Time and Attendance

What is an attendance point system? Examples and template

By Gustav Anderson

Jul. 14, 2022

Summary

  • Attendance point systems give employees points for being absent – too many points can result in being fired.

  • Businesses that choose to use points-based attendance need to follow FMLA and ADA requirements

  • Benefits of an attendance point system include reduced absenteeism, increased employee engagement, and enhanced managerial objectivity


Everybody loves points. Points are positive.  Points earn rewards. Points equal winning. This obviously holds true when it comes to workplace attendance, right?

Wrong. Turns out, attendance policies are like golf. You never want points. The more points you accumulate, the closer you come to getting life’s double bogey – unemployment. 

Many large and well-established companies in the US currently utilize attendance points in this way to discourage absenteeism and simplify disciplinary procedures.

Known as points-based attendance, it’s a method gaining popularity across hourly workforces today. 

In this article we’ll explore:

What is an attendance point system?

An attendance point system is a kind of “no-fault” attendance policy that penalizes non-exempt employees with points, or occurrences, every time they are tardy, late, or absent. Accruing a certain number of these points results in disciplinary action, and with enough points, termination. 

Attendance point system examples

Amazon is perhaps the most well-known, albeit somewhat notorious, company with an attendance point system. 

Here is a breakdown of Amazon’s point system: 

  • 1 point = employee misses part of a shift
  • 2 points = employee misses a full shift without calling out at least 16 hours beforehand
  • 2 points with an “absence submission infraction” = employee misses an entire shift without calling out at least 2 hours beforehand

Points expire two months after the date they are assigned. If an employee receives three absence infractions and eight points within a two-month period, Amazon will consider firing them.

Walmart is another major company known for its points-based attendance policy which it adopted back in 2019. 

Here are the basics of Walmart’s attendance point system:

  • ½ point = employee arrives between 15 minutes to 2 hours late for a shift or leaves a shift between 15 minutes to 2 hours early. 
  • 1 point = employee calls out of work
  • 1 point = employee is late for over half their shift
  • 2 points = employee is a no call/no show

Walmart employees can receive up to 5 points before they are considered for termination. Points are reset to zero after six months. 

Attendance point system template

While both Amazon and Walmart’s attendance policies enforce strict adherence to schedules and effectively limit absenteeism, they often receive backlash for being unfair. 

If you are considering a points-based attendance policy for your business, it may be best to avoid copying Amazon and Walmart’s policies. Instead, adopt a basic point system and refine it over time. 

Here is a basic attendance point system template to get you started: 

Attendance Point System Template Disciplinary Point Accumulation

The timeline for removing points varies, but generally speaking, management should be lenient in this area. Points should typically be reset after roughly two months of perfect attendance. 

Special considerations should be made in the case of no call/no shows. On top of the points given, management should consider the following actions:

  • First no call/no show: verbal warning
  • Second no call/no show: written warning
  • Third no call/no show: termination

Webinar: The Best Way to Replace Call-Outs

Legality of an attendance point system

Are all absences created equal? 

Well, in theory, no. But in practice…sometimes. 

While attendance point policies are legal, they do have to comply with various laws protecting employees from discrimination. Unfortunately, some companies overlook these laws. 

Many “no-fault” or point-based attendance policies have no explicit provisions protecting special case absences from penalization. In essence, these policies unfairly treat all absences the same, no matter the situation. 

According to the EEOC, this is illegal. For an attendance point policy to be legal, it must excuse absences for legally protected reasons such as medical, disability, and sick leave. 

Here are the kinds of absences excused from disciplinary action: 

Family and Medical Leave Act

  • Military caregiver leave
  • Military qualifying exigency
  • Birth of a baby
  • Placement of a child for adoption or foster care
  • Care for a sick immediate family member
  • Serious health conditions

California Family Rights Act 

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Bonding with a new child

Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Substantially limited in one or more major life activities due to a physical or mental impairment

Non-compliance with any of these acts can result in some serious consequences. Back in 2011, the EEOC reached a $20 million settlement against Verizon for denying reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees. 

At the time, Verizon had a “no-fault” attendance policy that made no exceptions for FMLA-protected absences. As such, employees found themselves repeatedly disciplined for taking medically-related absences.

Unfortunately, illegal attendance policies like this are quite prevalent in the workforce. 

In 2020, a study conducted by A Better Balance involving 18 major US employers showed that “over 80% of the attendance policies failed to make clear that employees will not receive points for qualifying disability-related absences.” Moreover, only 12% of the policies actually acknowledged that emergencies might prevent a worker from complying with company call-out procedures. 

It’s clear that not all employers utilize attendance point systems legally. If your aim is to deploy one in your organization, make sure to do it compliantly and fairly. 

Benefits of an attendance point system

If you choose to use an attendance point system, doing so could come with many benefits. Here are just a few you could experience: 

Reduced absenteeism

This is perhaps the most obvious benefit. Points give employees a clear and concise visualization of their attendance history, promoting punctuality. And with disciplinary actions clearly associated with certain point levels, employees will be extra careful to avoid point accumulation. 

Increased employee engagement

A point system helps employees feel more engaged in their work. Without clear tardiness and absenteeism policies, it is easy for employees to become lackadaisical in their attendance. With a point system, they are more likely to be invested in their attendance records, and more likely to communicate with management when they might be running late. 

Whitepaper: Boost your employee engagement strategy

Enhanced managerial objectivity and transparency

A points-based attendance system holds management accountable too, not just hourly employees. With absenteeism points, subjectivity and managerial favoritism are eliminated, giving all employees an even playing field when it comes to disciplinary action.

Gustav is a communications officer with Workforce.com. His past work includes media outreach for a Guinness World Record team and market research published by the University of Maine. He has a keen interest in storytelling, frontline labor issues, and all things relating to pigeons.

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