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How to Create an Attendance Policy for Retail and Service Businesses


“…understanding the causes and effects (of lateness and absenteeism) should be a key priority of retailers.” – Caleb Kwon and Ananth Raman 

Effective attendance and absence policy is crucial for retail businesses to ensure mutual expectations are met, and productivity is optimized. Companies can motivate their staff and establish a structured work environment by implementing a transparent attendance system. This blog post discusses the different types of workplace absences, provides tips for developing an attendance policy, and recommends enforcement for policy violations. Following these steps enhances the visibility of employee availability and fosters sustainable best practices within retail organizations.

What is workplace absenteeism?

Absenteeism is habitual absence from a duty or obligation without good reason. Generally, absenteeism is unplanned absences. Workplace absenteeism is viewed as an indicator of poor individual performance and a breach of an implicit contract between employee and employer. (Source: Wikipedia)

Planned Workplace Absences

Planned absences include paid time off (PTO), vacation, or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which require employees to request time off in advance and inform their managers or HR department. Employees typically submit a formal request for time off using a written request form, company app or leave management platform.

Unplanned Absences

Unplanned absences encompass unforeseen events such as emergencies, illness, injury, or personal matters. When an unexpected absence occurs, employees must contact their employer and provide minimal notice so that managers can arrange to cover the shift. 

“Being early meant being on time. Being on time meant being late. But being late was unacceptable.”– L.C. Perry

Workplace-Related Reasons for Absenteeism

The following are work-related absences that employers should be aware of:

  • Burnout and stress: Employees may avoid work due to stressful tasks, heavy workloads, and a lack of appreciation, leading to low morale or burnout. 
  • Disengagement: Employees who feel disconnected or unfulfilled by their jobs are likely to avoid going to the office. 
  • Bullying and harassment: Workplace bullying and harassment are common reasons employees avoid coming to work.

What are some examples of inexcusable workplace absences?

Based on common workplace expectations, frequent inexcusable types of workplace absence may include:

  • AWOL (Absent without leave): When an employee fails to report to work without providing any reason or obtaining prior approval.
  • Unauthorized vacation: Taking time off without proper approval or exceeding the allotted vacation days.
  • Unapproved personal leave: Absences taken without obtaining permission from the employer or not falling under any approved leave category.
  • Lateness without valid reason: Repeatedly arriving late to work without a reasonable explanation or pattern of tardiness
  • Failing to report for scheduled shifts or meetings: Not showing up for work or important meetings without prior notice or legitimate reasons. (Aka, no-call-no-show)

It’s important to note that specific company policies and practices may vary, and it is advisable to refer to the organization’s guidelines and expectations regarding inexcusable absences.

What are the Costs of Poor Workplace Attendance? 

“Anything whose presence or absence makes no discernible difference is no essential part of the whole.” – Aristotle.

  • In 2022-23, the CDC reported that absenteeism costs businesses $225.8 billion annually in the United States or $1,685 per employee.


How does a cloud-based scheduling system reduce absenteeism?

TimeWellScheduled Cloud-based scheduling software reduces employee absenteeism in the following ways:

Enhanced Absence Tracking

Cloud-based scheduling software allows employers to track and analyze employee attendance accurately. By having a clear overview of absences, including reasons and patterns, employers can identify underlying issues and take proactive measures to address them.

Improved Accountability

The software promotes employee accountability by informing them that their attendance and time management are monitored. This encourages employees to be more conscientious about taking unplanned absences, reducing the likelihood of unnecessary time off.

Improved Communication

TimeWellScheduled’s scheduling solution facilitates effective communication between employers and employees regarding unplanned absences. Furthermore, it enables employees to submit time-off requests easily and allows employers to provide timely approvals or offer alternatives to minimize workflow disruptions caused by absences. For example, the TimeWellScheduled App, available in the Apple Store/Google Play, allows for efficient communication and notification between employers and employees.

Strategic Resource Planning

TimeWellScheduled’s dashboard offers real-time visibility of employee availability. This real-time knowledge empowers managers to plan and allocate human resources more efficiently. This ensures that workloads are appropriately distributed, reducing the need for employees to take time off due to excessive workload or burnout.

Data-Driven Insights

TimeWellScheduled’s cloud-based scheduling software provides comprehensive data and analytics on attendance patterns, trends, and impacts. This valuable information helps employers identify areas of concern, implement targeted interventions, and make informed decisions to reduce absenteeism effectively.

By leveraging cloud-based scheduling software, employers can effectively manage employee absences, create a more productive work environment, and reduce absenteeism rates.

Dos and Don’ts to Consider When Creating an Absence/Attendance Policy:


  1. Do consider the existing work culture and gather insights from managers and supervisors to align the attendance policy with the company’s values and expectations.
  2. Do keep the policy simple and use plain language to define different types of absences, such as excused and unexcused absences, tardiness, and early departures.
  3. Do establish realistic disciplinary measures based on the impact on the business and industry benchmarks for attendance, ensuring fairness and consistency.
  4. Do communicate the policy with employees and seek their feedback to increase buy-in and improve its effectiveness.
  5. Do treat others with empathy and fairness, considering individual circumstances and allowing some flexibility within reasonable limits.


  1. Don’t implement overly strict policies that may negatively impact employee morale and work-life balance.
  2. Don’t neglect clarity and documentation requirements, such as providing proof of physician’s care for extended absences due to illness or injury.
  3. Don’t ignore the importance of earned time off (PTO); communicate the requirement for employees to use their accrued PTO for every absence.
  4. Don’t overlook the need for effective communication and notification processes, emphasizing the responsibility of employees to inform their supervisors in case of absence, tardiness, or early departures.
  5. Don’t forget to consider employees’ unique circumstances and challenges, ensuring that the policy is designed with empathy and fairness in mind.

Implementing these actionable do’s and don’ts will help businesses design an effective and innovative attendance policy that promotes productivity, maintains a positive work environment, and reduces absenteeism. 

Attendance of employees at the workplace is a keystone of any successful workforce. Make sure you’re not part of those who skip work on a regular basis.” – Anonymous

The Importance of Enforcing the Attendance/Absenteeism Policy

Consistent attendance/ absence policy enforcement ensures that all employees follow the same attendance standards, preventing disruptions and promoting a positive work environment. Additionally, it fosters a culture of responsibility and commitment. By enforcing the policy, employers can manage costs linked to excessive absenteeism, comply with regulations, and maximize operational efficiency. Lastly, enforcement minimizes disruptions and cultivates a productive and accountable culture.

The implementation of an effective attendance policy assists retail businesses in aligning expectations, boosting productivity, and fostering a well-structured work environment. In addition, understanding different types of workplace absence, developing clear rules, promoting compliance, and establishing consequences for policy or rule violations all contribute to improved transparency, fairness, employee satisfaction, and the cultivation of sustainable employment practices. With these steps in place, retail organizations can confidently move forward, poised for success and enhanced efficiency.

About TimeWellScheduled

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TimeWellScheduled is a secure online time and attendance software 100% tailored to meet your scheduling needs! In addition, TimeWellScheduled facilitates employee attendance tracking & payroll tasks and enhances staff management capabilities. Plus, our service is free for up to 10 employees!

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