If you are considering a no fault attendance policy for your company, you must understand the full implications of what this means. Generally, an employee accrues one point per absence with this type of attendance tracking policy. The absence can be any reasons, including a sick day or vacation day.
Once the employee has accumulated a set number of absences, you would then subject the employee to increased levels of discipline. Also known as a progressive disciplinary policy, the goal is to correct a pattern of absence abuse. If the employee does not change course, he or she could be terminated.
Although this type of policy is often adopted by large corporations, an organization of any size or industry can implement the policy. Simplifying attendance monitoring in this manner might seem best from a monetary standpoint, there are particulars about this policy that may put your company at risk.
Going forward with the policy means you cannot assess points for absences when the reason falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act. You may find an attendance system that keeps track of employee absences, as well as federal labor law compliance, useful in minimizing your risks.
How Effective is a No-Fault Attendance Policy?
Knowing this may cause you to wonder whether a no-fault attendance policy is effective for what you hope to accomplish. In truth, a no-fault policy can be an effective tool for curbing employee absenteeism.
Not only is it possible for this type of policy to help you maintain a productive and efficient workforce, but consistency in disciplinary actions are guaranteed. Penalties are applied to each level of disciplinary action. This makes proving “just cause” for a termination easier when such a decision is challenged.
Even before discharging an employee becomes necessary, scheduled progressive discipline could discourage casual absenteeism. Likewise, some policy structures could also hinder more than help long-term solutions.
Wording of the policy might interfere, prompting some managers to use discretion. How policy rules are adopted and enforced might change based on individual circumstances. For example, a new hire faced with a family emergency might need several days off.
However, if your manager follows the policy verbatim, you will need to terminate the new hire. Flexibility in enforcement allows the manager to give the employee those days off. Perhaps the solution would be to “advance” sick days since the employee has not worked for 12 months to be eligible for FMLA.
Federal Cautions to Using a No-Fault Attendance Policy
In theory, no fault policies are not difficult to implement, but could leave your company on shaky ground. As demonstrated in the example above, there are situations where accommodating an employee absence contradicts the outcome of the policy.
There needs to be enough flexibility for such accommodations, yet consistency in how the policy is enforced. Otherwise, you may face charges of discrimination. Another area to watch is making sure legally protected absences are not caught in calculations of the no-fault policy.
If your company is subject to FMLA or ADA, you should make sure your policy does not override the expectations of these federal employment laws. Not monitoring this could lead to an ADA claim against your organization.
Treat All Absences the Same
Having a no fault attendance policy means all absences must be treated as unexcused absences. A good reason is generally categorized the same as a bad reason. As long as you are not lumping FMLA in the mix, you can use this to manage an absenteeism problem.
In a similar fashion, some employees might need to off to accommodate a disability. No employee should be penalized under these circumstances.
Practical solutions to help you avoid such conflicts include:
- Ensuring the written policy includes the exclusion of ADA and FMLA absences
- Ensuring that managers or HR is tracking reasons employees give for occasional absences
- Training managers on how to report late arrivals or absences and the reasons employees give
Tips on Being Prepared
Being prepared for ever-changing employment laws requires having a nimble no fault attendance policy. This can help your company stay prepared if a complex rule shifts. In practice, this means you should not rely solely on dated material to implement an attendance policy.
Clearly, communicate the attendance policy to all employees. Document business reasons whenever actions are taken based on the no-fault policy. Attendance is important to your company. Just make sure that this importance never becomes a hindrance with a restrictive policy.