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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.


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