What is Workplace Attendance?

Definition & Examples of Workplace Attendance

A factory employee selects a timecard to punch in.

Jetta Productions Inc / Getty Images


Workplace attendance is the hours and days that employees show up for work. For employers, it's important to know if and when their employees are showing up as scheduled.

Find out more about workplace attendance and what methods companies use to track it.

What Is Workplace Attendance?

Workplace attendance is whether an employee has shown up for work at the appointed hour and time. The term most frequently refers to employees who are paid hourly.

Hourly workers are generally non-exempt, meaning they are covered by the wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They are required to track their time and they are owed overtime pay at a rate of time-and-a-half for any hours worked over 40. Exempt employees, such as salaried professionals, aren't tracked by the hour; instead, they are required to work as many hours as necessary to complete a job.

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires tracking of hours worked in a day, hours worked in a week, hourly pay, total weekly earnings, total weekly overtime earnings, and total wages paid, among other details. Workplace attendance tracking helps employers properly record hours worked.

Workplace attendance is important for all employees, but it's especially critical for customer-facing or service positions. It is also important for employees who are a part of an automated process that requires a worker to be present at each workstation in order to produce a particular product or a service, such as production line work in a manufacturing facility.

Of course, employees are supposed to show up for every shift as scheduled, but sometimes they are absent without taking leave. Persistent unexcused absences are known as absenteeism. This pattern of repeated absences can affect a company's bottom line. Tracking attendance and absences help employers to discover patterns and even terminate employees with too many unexcused absences.

How Workplace Attendance Works

When an employer monitors workplace attendance, they look to see whether their employees are showing up on time and staying for their full shift on their scheduled workdays.

To protect against excessive absences, employers commonly institute workplace attendance policies. Attendance policies clearly define the expectations around attendance. They also define procedures for taking leave (such as sick time or vacation days). Most importantly, these policies describe the disciplinary actions that will follow a breach of policy.

For example, an attendance policy will specify that an employee must be present and on time for work for each scheduled shift, unless they have requested and received, in writing, approval for time off.

Furthermore, the policy could state that any employee with, say, four or more unexcused absences risks losing their job. An absence of three days without notifying the employer could be deemed job abandonment, in which case the employee would be terminated.

No-Fault Attendance Systems

One attempt to structure a fair attendance policy is called the no-fault attendance system. The goal of this system is to reward good attendance and eliminate the employment of people with poor attendance records.

It is an objective system that places accountability and responsibility for attendance on the shoulder of the employee. In a no-fault attendance system, absences are assigned points using a system such as this:

  • Each absence = 1 point
  • Each late-in (tardy) or early-out = 1/2 point
  • Each no-show for work = 2 points
  • Each return with no prior call = 1 point
  • Each absence-free quarter eliminates all points and rewards the employee with a day off with pay.
  • Each employee starts fresh, with no points, each year.

This point system aims to simplify attendance issues and eliminate excuses.

Even with a no-fault attendance policy, employers must stay within the limits of the law. For example, absences under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are protected by law. Employers are prohibited from denying employees their right to use FMLA leave, nor can they retaliate against an employee who uses that leave. An employee who takes a protected leave of absence can't be punished in the form of points for using this leave.

Progressive disciplinary action usually accompanies a no-fault attendance system. For example, an employee receives warnings after a certain number of points, leading to termination if they acquire too many. For example, the employee may receive disciplinary action for the following points:

  • 7 points = verbal warning
  • 8 points = written warning
  • 9 points = three-day suspension
  • 10 points = termination

A system such as this allows both the employer and employee to know exactly what the consequences will be for poor attendance. However, if the employer treats FMLA leave any differently from other excused absences, for example in terms of points deducted for days worked, they risk violating the law. Employers should regularly review no-fault attendance policies to ensure they're complying with FMLA regulations.

Key Takeaways

  • Workplace attendance is the hours and days that an employee shows up for work.
  • Tracking workplace attendance can help an employer identify patterns of absenteeism, which can have detrimental effects on productivity and a company's bottom line.
  • Even workplace attendance policies structured to be fair and impartial must still be reviewed for compliance under FMLA law.