Top Ten Tips Disclaimer
"Point" or "no fault" system - example: 1/2 point for each instance of tardiness, 1 point for each absence, plus extra 1/2 point for failing to give notice of tardiness or absence - usually involves a set series of warnings at intervals, such as a verbal warning after 5 points, first written warning after 7 points, second written warning after 10 points, final written warning after 15 points, and termination for 18-20 points within a 12-month period - different companies have different point and warning systems to suit their individual needs.
Be careful - employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, or by a similar state law, need to remember that no FMLA-covered absence may be used as the basis for any kind of disciplinary action - that means it cannot be counted toward total absences in a "point" system.
"Chargeable" and "non-chargeable" absences (or excused and unexcused absences) - remember to leave FMLA-covered absences out of the calculation.
It is up to the employer to decide what will be excused or unexcused, but keep in mind that in an unemployment claim, many states will not disqualify a claimant if the final absence was due to personal illness or the illness of the claimant's minor child (however, a private-sector taxed employer's tax account will usually be protected from chargeback of benefits, as is the case in Texas, for example).
Other important exclusions from such a policy include military leave, jury duty leave, witness leave, and voting leave.
Some employers adopt neutral absence control policies that place an outside limit (beyond the point system) on the overall amount of absenteeism, without regard to the reason, an employee may have without becoming subject to being replaced due to "unavailability for work" - such policies can help an employer avoid the perception that the company is acting out of discriminatory intent with regard to workers' compensation, pregnancy, disability, family leave, or other reasons having to do with medical or family issues; as noted above, do not count military leave, jury leave, witness leave, or voting leave toward such a limit, since those categories are effectively off-limits in terms of corrective or adverse action. Remember to allow for consideration of reasonable accommodations in the event of an ADA-related issue.
An employer always has the right to ask an employee to explain the reason for an absence. If the reason has to do with something that is normally documentable, the employer has the right to require the employee to document the reason given, i.e., jury duty would be documented with a copy of the jury summons, taking care of a matter in court would be documented with some kind of official document relating to the court appearance, a visit to a doctor's office would be documented with some kind of a note or receipt from the clinic, and so on. There is no need to get specific, though, about confidential or private matters, so do not insist on specific medical information or similar things.
If an employee refuses to explain why it is necessary to miss work, the employer would be entitled to treat the absence as unauthorized for that reason alone.
What applies to absenteeism generally applies to tardiness.
Notice of absence or tardiness - how much advance notice should be given? To whom should the notice be given? Is it alright to leave a message? What if a supervisor is unavailable? Can the employee's spouse or other companion give the notification? The employer must decide these things and let the employees know exactly what is expected.
Documentation of Attendance
Employers should fully document attendance and hours worked.
Anytime an employee claims the need to miss work due to a medical condition, the employer has the right to require documentation of the condition or the medical visit - remember, due to the ADA, such documentation should be kept in a separate, confidential medical file for the employee, not in the regular personnel file.
The employer must decide whether documentation will be required for any medical absence, or just for those lasting over a certain number of days.
Try to achieve a sensible balance - most companies do not require an actual doctor's note for simple one- or two-day absences for things like 24-hour "bugs", but do require them if the employee claims to have seen a doctor.
Leaves of Absence or Sabbaticals
Have employees apply in writing for such leave; give the answer in writing.
Such periods of absence can be paid or unpaid, voluntary or involuntary, and medical or "other" - the return date can be specified or left open.
For a sample attendance policy, see the following link: Attendance Policy
For a sample work schedule policy, see the following link: Work Schedules and Recording of Work Time
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