How a Point-Based Attendance Policy can Reduce Absenteeism for Hourly Employees

By Joel Sackman, 2024

A point-based attendance policy (sometimes called a “Point System”) is a program where employees accumulate points for each instance of tardiness, absence, missed punch, or other attendance-related occurrences. The points accrue over some time period, usually a rolling twelve months, and disciplinary action is triggered at predefined point levels, up to and including termination of employment.

A well-defined attendance policy can reduce absenteeism in a number of ways:

  1. The Empty Police Car Effect: The same way an empty patrol car parked on the side of a road can reduce traffic speeds, merely having an attendance policy can reduce absenteeism — people will change their behavior if they know that someone is watching.
  2. Conveying Company Priorities: Including a copy of your attendance policy in the Employee Handbook emphasizes the importance of attendance at your organization. The awareness of the policy will contribute to a “culture” of good attendance at your workplace, and punctuality will begin to become second-nature for employees.
  3. Accountability as a Motivation Force: A point-based system provides clear and transparent expectations to your employees, and holds them accountable when those expectations are not met. The fear of consequences, including termination of employment, can be a strong motivating factor for your employees, and can lead to better attendance at your organization.
  4. Consistency in Enforcement Builds Trust: A well-defined and consistently enforced attendance policy ensures fair and even treatment across all employees. Consistency helps build trust that all employees are held to the same standards, promoting a fair and equitable workplace free of supervisory favoritism. To the extent that employees perceive the policy to be fair and not arbitrary, they will feel that they have some control over their own destiny, and will be more likely to take some personal responsibility for their actions. If they see other employees getting disciplined for poor attendance, an employee is likely to improve their own behavior to stave off similar treatment.
  5. Opportunity for Dialog and Course Correction: Since disciplinary action starts with mild warnings and then escalates with increasing point balances, employees are provided ample opportunity to improve their attendance before facing more severe consequences. Written warnings and final warnings give the supervisor and/or administrator the opportunity to speak to and counsel the employee with the hope of instilling a course-correction before further consequences are triggered. Giving an employee the chance to express their own concerns and “be heard” by an administrator can help build trust and engender a feeling of being supported. Employees who feel supported are generally happier in their jobs and more likely to show up on time out of respect for their managers and team members.
  6. A Reward Provision Can Enhance Results: A simple reward system for good attendance can motivate employees to prioritize punctuality and regular attendance. By including a “perfect attendance” provision in your attendance policy that offers even a small incentive for meeting requirements (like a Starbucks gift card), you send the signalyour policy isn’t strictly a punitive program, but rather a “two-way street” where employees can improve their standing by maintaining good behavior. Employees with long streaks of perfect attendance are apt to take pride in their performance, improving morale, and setting a bar for themselves and their fellow employees.
  7. Transparency Can Lead to Better Compliance: Managing your attendance policy with an automated attendance-tracking solution can help streamline the disciplinary process, reducing human error and making it easier for managers to monitor attendance trends and address issues promptly. A program that gives employees the ability to check their own point balance helps keep everyone informed and reduces the likelihood of an employee claiming that they didn’t realize what their balance was. People are more likely to change behavior when they can see their own “score” as it goes up or down based on their compliance.
  8. Some Flexibility in Your Policy Demonstrates Respect: While a point-based system emphasizes accountability, incorporating some flexibility into the policy can be beneficial. Acknowledge that some absenteeism is unavoidable – life happens. Consider allowing a certain number of “grace tardies” for employees, or allow them to use earned points to cover occasional absences or tardiness due to unforeseen circumstances. A policy that recognizes the realities of work/life balance and shows respect for employees is likely to cultivate good-will and loyalty, leading to better attendance.
  9. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Offering support services through EAPs can be a productive way to help employees facing challenges that may be affecting their attendance. Addressing underlying issues, such as health or personal concerns, can contribute to improved attendance. Any disciplinary action triggered by your attendance policy should include a conversation with the employee, where EAP services could be discussed. Employees who feel that their concerns are being heard are more likely to feel supported and loyal to the organization. The way you treat your employees is a key component of the culture at your company. A positive, fair and supportive culture leads to higher morale and a more productive, motivated workforce.
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About the Author

Joel Sackman, with degrees from Wharton and the Moore School of Engineering, is a “data visualization designer” and leading voice in the field of workforce optimization. He has been helping companies understand the causes of absenteeism and strategies for reducing it for thirty years. He is the founder and CEO of Metropolitan Software, Inc., an ADP business partner and maker of Attendance Counts.