Repetitive lateness may not seem like a big issue when it’s a few minutes here and a few minutes there but adding up the total time lost to the business can make the issue seem more substantial. Reliability is an important part of the employment relationship and repetitive lateness can be seen as a disciplinary issue.
The circumstances surrounding lateness may not always be under the control of the employee, e.g. if their public transport has been delayed or a road traffic accident has created a traffic jam. Employers are still entitled to expect the employee to arrive on time and a first step to address this situation can be an informal discussion with the employee. An informal discussion may be enough to make the employee realise that they can no longer get away with tardiness, employees are now aware that you are monitoring the situation and the discussion has the potential to solve the problem quickly and efficiently.
If repetitive lateness continues then a formal disciplinary procedure can be carried out. Any contractual process should be followed to make sure that the outcome will be deemed fair in a tribunal.
During a disciplinary hearing, if the employee makes you aware that they have a valid reason for the lateness, for example, they are a home carer or they have a condition which makes them drowsy when they get up in the morning so they have to wait longer before driving to work, you should not just ignore this. The reason the employee gives may create a duty to alter their working hours as a reasonable adjustment, or, another solution could be to remind the employee that they have the right to request flexible working, subject to eligibility. Initially, lateness could be seen as a problem the employee has to solve but it may create obligations for employers that, if ignored, could result in a claim being brought against the employer.
If no mitigating reasons are put forward by the employee then warnings for the lateness should be issued, starting from a lower level and increasing in seriousness dependent on continuing occasions. If there is no improvement, and the seriousness of sanctions has increased to such a level, then dismissal may be warranted if it is reasonable in the circumstances.If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.