Employer Advice on Tackling Poor Punctuality in the Workplace

  • HR Policies
Andrew Caldwell

Andrew Caldwell, HR Advisory Manager

(Last updated )

From time to time, your employees may get late to work due to reasons beyond their control. For instance, bad traffic, severe weather conditions, or a delay in public transit. This could happen to anyone, including you, and it is reasonable to be accommodating in such situations. However, reporting late to work is a problem when it becomes a habit.

If you have employees who are frequently late to work, it is important that you address their poor punctuality.

Besides being unprofessional, chronic lateness also affects productivity and morale in the workplace. Other team members, who depend on the tardy colleague to relieve them of their shift or collaborate with them on projects, may feel frustrated. It also sets a bad example in the workplace and sends the message that it is acceptable to be late to work.

How to best manage employee lateness?

It’s important to be clear and consistent in how you choose to treat lateness. It is best to have a company policy for lateness that is included in your employee handbook and shared with all your employees. Your policy should set down the protocols to follow in case an employee is late, and the disciplinary action repeat offenders may face, which may include termination.

Set a protocol that your employees must inform you if they are running late, and that can be by your method of choice – a phone call, text, or email. You may also want to consider asking your staff to make up for the lost time either on the day or later in the week.

You should also keep a record of every lateness. This way, you can see if there are any lateness patterns with certain employees and address the issue early on. The best way to maintain employee attendance records with ease is to use a smart HR software, such as Peninsula’s BrightHR. With BrightHR, you can record all employee absences (leaves, medical appointments, lateness) in a secure, unlimited cloud-based storage space. You can even update the records on your phone using the BrightHR mobile app. BrightHR’s Blip is another useful employee management tool. It is a smart clocking app that makes logging daily attendance and tracking staff work hours and locations simple and convenient.

How do I address habitual lateness?

When someone suddenly becomes a repeat offender, it is best not to assume that their lateness is because of laziness or that they no longer care about their job. There could be something happening outside of work that may be the cause. Have an informal chat with your employee to find out if there is a personal issue and how it could be accommodated. For instance, if your employee is having difficulty arranging childcare during office hours, you could look into offering them flexible working.

But what if your employee is just bad at time management? That’s where your lateness policy comes in handy. Start by giving them a fair warning if required and escalate it if you need to. And here’s how to do that:

Follow a fair and formal process

Have a formal meeting with your employee to discuss their continuous lateness. Make sure to listen to their reasons, if any, and document what is discussed and decided upon. You may want to highlight how their lateness is proving costly to the company and harms team productivity and morale. The goal at the end of the meeting is help your employee understand the importance of being on time.

Set clear expectations

During your conversation, be clear on the changes you expect to see in their behaviour. Use facts and specific instances of the times they were late to substantiate your feedback. Avoid vague or personal comments, such as calling the employee lazy or careless or making fun of them. Your employee is more likely to listen to you if you are respectful and objective in your feedback.

Document steps taken to address the issue

Keep a record of all your communication with the employee on this issue. Ensure you have a written summary of your formal discussion based on your notes. Keep track of any improvements (or lack of) in the employee’s conduct after the meeting. Keep one copy on file and provide another to your employee for their record. If their punctuality doesn’t improve, you may want to issue a verbal warning. If there is still no improvement, then a written warning is required. After that you will need to issue a final warning.

Need help addressing employee performance issues in your organization?

At Peninsula Canada, we specialize in everything HR and health & safety. Whether you want expert advice on handling employee performance issues or need support with any other HR or employment matters, we’re here to assist you. Call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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