Tackling persistent lateness

Do you have a member of the team who is routinely late for work?

Have you heard any of the following excuses? “The bus didn’t turn up!” “The train was delayed.”  “Rush hour traffic was crazy this morning.” “There was a queue to drop off my kids at school.” “I had to take my dog to the vets.” “My alarm clock broke!”

The one-off occasion can be brushed aside, but repeated instances of lateness and an endless stream of excuses can put pressure on other colleagues and affect the smooth running of the business.

What can managers do to deal with persistent lateness?

If you notice that an employee is arriving late, you need to address the issue. Normally, an informal approach will be the best way to do this. If you have a quick word with them, they will see that you have noticed, are monitoring their attendance and are willing to take action. This can act as a deterrent and nip the issue in the bud.

If this doesn’t work, you may need to go down the formal route. You should make it clear in your Employee Handbook that persistent lateness without a proper explanation will normally be treated as misconduct and it is likely that it will result in disciplinary action. When thinking about disciplinary action, you will also need to consider the reasons for the lateness (e.g. is it because they are just a bit lazy or is it because they have a medical condition which makes it difficult for them to get to work on time?) as this will determine what action to take.

Remind them that it is their responsibility to make sure they are ready to work at their scheduled time. If they rely on public transport, they should allow adequate time, including delays, to make the journey and arrive on time. If they drive to work, they should make allowances for the level of traffic or rush hour congestion to make sure they are not late.

If they are arriving late, they should contact their line manager as soon as they can to inform them. Ideally you should get them to call, rather than send a text or email.

Personal or domestic circumstances may make it difficult for an employee to get to work on their scheduled start time. An employee who has a minimum of 26 weeks of continuous service with their employer and has not made a request in the last 12 months may make a flexible working request. This may involve them asking to start work a bit later each day. Employers must consider the request in a reasonable manner and can only refuse a request for a clear business reason (e.g. an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff).

If you are facing a challenge like this in your workplace, contact your Employment Law Adviser for tailored and comprehensive guidance.

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