Time and Attendance
By Gustav Anderson
Jul. 14, 2022
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:
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.
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:
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:
Walmart employees can receive up to 5 points before they are considered for termination. Points are reset to zero after six months.
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:
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:
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:
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.
If you choose to use an attendance point system, doing so could come with many benefits. Here are just a few you could experience:
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.
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.
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.
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