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What Is an Employee Attendance Tracker? Examples and Best Practices

Tardiness and absenteeism are two of the most common employee relations issues that your HR team has to deal with. But traditional methods of tracking employee attendance aren’t a great fit for today’s world of flexible work hours and remote employment.

Whether your team members work in the field, in the office, or from home, you need a way to track employee time, attendance, and billable hours accurately.

Let’s take a look at different kinds of employee attendance trackers and how to set up employee attendance tracking software that meets your organization's needs.

What Is an Employee Attendance Tracker?

An employee attendance tracker is a system used for tracking the days and hours that an employee shows up to work. You can also use it to track approved and unapproved absences and other types of paid or unpaid time off.

Depending on your needs, you may only need to keep track of limited attendance data, or more specific data like which tasks or projects an employee worked on.

Tracking employee attendance can also help you track:

  • Billable hours
  • Meeting attendance
  • Time spent on individual tasks
  • Accrued sick leave and paid time off (PTO)

Attendance tracking is an important part of attendance management, since you need to track time accurately in order to review and optimize employee scheduling.

Types of Attendance Trackers

Employee attendance trackers range from traditional pen-and-paper methods to more advanced time trackers that can log work hours automatically. Here are three different types of attendance trackers and how they compare.

Time cards

The classic time tracking tool is the punch card method: Each employee has a physical punch card that they use to clock in and clock out of the workplace. Modern versions of this method include badges and key cards that an employee swipes on their way into and out of the workplace, verifying their attendance with a digital time stamp.

One drawback to time cards is that they don’t account for time spent on different tasks, and employees may forget to clock in and out during the workday, leaving your payroll team to review and verify work hours manually.


Timesheets are a step up from time cards in that they allow you to store more detailed attendance records. Managers can pass around a physical attendance sheet or use a shared Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel template to track hours in real-time.

Small businesses may prefer this over the time clock method, since you can use digital timesheets to calculate work hours automatically and generate attendance reports.

Time-tracking software

Time-tracking software takes things one step further by allowing employees to log work hours from a cloud-based platform or mobile app. Time-tracking software can account for different project tasks, hourly rates, and other variables. Some time-tracking tools can even log an employee’s location with GPS to verify their attendance.

Platforms like Pulpstream feature built-in integrations with other apps like Workday and ADP, so you can streamline your attendance system with automated workflows.

Why Use an Employee Attendance Tracker?

Employee attendance tracker: employee thinking while holding her pen

Keeping detailed attendance records can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if you have flexible work hours or a remote work culture. Here’s why it’s so important to track employee attendance and monitor your team’s productivity.

Maintain accurate records

First, maintaining accurate attendance records ensures that your employees are paid promptly and accurately for the hours that they worked. It also ensures that you remain compliant with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other employment laws enforced by the Department of Labor or your state.

For example, some states require you to provide sick leave or personal time based on the number of hours an employee worked. You can use Pulpstream to track sick time and vacation days, as well as an employee’s remaining FMLA leave balance.

Track billable hours

If an employee works on multiple projects for different customers or clients, you may need to keep track of the amount of time spent on each project. Time-tracking tools allow you to differentiate between different types of work or billable hours.

You can also use this data to increase employee productivity by tracking metrics like total project hours or an individual employee’s task completion rate.

Reduce absenteeism

Absenteeism can come in many forms, from employees failing to show up to work, to time theft, in which an employee clocks in but performs non-work-related activities. An employee attendance tracker can help you reduce absenteeism in the workplace by monitoring employee absences and identifying patterns of behavior.

Absence management software like Pulpstream can help you address the underlying causes of absenteeism before it becomes a problem for your business.

How to Set Up an Employee Attendance Tracker

Whether you already have an employee attendance tracker template or want to create a new one from scratch, follow these four steps to improve your attendance system.

1. Create an attendance policy

The first step is to establish your attendance policy and set clear rules and expectations. For example, you might provide a verbal warning the first time an employee is late, and take disciplinary action following three or more unexcused absences. Another option is to deduct pay when an employee arrives late or leaves early.

Be sure to abide by legal limits on pay docking and unpaid suspensions, especially if the absence is for medical reasons and the employee qualifies for FMLA.

2. Choose your attendance tracking software

Next, decide which type of attendance tracking software will meet your needs in terms of pricing, functionality, and integrations. A simple spreadsheet template might do the job, but you may get more value from an all-in-one platform like Pulpstream.

Pulpstream’s leave management platform helps you monitor unplanned absences as well as approved absences like personal or parental leave. Pulpstream can send out automatic SMS and email reminders to your employees, prompting them to upload documents to support a formal leave of absence request.

3. Train managers and employees

Once you’ve chosen the right attendance tracking software, train your managers and employees on how to use it. Ensure that managers enforce your attendance policies fairly and equally, and escalate serious disciplinary issues to your HR team.

Tools like Pulpstream feature a self-service portal that employees can use to request time off and check their accrued leave balance, saving your HR team members time and energy and streamlining key parts of the absence management process.

4. Review attendance records

Finally, use your attendance data to monitor attendance patterns and identify areas for performance and business process improvement. Ask for feedback from employees to ensure that your attendance policies support a healthy work-life balance.

Use workforce analytics to make informed decisions about project management and resource allocation based on your current staffing levels and workloads. 

Improve Employee Attendance Patterns with Pulpstream

Employee holding a cup of coffee while looking at his laptop

Using an employee attendance tracker ensures that you pay employees properly and address attendance issues such as tardiness and absenteeism. Old-school methods like time cards and timesheets can serve a purpose, but more advanced attendance tracking software can save you time and allow for more accurate record-keeping.

Pulpstream’s absence and leave management platform helps you track attendance and leaves of absence using a single cloud-based system. From performance improvement to employee disciplinary action, Pulpstream allows you to streamline and standardize workflows to apply policies consistently and improve employee productivity.

Request a demo today to see how Pulpstream can help your team!