Reading time: 5 minutes

As an employer, you may face situations where your employee consistently arrives late to work. In these circumstances, you should ask yourself if your employee’s lateness is impacting your business and if it is necessary for them to always be on time. Lateness could be a minor problem and your employee might otherwise be a good and productive worker who simply needs a reminder about the importance of arriving to work on time. It could also be a significant issue that needs to be resolved because it affects the morale and performance of your business. This article explains three steps you can take when your employee is always late.

1. Talk to Your Employee

You should conduct a meeting with your employee to discuss the issue and understand the underlying cause of the problem.

Before the meeting, you should consider options to accommodate your employee.

For example, they might benefit from a later start time or they could make up for the time in another way.

You should also check if you have provided a lateness policy to your employee. A lateness policy covers topics such as:

  • your rules regarding lateness (including any applicable lee-way rules);
  • why it is important to your business that employees arrive on time;
  • consequences of consistently being late;
  • potential disciplinary actions; and
  • the reporting procedure if your employee is running late.

During the meeting, you can:

  • raise your concerns about your employee’s lateness and direct them to be on time in the future;
  • emphasise why all your employees must arrive on time and the negative impact that lateness has on your business and other employees;
  • allow your employee to respond and explain if there’s a reason for their lateness. For example, they might be looking after a sick relative or need additional time in the morning to drop off their kids to school;
  • brainstorm ideas with your employee to help them to arrive at work on time. For example, you can introduce flexible work arrangements to accommodate your employee’s circumstances; and
  • inform your employee that there might be disciplinary consequences if they continue to be late, such as warnings or eventually termination of their employment.

It is good practice to keep minutes during the meeting and to send your employee a written confirmation of any agreed solutions after the meeting.

2. Manage the Problem

If your employee doesn’t have a legitimate reason for arriving late to work, continued lateness can be a disciplinary issue that you are entitled to manage.

You can manage the problem through:

  • an informal process of monitoring your employee’s arrival time on a day-to-day basis and providing feedback; or
  • a formal process of establishing specific performance targets (e.g. arriving on time to work every day). Monitoring your employee’s progress towards achieving those targets and conducting regular meetings to discuss the progress and give feedback is also important.

Where the outcome of a formal process is positive, you may choose to end this process and carry on with informal, day-to-day supervision of your employee’s conduct.

3. Take Disciplinary Action

You can take disciplinary action against your employee if their performance does not improve to the required standard. Disciplinary action may take the form of:

  • a reprimand;
  • oral or written warnings; or 
  • dismissal.

The action you take may depend on whether or not your employee is protected from unfair dismissal.

It’s best practice to give warnings to your employee before contemplating a dismissal. Written warnings should:

  • be fair and reasonable in the circumstances;
  • be clear about the reason for the warning and include all relevant details;
  • emphasise the severity of the constant lateness;
  • set clear expectations about what needs to be done differently; and
  • allow your employee to respond and improve their behaviour.

You may have grounds to terminate your employee’s employment if a performance management process and warnings are unable to resolve the issue. Your employment agreement, any applicable industrial instrument or the National Employment Standards will set out the minimum amount of notice you need to give to your employee to end the employment.

If your employee is protected from unfair dismissal, you should ensure that your employee has been:

  • notified that there’s a performance issue due to their consistent lateness; 
  • provided an opportunity to respond and improve; and 
  • warned of the potential disciplinary actions, including termination of their employment.

Key Takeaways

It can be challenging to work out what to do if one of your employees is always late. You can start by considering the significance and impact of lateness on your business to determine any appropriate action to take. You should also check if you have prepared a lateness policy that establishes clear expectations about arrival times and possible consequences for lateness. 

The next steps you can take include conducting a meeting with your employee to discuss the issue and allow them to respond, implementing a performance management process to support your employee and monitor their progress, and taking disciplinary action. You may have grounds to end your employee’s employment if the issue is serious and remains unresolved. However, you should first seek advice from an employment lawyer to understand the process and potential risks of dismissal. If you have any questions about preparing a lateness policy, managing a lateness issue or taking disciplinary action, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


Everything You Need to Know about SaaS Agreements

Thursday 7 April | 11:00 - 11:45am

Understand which contracts will protect your SaaS contract from risk, and how. Register for free today.
Register Now

What to Consider When Buying a Tech or Online Business

Wednesday 13 April | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to get the best deal when buying a tech or online business. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Corporate Governance 101: Responsibilities for New Directors

Wednesday 27 April | 11:00 - 11:45am

If you are a new company director, join our free webinar to understand your legal compliance obligations. Register today.
Register Now

Rogue Directors and Business Divorces: How to Remove a Director

Thursday 28 April | 11:00 - 11:45am

Removing a board director is not simple. Join our free webinar to learn how to handle rogue directors. Register today.
Register Now

Employment Essentials for Tech Businesses

Thursday 5 May | 11:00 - 11:45am

Protect your tech business and your employees by understanding your employment legal obligations. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

How to Protect and Enforce Your Trade Mark

Wednesday 11 May | 11:00 - 11:45am

Protect your business’ brand from copycats and competitors. Register for this free webinar to learn how.
Register Now

How Franchisors Can Avoid Misleading and Deceptive Conduct

Wednesday 18 May | 11:00 - 11:45am

Ensure your franchise is not accused of misleading and deceptive conduct. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

New Kid on the Blockchain: Understanding the Proposed Laws for Crypto, NFT and Blockchain Projects

Wednesday 25 May | 10:00 - 10:45am

If you operate in the crypto space, ensure you understand the Federal Government’s proposed licensing and regulation changes. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

How to Expand Your Business Into a Franchise

Thursday 26 May | 11:00 - 11:45am

Drive rapid growth in your business by turning it into a franchise. To learn how, join our free webinar. Register today.
Register Now

Startup Financing: Venture Debt 101

Thursday 23 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how venture debt can help take your startup to the next level. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer