Although staff who are clocking on one or two minutes late in the morning are not causing your company huge detriment, promptness and reliability are important in an employment relationship and employees are often subject to disciplinary proceedings because of their tardiness.

It would first be important for you to determine the employee’s length of service when dealing with lateness because this will dictate the procedure you should undertake.

Many instances of lateness are not within the control of the employee e.g. train cancellations or road traffic accidents which have created delays but you are still within your rights to expect that employees will arrive on time. Informal discussions with an employee who has had a couple of instances of lateness might be enough to make them realise that they are now on your radar and need to take measures to rectify their behaviour. A quick word in your office will usually do it. This sets your stall from the very beginning and confirms to the employee that you are monitoring behaviour.

If lateness continues, a formal disciplinary procedure should be implemented. You’d need to check your contractual procedures and make sure you act in line with them. A disciplinary hearing should be called and the employee should be informed of the right to be accompanied.

During the hearing, the employee may provide an explanation of the lateness which you had not considered previously. This could include a health problem which hinders their ability to keep to a time structure in the morning or they may have caring duties to perform.

Any mitigation provided by the employee should be taken into consideration when determining what sanction to impose.

A series of warnings would need to be issued, escalating in gravity with each further instance and eventually the employee should be warned that any further lateness may result in dismissal. If the employee continues to be late, dismissal will be the ultimate sanction.

Warnings should only remain on an employee’s file for a prescribed amount of time and generally, only when further instances of misconduct appear within the shelf life should the warning be built upon. There are no guidelines in law to dictate how long a warning should remain on an employee’s file. It is an employee’s contract of employment that will dictate how long this should be, so you should look to the contract for an indication of how long to wait before the warning should be disregarded.

If you are dealing with any lateness issues then please contact our Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

By Nicola Mullineux