How do you treat staff lateness?

Do you keep a steely eye fixed on the clock, waiting for your employee to arrive? Or are you quite relaxed when someone saunters into work a half hour later than everyone else?

Just as every employer treats staff lateness in their own way, every employee has a different attitude towards it. But think about it…

Repeat offenders don’t do the work you pay them to do, slashing your business’s productivity and leaving you out of pocket. So if you don’t already have one, it’s time to put in place a lateness policy.

Get policy protection

In your policy, clearly state when your staff must arrive at work, who to notify if they expect to be late, and explain the consequences if people don’t follow your policies.

Now, it might seem like some people are just hardwired to be late. No matter what they do—whether it’s setting nine alarms or giving themselves extra travel time—they still somehow snatch lateness from the jaws of punctuality.

And when that keeps happening, you must take action.

Is it fair to fire someone?

Don’t go ahead and dismiss someone on the spot. Instead, follow the disciplinary process as outlined in the ACAS Code of Practice.

Log each time your employee is late and tell them that you’re keeping it on record. If it continues, hold a disciplinary meeting. Explain the problem, ask why they’re late so often, and take into account the employee’s reasons and the overall disadvantage it’s causing your business.

Once you’ve completed the full disciplinary and investigation process, make a final decision about whether to dismiss your employee… but there may be an honest reason behind the lateness.

Lateness isn’t always laziness

Say you employ someone who uses a wheelchair, but your workplace is waiting for contractors to install a disabled parking bay and ramps. It’s fair to say that the lack of both could cause your employee to be late.

In that scenario, do not press on with the dismissal. If you do, you could face a discrimination claim. Your employee could argue that you’re treating them less favourably compared to other staff, simply based on their disability.

Instead, you should make reasonable adjustments to the working environment so that disabled staff are not at a disadvantage.

Take alternative action

Maybe it’s not your staff who need to fit in with your set working hours. Maybe you could offer flexible working, which is becoming far more common in an increasingly 24-hour society.

With flexible work, there is no lateness. You just need your people to work their total contracted hours. It’s a big help for staff who have long commutes or who need to do the morning school run, as they can start and finish work later.

But start with the basics. Get a policy in place and make sure your people know what you expect from them. Such a small change could sort your staff lateness problem. Fast.