How Solid is Your Employee Handbook?: Employee Sets Record for Longest Absence

By March 30, 2017 No Comments

How important is a good attendance policy?  Consider the case of a 69-year-old Spanish civil servant who gained international notoriety.  It seems that this particular water utility employee held what we hope was an unmatched record: the employee grabbed the slacker brass ring and was absent from work for a total of six years, while still collecting a check.    Add in the fact that no one noticed he wasn’t reporting to work and it’s easy to see how this employee made international headlines.


It is unlikely that any business owner would commit a similar oversight.  Even so, this cautionary tale does provide some lessons for all business owners with respect to employee attendance policies.  Here are a few quick tips.


1.            Handbooks are Essential


Never underestimate the power of a well-written handbook!  Attendance expectations should be clearly articulated in the handbook to avoid any misinterpretations.  An ambiguous term like “regular attendance” might mean many different things.  To the stalwart, conscientious employee, regular attendance may mean a near perfect attendance record.  To that employee who is clamoring for work-life balance, regular attendance might be measured in far different terms.   It’s essential that the handbook clearly define what is considered acceptable attendance, with specificity.


2.            Remember the Ever-Changing Law


Labor and Employment laws are among the most rapidly changing laws in the entire country, particularly when it comes to laws impacting an employee’s right to leave.   In addition to federal regulations, many states, and even localities, have also issued laws that require an employer to provide employees with paid time off work.   These so-called Sick Time laws often give employees the right to take a number of days off for an illness, but many times do not allow an employee to request substantiating information from a healthcare provider.


3.            Remember to Consider other Employment Laws


Attendance rules don’t just implicate a company’s compliance with leave statutes.  Companies must also consider the implication attendance rules have on discrimination laws.  For instance, if attendance rules unnecessarily burden workers by requiring return to work documentation or tend to negatively impact one protected class, the rules may have a discriminatory impact, even if this was not the intend. In addition, the EEOC has been clear: bright line attendance and leave rules may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Attendance rules should be regularly reviewed for compliance.


4.            Ensure Accountability


The most thoroughly written laws serve no purpose if frontline managers are not empowered to enforce them.  Managers and supervisors must be given the tools necessary to apply the rules.  While this seems like common sense, managers who do not feel adequately trained may be slow to hold line employees accountable and miss opportunities for enforcement.


The old adage goes:  A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.  This puts the onus on both employer and employee.  The employee must be present to perform that day’s work and the employer must be in a position to hold the employee accountable.  By performing a quick tune-up of attendance policies, businesses can ensure they are in the best position possible to drive regular attendance, increased productivity and maximum profitability.


Author: Edwina Maxwell, VP of Sales & Client Relations, at Modern Business Associates (MBA), received her J.D. from Stetson University College of Law.  Maxwell oversees the development of customized, scalable client solutions, with a focus on top-notch service.  Prior to joining MBA in 2006, Maxwell was employed by the City of St. Petersburg’s Police Department.

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