assumes any legal liability resulting from using this policy.

Do You Need to Have an Attendance Policy?

Yes, because it sets the standard for employees and helps you make a case for terminating them if their attendance record is unacceptable. 

For example, workers might think that clocking in five minutes after their start time is acceptable, but your company has a two-minute grace period instead. If employees know that beforehand, you’ll avoid potentially uncomfortable and unnecessary conversations. 

More importantly for employers, having an attendance policy helps create a case against employees who are regularly or willfully absent or late. Documenting progressive disciplinary action for attendance violations is essential in helping employers win unemployment benefits cases for workers let go for attendance issues.

What Is a Typical Company Attendance Policy?

Attendance policies usually detail an employee’s responsibilities regarding showing up to or missing work. An example employee attendance policy defines key terms, outlines attendance rules, and lists disciplinary actions. 

How Do You Write an Attendance Policy?

The easiest way to create your own policy is to start with a template like ours and customize it. The goal is to create a document that lays out your company’s attendance expectations and ways of handling attendance issues. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure your policy defines the:

  1. Scope of the document: The types of workers your attendance policy applies to (exempt, nonexempt) and its extent, such as if it covers FMLA and other federal protections
  2. Key terms: Such as absenteeism, excused and unexcused absences, and tardiness
  3. General attendance expectations: Such as the employee must report to work as scheduled
  4. Good attendance: What qualifies as good attendance
  5. Paid time off (PTO): Your company’s PTO policy
  6. Employee procedures: For reporting absences, early leaves, and lateness
  7. Excused and unexcused absences: Which types of circumstances count for each
  8. Timekeeping procedures: Time tracking rules employees have to follow, such as clocking in and out or requesting PTO in advance on the company’s time tracking app.
  9. Employee schedule deviations: How the company handles late arrivals, no shows, leaving early and other instances that prevent an employee from working the hours scheduled
  10. Disciplinary action: Consequences employees face if they don’t follow the attendance policy
  11. Job abandonment: What qualifies as job abandonment, such as being a no call, no show for three days in a row.

The attendance policy could also outline different types of paid or unpaid leave or benefits if they aren’t already included in your employee handbook, such as: 

  • Medical leave
  • FMLA
  • Parental leave
  • Sick leave
  • Jury duty
  • Bereavement leave
  • Holidays
  • Military leaves
  • Personal leaves
  • Educational leaves
  • Election day 

Reduce Absenteeism with Your Attendance Policy

A flexible attendance policy is one of the best ways to prevent employees from having to call off from work. Most employees have valid reasons for being absent or late. Things happen. Life is complicated. A flexible policy recognizes and allows for these circumstances rather than setting employees up for failure with an unrealistically strict policy. 

There are a multitude of ways to make your attendance policy more friendly, such as giving a reasonable amount of PTO, allowing for certain types of unpaid leave, and allowing for grace periods when clocking in and out of shifts or lunch. 

You could also implement a different kind of work schedule than the regular 9 to 6, like:

  • 4/10 schedule
  • Flextime 
  • Remote work
  • Hybrid work (working on and off-site on certain days of the week)
  • Job sharing (two part-time employees share work that one full-time employee would do)

Quickly Draft Your Attendance Policy Using Our Template

An attendance policy is an essential legal document—just like your employee handbook and employment contract. It’s also a way to set your workers up for success by letting them rise to workplace expectations. 

While creating your company policy can seem daunting, we’ve made drafting one easy with our free template. 

You’ll find all the essentials, such as general attendance expectations, procedures to follow for expected and unexpected absences or late arrivals, and disciplinary actions. 

You can customize our policy to fit your organization’s rules before having an employment lawyer approve it and before distributing it to your workers.

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