Unscheduled absences are a huge concern for cost-conscious nonprofits. By disrupting workflow and draining productivity, these absences can cost you thousands of dollars each year. But there are solutions!

First, it may be time (ahem!) to kick off a paid time off (PTO) program. Employees juggle multiple non-work responsibilities — and inevitably will need (and want) days off. Rather than split out vacation, sick and personal time off, a PTO plan provides a bank of paid days for them to use as they like. These flexible plans are extremely appealing to employees and, best of all, can play a positive role in overall workplace attendance.

Next, it’s important to step up your daily attendance-tracking efforts. After all, to effectively manage attendance, you need to know who’s present and who’s not — and why. We’ll answer some questions you may have about this — and introduce a tool that can cut this task down to size.

PTO Pointers to Put You on the Right Path

You may be surprised to learn there are no federal laws requiring you to grant PTO. This means you have options in creating a structure that works best for your nonprofit.

Typically, nonprofit employers tie PTO benefits to the employee’s length of service. For example, you may give two weeks after one year, three weeks after five years, four weeks after 10 to 15 years, and five weeks after 25 years of service.

When crafting your PTO plan, consider these key factors:

  • Accruals: Do employees get all PTO automatically on January 1, or do they earn PTO for every hour or week they work?
  • Rollovers: Can employees roll over PTO each year? If so, how much can be rolled over?
  • Part-time vs full-time: Do these benefits differ for part-time employees? Who is eligible to receive PTO?
  • Blackout periods: Are there any times of the year when employees can’t use PTO?
  • Request procedure: How can employees request time off? What is the approval process?
  • Unused days: When employment ends, are employees paid for unused PTO?

Rollovers are an especially important aspect of your PTO plan. Interestingly, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 70% of nonprofits are more likely than publicly and privately owned for-profit companies to allow a limited number of vacation days (1 to 10) to be rolled over from one year to the next. This rollover approach gives employees more flexibility than requiring all vacation days to be used annually.

Along with PTO, you may choose to offer paid holidays. Again, there are no laws requiring you to close on specific days, but many nonprofits opt to shut their doors on:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

You also may want to provide paid time off for your employees to volunteer for community activities that support your nonprofit’s mission. For example, employees of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association) are eligible for 20 hours of volunteer PTO each calendar year, to be used during a normal workweek.

Your nonprofit can enhance employee benefits even further by offering time off for additional reasons, such as a death in the family, jury duty and military reserve training. Obviously, this will depend on your payroll budget and what you can allocate toward extra paid days.

For all of the above — your PTO plan, paid holidays and additional days off — you should have a time off policy that outlines the details and complements your attendance policy (see below).

In The Voice of Nonprofit Talent study by Commongood Careers, nonprofit job seekers ranked “vacation policies” and “flexible work plans” among the benefits most important to them. These factors outranked traditional benefits such as dental, vision, bonuses and family care.

What Nonprofits Need to Know about Attendance Tracking

So, you’re closer to developing a PTO plan that allows employees to use earned time off for their own personal reasons. Great! Keep in mind, however, that even though this creates structure around time off, you still need to manage day-to-day attendance. Only by doing this can you monitor unexcused absences and reduce their impact on your nonprofit. Here are answers to a few questions you may have about that:

  1. Do I need an attendance policy?
  2. Yes. A formal, written attendance policy is the foundation of any solid attendance-management strategy. Whether it’s a stand-alone document or part of your employee handbook, your attendance policy should cover work hours, start and finish times. It should also explain the notification and reporting procedures if an employee is going to be late or absent due to illness or other circumstances.

  3. Who should track attendance in our workplace?
  4. The job of tracking employee attendance, as well as addressing problems, ultimately lies with your supervisors. Like it or not, it comes with the job of managing people — and it’s critical to your nonprofit’s success. Make sure your supervisors are trained on the specifics of documenting attendance and how to intervene with attendance issues.

  5. Is tracking the absences of the biggest offenders enough?
  6. No. It’s important to capture every incident of absenteeism or tardiness, including the date, time and reason for the incident. This documentation provides the information you need to make disciplinary decisions, such as: the reasons for the absences and whether they are unexcused, excused or otherwise protected by law; troubling patterns (e.g., calling in sick after holidays); the overall impact of repeated tardiness in terms of “total hours missed”; and how an employee’s attendance compares with others.

  7. How should I address a problem?
  8. Identifying the problem is the first step, which is easier to do with proper tracking. Once you notice a troubling pattern, talk to the employee about it. Prepare for the discussion by gathering all the facts, such as the dates of the absences, the reasons for each incident and any supporting documentation or notes. For an employee attendance problem that persists despite verbal counseling, a formal disciplinary write-up may be necessary.

Smart, Affordable Attendance Tracking for Nonprofits

The right tools can make a big difference in how you manage employee attendance. Rather than restrict yourself to paper calendars or spreadsheets, consider an easy-to-use electronic solution. As part of the HR Recordkeeping (R)evolution, nonprofits can receive select HRdirect Smart Apps free for one year. This is the perfect opportunity to try out the Attendance Calendar app. It helps you maintain accurate records and quickly spot troubling attendance patterns — all in one convenient, online view.

Key Takeaways
  • An employee’s PTO bank is typically based on length of service
  • Accrual and rollover are two important factors to consider with a PTO plan
  • You may opt to provide paid time off for employees to volunteer
  • Effective attendance management starts with a workplace policy
  • Online attendance tracking is ideal for controlling unscheduled absenteeism
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