Tackling employee lateness

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The train was late; the car wouldn’t start; the alarm didn’t go off – we’ve heard these excuses and many more, somewhat creative at times – from employees who are late for work. In reality, they will not always be excuses but the factual circumstances which led to the employee not turning up on time. Whatever the reason for the lateness, it should always be noted down and employees can quite rightly be asked to make the time up or have their pay deducted (a contractual provision to this effect will strengthen your ability to do this). Lateness should not be ignored on any occasion because employees may take your lack of interest in it as a free pass to wander in 5 minutes late every day. Where your operations start at 9am, and half your staff are not there because they are late but may no specific effort to be on time, your effectiveness You have every right to expect that your employees can get to work for their start time. Their hours of work are, amongst other things, a contractually agreed term of their employment in relation to which breaches can lead to disciplinary action. Whilst some reasons for lateness may well be valid and outside of the employee’s control, you are still entitled to treat them the same in terms of any trigger points for action i.e. if five instances of lateness means that the employee is invited to a disciplinary hearing, then this should stand regardless. Different treatment can be exercised when deciding on a relevant sanction for the employee, by taking into consideration the actual reason as mitigation. For example, you may be more flexible with an employee who has recently divorced from their partner and are therefore struggling to get the children to school and get to work on time, than an employee who lives over the road from work but just doesn’t want to make the effort to get up on time. Even where public transport is to blame for the lateness, it is ultimately still not a good enough reason to ignore the lateness. It is the employee’s responsibility to get to work on time, and this may mean getting an earlier train or setting off from home earlier if they drive. This may be inconvenient for the employee, but, again this is not your problem. Again depending on the reason for the lateness, you could agree with the employee that their working hours are changed e.g. their start and finish times are moved 15 minutes later in order to help them out. Alternatively, reducing their overall working times by starting 15 minutes later but still finishing at the same time, and also reducing pay accordingly, is another option. Consistent lateness is a valid reason for dismissing an employee but will rarely, if ever, be sufficiently severe to be considered gross misconduct. It is more likely to be the result of cumulative warnings.  For more information, please call our Advice Service on 0800 028 2420.  

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