From Remote Work to Attendance Mandate: Implementing a Points-Based Attendance Policy

A points-based attendance policy motivates punctuality but allows for the occasional emergency, keeping productivity and your bottom line in check.



As more companies push for return-to-office mandates to encourage employee collaboration, many have struggled with tardiness and absenteeism issues. If your company is facing similar problems, you may want to consider implementing a point system attendance policy. 

Please note: some states may have restrictions for implementing disciplinary action related to attendance issues, particularly when employees have paid or unpaid leave available. Contact your certified HR expert for guidance with your attendance policy. 

What is a points-based attendance policy? 

An attendance point system is a structured system to track and manage attendance. Points are assigned to various attendance-related behaviors, such as absences, tardiness, and early departures. 

Like a driving record, points are bad – meaning employees want to avoid earning points. To encourage employees to have minimal attendance issues, disciplinary actions are implemented when employee absences and tardiness issues occur. 

How does a point system for employees work? 

When employees clock in late or leave early, they are given points depending on how late or early their time punches are. If they miss several hours of work, they are assigned points. When they miss an entire day of work, they accumulate more points. 

If an emergency occurs, the employee can call their supervisor to let them know they will be late (or gone) to get fewer points than an unexcused absence. However, they may still be given points depending on the situation and how far in advance the supervisor is notified. 

After racking up a certain number of points, employees are subject to discipline, up to and including termination. New hires may be more tightly disciplined (i.e., they may be terminated for fewer points than employees who have worked for the company longer) and points may fall off a worker's record after several months of perfect employee attendance, depending on the company’s policy. 

Can different departments have different attendance policies? 

Some departments may have more stringent attendance needs than others, such as shift work or waiting on customers. Managers have the discretion to set up a system based on their attendance needs to develop an appropriate points-based attendance policy for their department that may vary from any other department. 

Before rolling out the new system, employees should be instructed on why attendance is important to the organization or department and how it impacts both the business and coworkers when they are late. For example: 

  • Where will customers have to wait if employees are late? 
  • Will tardiness push production back? 
  • What is the effect of tardiness on the rest of the team? 
  • How could tardiness affect your company’s reputation and bottom line? 

The clearer the explanation, the better they will understand the importance of being punctual. 

Should I ask for a doctor’s note to qualify an absence? 

Your attendance policy is not only based on your company’s needs, but on state and local laws. If there are no prevailing laws that dictate whether you can or mandate that you should request a doctor’s note within a certain period, you may choose to reign in “medically necessary” absences or tardies by requesting a doctor’s note. Otherwise, you may want to only consider requiring a doctor’s note for illnesses that extend beyond an employee’s paid sick leave or a certain number of days within a specified timeframe. Please contact your certified HR expert for guidance about state and local laws in this regard. 

If your company has 50+ employees, be sure to clarify when the clock starts ticking for qualifying Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time by outlining the criteria in your attendance policy. 

What is an example of an attendance point system? 

While points may vary by department, you must predetermine and communicate how many points will be assigned to each unexcused absence, tardy, and early departure for a non-emergency reason. For example: 


  • Unexcused Absence: 2 points 
  • Excused Absence: 1 point (e.g., with a doctor’s note) 
  • No-Call, No-Show: 3 points 


  • 5-15 minutes late: 0.5 point 
  • 15-30 minutes late: 1 point 
  • More than 30 minutes late: 1.5 points 

Early Departures 

  • Leaving 5-15 minutes early: 0.5 point 
  • Leaving 15-30 minutes early: 1 point 
  • Leaving more than 30 minutes early: 1.5 points 

Thresholds and Disciplinary Actions 

Points accumulate over a specified period, such as a rolling 12-month period or a calendar year. After reaching a specific threshold, a consequence is triggered. Consequences may range from a verbal or written warning to a more serious action such as suspension or termination. 

Examples of a disciplinary point system may include the following: 

  • 3 points: Verbal warning 
  • 5 points: Written warning 
  • 7 points: Final warning 
  • 10 points: Suspension or termination 

After the 12-month period or calendar year has lapsed, points drop off or reset for disciplinary action. 

Documentation, Tracking, and Communication 

A critical piece to an employee attendance point system is to keep detailed records of attendance and points, which could be managed through a Human Resources Information System (HRIS). Neglecting to keep accurate records may lead to cases of perceived favorable treatment, which could land you in a discrimination lawsuit. 

All employees must clearly understand the policy, how points are assigned, and what the consequences are. Supervisors and managers must also be trained on how to apply the policy consistently and fairly. 

Exceptions and Considerations 

Be sure you clarify in your employee point system policy what constitutes an excused absence, such as medical leave or jury duty, and define whether fewer points (or none at all) would be assigned to these absences. You may also want to include provisions for extraordinary circumstances, such as natural disasters or serious personal issues, where points might be waived. 

How do I make attendance point systems more positive? 

Positive rewards have been shown to be much more effective at motivating good behavior than negative rewards are at preventing bad behavior. So how do you flip a negative to a positive? Reward employees for good attendance! 

Point based attendance policies for perfect attendance reinforce employees for having zero unauthorized absences and/or tardies. When employees struggle with attendance or punctuality, allow them to be promoted from a disciplinary-based system to a rewards-based system after so many months of perfect attendance. 

Break down perfect attendance milestones for employees to earn rewards and make a big deal about each one. Emphasize the significance each employee’s perfect attendance has played for your company, talk about who is on track for earning the next big reward at company meetings, and post about it on internal forums and company boards. Positive peer pressure is powerful, but it takes effort to create a company culture! 

Final thoughts on points-based attendance policies 

Managing employee attendance is not just for companies with an absence or tardy problem; it is beneficial for all companies. As with any policy, a defined attendance tracking policy outlines expectations for employees and provides guidelines for managers to follow, which may help avoid a future lawsuit if employees are not treated the same way in similar situations. 

For questions or to get a point tracking attendance policy set up for your company, please contact your certified HR expert. Not a current Stratus HR client? Book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly. 


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