Practice Management |3 min read

How to Create Rock Solid Attendance Policies

Angie Winters, MAADOM with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

We all have or have had those employees who tested the boundaries of our attendance policies, especially now in the age of COVID.

How do we write a clear and concise policy that eliminates the gray areas and leads to fewer call-ins?

First of all, we must make it clear to our employees that as an employer, we place a high value on attendance and punctuality.

We cannot serve our patients and operate efficiently without every scheduled team member being on time and present for their shift.

This goes for all team members, including doctors and management. Leadership must come from the top down.

Define what’s considered an absence

Excessive absenteeism, even with acceptable excuses or those covered by pay of some kind, presents stressors and hardships for all team members.

Classification of a scheduled absence:

  • Personal Time Off (PTO)
  • Jury Leave
  • Disability Leave Witness
  • Duty Leave
  • Maternity/Paternity Leave
  • Educational Leave
    Military Leave
  • Disciplinary Suspensions
  • Bereavement Leave
    Other pre-approved absences

Define what’s considered an unscheduled absence

An unscheduled absence should be defined as an absence that is not pre-scheduled or approved by the practice manager.

Is leaving early considered an unscheduled absence?

For example, in our office, we consider anything over 2 hours an unscheduled absence.


Promptness, being at work and ready to perform your job duties at the beginning of the shift, leaving for and returning from meal periods, and remaining at work until the end of a shift is essential.

You must decide how many tardies constitute an unscheduled absence.

Notification of absence

Who does the team member need to call? Is a text acceptable?

Can my significant other/ roommate call in for me?

How far in advance do I need to let you know?

These are all questions that need clear answers in your attendance policy.

Your policy must state:

  • Who the employee must notify
  • How far in advance before the scheduled shift
  • By what means they need to contact you by

You must also state whether it’s acceptable for somebody other than the employee to notify you of the absence.

The policy should state that any deviation from the policy is grounds for disciplinary action.

Progressive procedure to address unscheduled absences

  1. Determine how many unscheduled absences (X) are acceptable.
  2. After an employee has had X unscheduled absences in a 12-month period, the employee will receive verbal coaching and documented review of the Employee Attendance Policy.
  3. After X+1 unscheduled absences in a 12-month period, the employee will receive written counseling. The practice manager will discuss the matter with the employee and develop a plan for improved attendance.
  4. After X+2 unscheduled absences in a 12 month period, the employee will be suspended or terminated from employment as determined by previous disciplinary actions.

By having clearly defined attendance policies and disciplinary actions for team members, we can eliminate excessive call-ins leading to less stressful and higher producing clinical days.

Meet the Author

Angie Winters in blue top outsideAngie Winters, MAADOM is a busy practice manager, wife, and mother of three beautiful children.

She began her dental career in 1997 while still in high school as a chairside dental assistant. She then graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry in 2002.

Her drive to learn led her to a practice management position at a large pediatric dental practice in 2010. In 2018, Angie left her position to open 3 Rivers Pediatric Dentistry… This text opens a new tab to the practice’s website….

Angie earned her AADOM Fellowship in 2019 and her AADOM Mastership in 2021. She recently launched the Northwest Montana AADOM chapter… This text opens a new tab to the chapter’s page….

In her free time, she stays busy shuffling her children to soccer, football, track, and wrestling. She enjoys early morning runs with her dog and spending time with her family outdoors, enjoying all that Montana has to offer.

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