How do I crack down on lateness?

I have an employee who recently has been late three times despite me having an informal chat. We are only a small business and it puts pressure on the rest of the staff. What action do I take?

Incidents of lateness, while only a minute or two here and there, may not seem like a big issue however the total time lost to the business, especially small businesses, can make the issue more serious. Reliability and trust in your employees that they will attend the business on time and make themselves ready for work is an important part of the employment relationship.

As the circumstances surrounding repetitive lateness can be down to a number of things, an informal approach at the beginning can be a useful first step to address the situation. This can be more than an informal chat and can discuss with the employee that their attendance at work will be monitored. The reasons may not always be within the employee’s control, for example if their public transport has been delayed or a road traffic accident has created a traffic jam, however the informal discussion will make the employee aware that the situation has been noticed and can deter the employee from continuing with their late starts.

Where an informal approach has not rectified the issue, a formal procedure can be carried out. Repetitive lateness can be a disciplinary issue, especially if it has been identified as such within a contractual disciplinary procedure, and as a small business the employee’s tardiness is likely to have a detrimental effect on the business and their colleagues.

A disciplinary hearing is the best forum to identify any outstanding issues behind repetitive lateness. If the employee makes you aware that the reason for their lateness is due to their caring responsibilities for a relative or is related to a medical condition, this should not be ignored. Their reason for lateness may create a duty on you as an employer to alter their working hours as a reasonable adjustment. Alternatively, you can use this opportunity to remind the employee that they have a right to request flexible working, subject to eligibility.

If the employee has no mitigating reasons to put forward, formal action, starting with a series of warnings, can take place. Sanctions should start from a low level and increase in seriousness, towards formal warnings and resulting in dismissal, where reasonable, if there is no improvement in the employee’s attendance.

Further reading on lateness

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Peter Done

Peter is the founder and group managing director of Peninsula Business Services, established in 1983.

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