Best Practices for Terminating an Employee for Poor Attendance

You arrive at work daily, prepared to take on the tasks ahead. But not every employee shares your dedication. At some point, you may face terminating an employee for poor attendance. It’s never easy, but you want to handle it properly. Staying on top of attendance issues and following protocol will make the process smoother when the time comes.

Our guide lays out best practices for addressing absenteeism and eventually letting someone go. You’ll get tips for communication, documentation, and working within employment laws.

With the right approach, you can part ways while maintaining professionalism and protecting the company from legal risks.

Though unpleasant, terminating an employee due to attendance is sometimes necessary. Follow our advice to make a tough task a little easier.

Terminating an Employee For Poor Attendance

Why Terminating an Employee Due to Poor Attendance Is Essential

Lack of Productivity

When an employee has poor attendance, their lack of presence results in reduced productivity and work not getting done. This can negatively impact team performance and company results. By terminating the employee, you can fill the role with someone who will show up and get the work done.

Low Morale

Frequently absent employees can damage work culture and team morale. Co-workers have to pick up the slack when that person doesn’t show up, which leads to resentment, frustration, and conflict. Terminating the employee helps avoid these issues and shows the rest of the team that poor attendance is unacceptable.

Costs to the Company

Chronic absenteeism costs companies money through reduced productivity, administrative hassles, and overtime pay for co-workers. It may seem harsh, but terminating an employee for poor attendance is often necessary from a business perspective to avoid significant costs and losses.

Sets a Precedent

Allowing poor attendance without consequence can set a bad precedent in the organization. Other employees may follow suit if they see no ramifications for frequent unexcused absences. By terminating the employee, you send a clear message that poor attendance will not be tolerated. This helps ensure other team members maintain good attendance and meet job requirements.

Opportunity to Find a More Dedicated Replacement

Terminating an employee with chronic absenteeism opens up the opportunity to fill the role with someone who will take the job more seriously. A new hire who values attendance and reliability can help boost team productivity, morale, and results. While it’s never easy to terminate an employee, in this case it may be the best option to find a dedicated replacement.

Pre-Termination Steps for Addressing Attendance Issues

Before deciding to terminate an employee for poor attendance, you need to take certain steps to address the issue properly.

Evaluate the employee’s attendance history

Make sure to review the employee’s full attendance record, including tardiness and unscheduled absences. Explore consistent patterns of absences on particular days or during specific times. This will help you determine if there are any underlying issues that could be addressed through accommodation or policy change before resorting to termination. Document all absences accurately with dates, reasons given, and any documentation provided.

Thoroughly document instances of poor attendance

Make sure to thoroughly document each instance of poor attendance, including:

  1. The date and time of the absence or tardiness
  2. Whether it was an excused or unexcused absence • Any reason or explanation given by the employee
  3. Any documentation provided (doctor’s note, etc.) • Notes of any conversations you had with the employee about the absence

Keeping detailed records will demonstrate you made efforts to address the issue before resorting to termination. It will also provide support for your decision if the employee contests the termination.

Initiate a conversation with the employee about attendance concerns

It is important to initiate a direct conversation with the employee to address your attendance concerns before formally disciplining or terminating them. During this conversation, you should:

  1. Express your concerns in a calm, professional manner. Start by acknowledging the employee’s contributions and value to the team.
  2. Clearly outline the specific attendance issues based on your records. Focus on facts and avoid accusatory language.
  3. Ask open-ended questions to find out why the absences are happening. There may be personal issues or circumstances outside of work impacting their attendance. Show a willingness to find solutions together.
  4. Explain how the absences are impacting work and set clear expectations moving forward. Specify what improved attendance would entail in terms of frequency, timeliness, and notice.
  5. Discuss possible options or accommodations that could help, if applicable. Offer any resources the company has available.
  6. Warn the employee that failure to meet the attendance expectations may result in formal disciplinary action or termination. Clarify the company’s policy and processes.
  7. Close by summarizing the key points of the discussion and next steps. Follow up with the employee in writing to confirm and document your conversation.

Review attendance policies with the employee

Reiterate the company’s attendance policy and procedures to the employee. Outline the following:

  1. The company’s expectations for attendance, including tardiness and absence policies. Specify how many absences or late arrivals are allowed within what time frame.
  2. The system of progressive discipline for attendance issues. Explain the steps involved from verbal warnings to termination. Make it clear where the employee currently stands within that process.
  3. Any requirements for notifying the company of absences, such as a minimum notice time and how absences should be communicated.
  4. Require any necessary documentation from the employee for absences, such as doctor’s notes. Clarify what is considered an “excused” absence under the policy.
  5. The employee’s responsibilities in terms of clocking in on time, requesting time off in advance, and finding coverage for shifts when possible.
  6. The consequences of further attendance violations, including what would trigger termination.

Emphasize that the policy applies equally to all employees and that consistent attendance is an essential job function. Offer to address any questions the employee has and provide them a copy of the written attendance policy for their records.

Alternative Solutions to Poor Attendance Issues

Implementing a Flexible Schedule

Allowing for flexibility in your employee’s schedule can help improve their attendance. Sit down with the employee and discuss options like compressed workweeks, job sharing, or telecommuting. A compressed workweek, such as a four-day workweek, gives the employee an extra day off which they may value greatly. Job sharing with another employee is a good option if their role allows for it. Telecommuting, or working remotely, can be ideal for some positions and may motivate the employee by providing a better work-life balance.

Turning to Remote Work

If the employee’s duties allow for it, transitioning to partial or full remote work is worth considering. Working from home removes challenges like transportation issues and sick children that can contribute to absenteeism. However, remote work requires trust and clear communication to be successful. Set clear work hours and expectations, require regular check-ins, and evaluate performance based on work output and objectives rather than time spent “at work”. With the right employee and approach, remote work can be an ideal solution.

Improving Company Culture

Sometimes chronic absenteeism points to deeper issues with company culture that are affecting employee morale and motivation. Evaluate how the organization can better support employees through initiatives like:

  • Employee recognition programs: Publicly recognize excellent attendance and performance. This form of positive reinforcement can have a significant impact.
  • Improved communication: Make sure employees feel heard and valued. Conduct regular surveys and act on feedback.
  • Team-building activities: Bonding opportunities outside of work can strengthen relationships and commitment to the organization.
  • Mentorship programs: Pairing employees with mentors gives them guidance and a sense of connection to the company.
  • Flexible time off: Consider providing paid time off that employees can use at their discretion. This flexibility and trust often motivates employees to maintain good attendance.

Disciplinary Action

If alternative solutions do not work and attendance issues continue, disciplinary action like verbal and written warnings, probation, or termination may be required. Make sure to document specific instances of poor attendance and the steps taken to resolve the issue before proceeding to more serious consequences. Be consistent and fair in the disciplinary process.

Final Warning and Notification

Once you have issued a formal warning and the employee has failed to improve their attendance, it is time to notify them that their job is in jeopardy. Meet with them again to reiterate your attendance policy and expectations. Be very clear that if their attendance does not improve immediately, you will have no choice but to terminate their employment.

Issue a Final Written Warning

Give the employee a final written warning, clearly stating their poor attendance and the consequence of not improving: termination. Specify the exact steps and timeframe needed for the employee to show improvement.

For example,

“You must not have any unexcused absences for the next 3 months. If you accumulate any unexcused absences during this time period, your employment will be terminated immediately.”

Have the employee sign and date the warning to acknowledge they understand the terms.

Prepare for Potential Termination

If the employee’s attendance does not get better after the final warning, termination will be necessary. Consult with your HR department to ensure all proper procedures are followed. Schedule a meeting with the employee and be transparent about the decision to terminate their employment due to unsatisfactory attendance.

Have all final paperwork prepared, including their final paycheck. Be prepared for a potentially emotional conversation, but remain professional. Reiterate the multiple opportunities you provided for the employee to improve, and express regret that their employment has come to an end. Provide details on when their benefits will end and when they can expect to receive their final pay and vacation payout. Offer to provide a letter of recommendation if appropriate.

Terminating an employee is never easy, but by providing multiple warnings, clear expectations, and a reasonable timeline for improvement, you have made every effort to avoid this outcome. When an employee’s poor attendance continues despite multiple interventions, termination may ultimately be the only option to ensure a productive, responsible team. Use this opportunity to review your attendance policies and make any needed adjustments to prevent similar issues in the future. With a fair warning system in place, you can feel confident that termination was the last resort.

Terminating an Employee when you Tried Everything

Conduct a Final Review

Double check that you’ve given the employee multiple warnings about their poor attendance in writing, and that you’ve worked with them on an improvement plan. Review their personnel file and make sure all the proper steps were followed before moving forward with termination. If everything looks in order, it’s time for the final conversation.

Prepare the Employee

Call the employee into a private meeting and let them know that unfortunately, their attendance issues have not improved sufficiently and that their employment will be ending effective immediately. Have all final paychecks, benefits information, and severance details ready. Offer to provide a basic letter of reference if requested. While this is difficult, remain composed and professional.

Don’t Delay

Once the decision to terminate has been made, act promptly. Delaying only makes the situation more awkward and stressful for everyone involved. Immediately terminate building and system access for the employee to prevent unauthorized access. The sooner you can wrap up this chapter, the quicker you and your team can move forward.

Tie Up Loose Ends

Meet with your HR and legal teams again to ensure proper procedures were followed. Double check that final pay, benefits, and severance were issued correctly. Notify clients or customers if needed. Update company records and documentation to reflect the employee’s departure. Review how this termination impacts any projects the employee was involved in and make adjustments as needed.

Terminating an employee is never easy, but when you’ve made every effort to address performance issues to no avail, it may ultimately be the right choice for your business. Follow best practices, lean on your support teams, and work to tie up all loose ends swiftly and thoroughly. Eventually, you’ll be able to move forward and find a replacement who is a better match.

How to Tackle Absenteeism and Boost Employee Attendance

Do you feel like you’re constantly putting out fires at work caused by employees calling in sick or not showing up? Absenteeism can have a huge impact on productivity, morale, and your bottom line. Here are some strategies to curb absenteeism in your workplace and encourage better attendance.

Communicate Your Attendance Policy Clearly

Make sure all employees understand your attendance policy and the consequences of excessive absences. Be very clear about how many sick days and paid time off days they receive, and your policy for unpaid time off. Include this information in your employee handbook and go over it with new hires during their onboarding process.

Track and Analyze Attendance Data

Pay close attention to attendance patterns for each employee and department. Look for spikes in absenteeism on Mondays, Fridays, before or after holidays, or other trends. Address any issues with individuals or make policy changes accordingly. For example, if many employees call in sick after payday, you may need to reconsider the timing.

Offer Incentives for Good Attendance

Consider offering rewards and incentives for employees with excellent attendance records. For example, provide an extra paid day off, gift card, or other perk. Publicly recognize employees with perfect attendance each month or year. These types of motivation and rewards can encourage better attendance across the board.

Address Excessive Absenteeism

If an employee’s absences become excessive, have a respectful conversation with them to understand the underlying issues. See if their schedule or workload needs adjusting, or if there are any ways you can support them. However, if the absences continue with no reasonable explanation, you may need to consider disciplinary action like suspension or termination to avoid penalizing other reliable employees and reduce the impact on your operations.

By closely monitoring attendance, providing clear policies and incentives, and addressing chronic absenteeism issues, you can curb excessive call-ins and unplanned absences. Your employees and customers will appreciate your efforts to build a culture where good attendance is valued and rewarded.


So there you have it – the key things to keep in mind when having to terminate an employee for poor attendance. No one wants to be in that position, but if you’ve exhausted all other options, it may be the right business decision. The keys are to have clear policies, document everything thoroughly, and handle the process professionally. When done properly, it can resolve a personnel issue while minimizing legal risks. Just make sure you consult HR and legal counsel as needed throughout the process.

Handling terminations this way shows respect for the individual while protecting the interests of the company. Though unpleasant, it’s a skill every manager needs to develop. With the right approach, you can make the best of difficult situations. Now get out there, lead your team, and remember – we’ve all got your back.

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