It’s often difficult to work out what to do if one of your employees is always late. This article provides a few handy tips that you might like to employ.

Have a Meeting

Sit down and discuss the issue with your employee.  Emphasise how important it is to your business that they arrive on time and why, in particular, it hurts your business when they do not arrive on time.  If it applies, explain that you have a ’10 minute’ lee-way rule and that anything beyond that is unacceptable unless reasonable notice is given. You also need to tell them that there might be disciplinary consequences if they are always late, such as possible pay deductions, warnings or eventually termination.

Is the Employee Affected by a Medical Condition?

You need to ask whether the employee’s lateness is the result of a medical condition.  If it is you may want to seek advice from their doctor about the best way to accommodate them.  Be wary that if you over-react to lateness caused by a medical condition you may be liable under disability discrimination.

Be Flexible

Ask yourself if a person’s lateness is really impacting your business – are they otherwise a good and productive employee?  Would they benefit from a later start time?  What else can be done to accommodate them?

Problem Solve

Have a problem-solving, adult discussion about why your employee is running late.  Is there something going on in their life?  Do you need to workshop solutions? Can you work an idea together which will assist them in arriving on time?

Be Positive

Consider an incentive or bonus scheme.  Reward those who are on time and link any performance payments to arriving on time.

Implement a Lateness Procedure

A good strategy for reducing lateness is to implement a confronting procedure for an employee giving notice when they are running late.  This means no texting or emailing.  Rather, every worker must call you directly if they are running late and explain their reasons.

Can I Sack Them?

Probably not, unless it is absolutely critical to the job and results in serious consequences for your business.  However, if you issue several warnings and their behaviour continues you might have a case for dismissing them.

Be Consistent

Enforce the rule equally with all your employees. By doing this you’re making it clear that turning up on time is a crucial part of employment at your business.

Explain the Impact on The Other Staff

Tell the tardy employee that all the other staff arrive on time and their lateness is unfair to others.  Explain that by arriving late this creates extra work for the other staff.

Do They Have to be on Time?

Ask yourself if it is really necessary for the person to be on time, or are you simply just asserting your authority.  If it is the latter, you need to consider whether you are simply disciplining an otherwise productive and cooperative employee for the sake of it.  Is it really a big deal if they are a little late, what if they make up for the time in some other way?

Have a Written Policy

Finally, draft a lateness policy and provide it to all employees.  The policy should include things like:

  • Your rules regarding lateness.
  • Why it is important to your business that employees arrive on time.
  • Consequences of being consistently late.
  • Potential disciplinary actions.
  • The reporting procedure if somebody is running late.

You can include this policy in your Employee Handbook, which a LegalVision lawyer can draft for you.

Lachlan McKnight
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