Late again? How to tackle poor punctuality

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What’s the worst lateness excuse you’ve had from an employee? We’d love to know. After all, our clients have told us some classics by their employees… The dog ate their car keys. The train went the wrong way. One was even brazen enough to say they’d been buying fishnet tights in Primark. At least they were honest. Maybe you can think back and laugh at the tall tales you’ve heard down the years. But staff lateness is a big—and expensive—problem, costing UK employers an estimated £9 billion a year. It doesn’t bear thinking about how much of that lost money was once yours. But what can you do about it?

Accept that everyone can be late

Start by recognising that life can stop your staff from getting to work on time. It can happen to your star employee—it can even happen to you. But you need to be clear and consistent in how your business treats lateness. And the best way to do that? Include a policy for it in your contracts of employment. It’s good practice to make staff tell you they’re running late—and it’s up to you to decide whether that’s by phone call, text or email. You may also expect staff to stay behind to make up the lost time. Remember to keep a record of every lateness. That way, you can easily spot when it happens far too often. Because then it’s time to take action. And you need to do more than just scribble lateness down on scraps of paper. You need smart HR software like Peninsula’s BrightHR. It helps you record lateness with ease and instantly spot when someone’s a repeat offender.

When lateness becomes a habit

If someone’s late-shows become the norm, don’t just assume it’s down to laziness or that they’ve stopped caring about working for you. There may be something going on outside of work. To see if there’s anything you can do to help, have an informal chat to find out what the problem is. For example, if they’re having difficulty arranging childcare, you could offer flexible working. But what if your employee is bad at time management? Remind them about your policy. Then, you’ve given them a fair warning should you need to escalate it. And here’s how to do that…

Follow a fair and formal process

Invite your employee to a formal meeting to discuss their repeat lateness. Listen with care to their side of the story, take notes, and explain your views. You may want to explain how lateness: - Is unprofessional. - Impacts team morale. - Harms productivity. - Affects people who rely on them for work. By the end of the meeting, your employee should understand the importance of being on time.

After the meeting

Using your notes, write a summary of your formal discussion. Keep one copy for your records and give another to your employee. And if your employee’s punctuality doesn’t improve? You might issue a verbal warning. Still no improvement? That’s a written warning. And then? A final warning, which could lead to dismissal for misconduct. But hopefully, it won’t get to that. With your lateness policy in place, people not showing up on time should become a rarity. Though there might still be some lateness excuses you can laugh about… eventually. Don’t have a policy? It’s not too late to get one. Call us free today to get started.

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