Punished for Puking: Bad Attendance Policies
In many businesses, physical attendance is critical. If you're a manufacturing facility, the line can't run without the employees. If your creative team is working together to come up with a new product, the team needs to be on time so the work can begin. In order to achieve this, many companies have strict time and attendance policies.
One manager, who (it should be noted) did not create the policy, describes the problem created when your strict time and attendance polices are horrible.
The attendance policy at my job states that if an employee is at least one minute late up to an hour, then they receive half an occurrence or point, and if they are an hour late or more then they receive a full point. They also receive a full point if they leave early and do not complete at least four hours of work. This leads up to termination, at eight points. I have an employee who has managed to get himself up to six points. One of those points came from us sending him home for vomiting from being sick with the flu. I know we are allowed by law to send him home, but he is protesting that we are not allowed to send him home early for being sick when he is willing to work and to give him a point at the same time.
Do you see what is happening here? Is this achieving what the architect of this policy wanted? Employees that are so concerned about getting fired over attendance that they come to work when they are vomiting? Is this what you want?
And let's talk about the punishment for coming in one (one!) minute late. It's identical to the one for coming in 59 minutes late. Now, let's think about how this plays out in real life. I'm a busy woman with a ton of things to do. There's an accident in front of me on the freeway, so instead of being to work 10 minutes early (like usual!) I'm going to be about five minutes late. Since the punishment for being a little late is the same as being a lot late, I think I'll take a quick stop to drop off dry cleaning I was going to do at lunch, and grab a donut--and why don't I give my dentist a call right now to schedule an appointment?
Is it a big deal to have someone show up one minute late? In all but a few circumstances, the answer is no. Is it a big deal for someone to come in an hour late? In many, many circumstances the answer to that is yes. So why give the same punishment for something that is not a big deal as for something that is a big deal?
And let's talk about sickness. I do not want to work with you, be near you, or even send you emails when you're puking. (I realize the last one is completely irrational.) You, as a manager and business owner, really, truly don't want anyonewho is puking coming into the office, either. Do you know how fast those things spread? Do you realize that if your vomiting employee comes in, the rest of your employees are not only at risk for coming down with an illness, but they also may take the germs home to their families?
I'm not saying this out of some public health concern to avoid spreading illness (although there's that, too), but to point out that if your employees have children (which many do), when their children start vomiting, schools and day cares won't take them. And what does that mean? Your employee has to stay home to take care of the little darling. This costs the employee "points." Since the school absolutely, positively, will not take a puking child, the employee is going to save his points to use for sick kids and, therefore, comes in when he's sick. Thus, infecting all your other employees.
Is this what you want? Is this good management? No, this is horrible management. Your policies should not punish people for being sick. Your policies should not encourage people to make decisions that are detrimental to your business.
If you have a problem with an employee repeatedly coming in late, deal with that. If you have an employee who takes far too many sick days, or needs to leave too often for things that aren't emergencies, deal with that.
Making policies such as these are masks for good management. Yes, it makes sense to have a policy about tardiness and a policy about attendance, but make sure theses policies encourage the behavior you want, not the ones you don't want.
SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.