How to Create Attendance Policies for Manufacturing

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Editor’s note: In the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it may be necessary to provide more flexibility in your attendance policy. The safety and wellbeing of your workers is crucial year-round, and you may need to adjust your policy to accommodate the needs of your workforce.


Absenteeism is one of the most common challenges U.S. manufacturers face. Some have even gone so far as to call unscheduled absence “the productivity killer,” and regard it as their biggest concern. Attendance issues affect manufacturers disproportionately, since many manufacturing roles still rely on physical work and cannot be fulfilled remotely. For these reasons and more, attendance policies can have a huge effect on your bottom line.

The Importance of Effective Attendance Policies

Attendance is crucial for manufacturing companies, and employee absenteeism is a major concern for many businesses. According to 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 2.5% of U.S. manufacturing staff is absent on any given day. Employee absence is a major contributor to lost productivity, and can lead to diminished revenue and poor morale. One of the most effective ways to minimize employee absenteeism is to establish an effective attendance policy at your organization.

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The Costs of Absenteeism

A startling number of organizations underestimate the costs associated with employee absenteeism. Each year, absenteeism costs U.S. employers $225 billion, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A gallup poll revealed the manufacturing sector loses $2.4 billion annually to employee absences. 

For small businesses with less resources than their big business counterparts, these lost productivity costs add up. CDC data from 2017 reveals absenteeism costs U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, which is a high price for manufacturers operating on narrow margins.

Some common causes of absenteeism include:

  • Illness (chronic or short-term)
  • Employee burnout
  • Childcare
  • Depression and mental health issues
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Injuries
  • Job-hunting

The Importance of Consistency and Documentation

One of the main benefits of an attendance policy is that it sets a standard for the entire workforce. Once you have a policy in place, consistency in enforcement is absolutely essential. Any appearance of favoritism can cause feelings of resentment in your workforce, which hurts morale. Your policy should be written clearly and explicitly, to minimize the chance of misunderstandings. Once your policy is in place, the policies should be enforced fairly throughout your workforce. 

How to Create an Effective Manufacturing Attendance Policy

Before you begin writing your attendance policy, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. An attendance policy is not a perfect document that should be set forever. Think of it as more of a living document that should be adjusted over time to adapt to the challenges your business faces. The best attendance policies are adjusted annually or quarterly and informed by your workers’ attendance data.

1. Get Familiar with Labor and Employment Laws

Before you begin drafting a policy, make sure it complies with federal, state, and local laws.

On the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees 12 workweeks of job-protected unpaid leave for medical reasons, which guarantees the employee can continue their group health coverage. FMLA leave cannot be the grounds for a termination or disciplinary action. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) could require you to change your attendance policy to accommodate workers that live with disabilities. Like the FMLA, it’s illegal to bring disciplinary action for situations covered by the ADA.

State and local employment laws vary from place to place, so be sure to research any labor or employment restrictions for your specific area.

2. Consider Point-Based Attendance Policies

One of the most popular systems for enforcing attendance policy is the point system. In this model, attendance infractions like absence, tardiness, and going overtime on breaks correspond with points that can add up to consequences. 

A typical point-based attendance policy might have the following point designations:

Attendance Issue Definition Points
Tardiness Less than ten minutes late 0.5
Late Between ten minutes and two hours late 1
Partial shift Leaving work early 1.5
Truant Over two hours late 2
Absent Absent with a phone call 2.5
No-call, no-show Absent without a phone call 10

This attendance policy might correspond to the following disciplinary actions:

Disciplinary Action Points
Verbal warning 5
Written warning 7
Personal improvement plan 10
Termination 12

 

The point system gives employers a method to emphasize attendance issues and disincentivize absenteeism. As an example, if your organization has issues with tardiness, assigning more points to tardiness may promote prompt arrival to work.

Within a point-based attendance policy, employees may work off their points by working on their days off or volunteering to work late.

The point system has its share of pros and cons, and some employers prefer a more holistic and nuanced approach to attendance. You’ll need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the point system to decide if it’s right for your organization. 

The pros of the point system include:

  • Consistent attendance-based consequences
  • Drives productivity while reducing absenteeism
  • Incentivizes consistent attendance
  • No favoritism in enforcement
  • Clarity and simplicity

The cons of the point system include:

  • Rigidity
  • May negatively impact morale
  • Affects vulnerable workers disproportionately
  • Does not account for emergencies
  • Could be impacted by FMLA, ADA, or other forms of leave
  • May encourage sick employees to come to work

If you decide not to use a point-based system, you’ll need to establish a more holistic system to promote consistent attendance. Just like the point-based system, you’ll need to be clear and explicit about the policy.

3. Communicate Your Policies Clearly

Communicating attendance expectations clearly is the best way to ensure your employees follow your policy. Clear, explicit language in the policy ensures there isn’t any confusion about attendance-related discipline. This means including some language and definitions regarding excused absences, unexcused absences, unpaid absence, job abandonment, and attendance policy exceptions (Like FMLA and ADA exceptions mentioned above).

Manufacturing Attendance Policy Template

Here is an example of an attendance policy which you may use as a template for your organization. Please keep in mind that though this is a template, there is no one-size-fits-all attendance policy. You’ll need to consider and research the nuances listed above to make sure your policy complies with local laws. Additionally, you may need to adjust your policy to reflect the unique demands of your workplace. 

Feel free to copy and paste the text below and edit the copy to fit your organization:


Employee Attendance Policy | <Enter Business Name > | <Enter date>

  1. Overview

At <Your company>, we take punctuality and attendance seriously. We expect employees to at work, and ready to work with any and all necessary PPE when the workday begins. Late arrivals, absences, early outs, and other attendance issues affect productivity and put an undue burden on your coworkers.

  1. Attendance Policy Point System

Each attendance infraction will result in a point or partial point as shown below. Accumulating excessive points over a <Enter number of weeks or months> period will result in disciplinary action. Please review the attendance infractions, definitions, and points carefully to avoid accruing points. 

Tardiness Less than ten minutes late 0.5
Late Between ten minutes and two hours late 1
Partial shift Leaving work early 1.5
Truant Over two hours late 2
Absent Absent with a phone call 2.5
No-call, no-show Absent without a phone call 10

 

If you are going to be absent from work, you are required to contact your supervisor for each day of absence.

<If applicable, include language regarding points resetting over a period of time or ways employees can work to reduce their balance of points through extra work, volunteering, etc.>

  1. Attendance-Related Discipline

We take attendance, punctuality, and productivity seriously at <Your company>. Ongoing problems with attendance will result in disciplinary action. Please read the following disciplinary actions and their corresponding points carefully to avoid these disciplinary actions.

Verbal warning 5
Written warning 7
Personal improvement plan 10
Termination 12

 

<Use this space to clarify definitions and further describe disciplinary terms>

  1. Attendance Policy Exceptions

At <Your company>, we provide some exceptions to our attendance policy. We comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act(FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA), and will not take disciplinary action for employees absent for reasons of jury duty, bereavement, or military duty. For jury duty, bereavement, or military duty, you will need to provide proper documentation to your supervisor within 48 hours of your absence. <Be sure to include any other exceptions here to ensure your company is complying with local labor laws>


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