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Dealing with an employee who is always late

By 28/02/2020August 31st, 2023Absence Management, Employee Management
Employee Lateness

We’re all late from time to time; it is part of life. From being delayed in traffic, broken down cars and even sleeping through an alarm, we’ve all been there!

In a survey conducted by the Heathrow Express, employee lateness costs the UK economy around £9 billion a year. Traffic caused by road works (41%) was the leading cause of tardiness, closely followed by public transport delays (29%), unforeseen circumstances (25%), torrid weather (18%), sleeping through an alarm (14%) and leaving something behind (12%).

But as an employer, punctual employees that are strong and passionate are critical to productivity as well as your overall success. One of the most common problems business owners and managers find impacts on the effectiveness of the company is employee lateness. Though managers assume staff members will occasionally be late, if employees begin to be late for work regularly , then actions need to be taken to protect the company and to improve the work ethic amongst the team.

Why do you need to deal with a persistently late employee?

As an employer, you expect staff members to be late every now and then. However, managers and employers cannot accept a situation where an employee is continually late for work, simply because this acceptance will only compound the situation and make it worse.

If you notice that a staff member is persistently arriving late, this should be dealt with accordingly. Otherwise, the employee in question may think that this is not an issue and start turning up late even more.  Furthermore, the late employee’s actions may even make other staff members consider why they are bothering to arrive at work on time, causing other late employees.

And the problem might not end there. Displaying acceptance of an employee’s persistent lateness may cause them to become more relaxed with other company policies, and you may find that the overall quality of work and work ethic of the team decreases.

At the end of the day, managers pay their staff for their time, and they request staff to work specific hours to ensure that all the work can be completed. Therefore, an employee that is continually late is effectively stealing time from the company. A late employee may start to fall behind on their work and either rush things, or leave them uncompleted. In addition, persistent employee lateness may cause tension between colleagues, as the team members who work alongside them may end up having to do more work in order to cover for their colleague causing some resentment and ill-feeling. Teams work most effectively when they work closely together and communicate well, so the overall effectiveness of the team may be compromised.

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How can you deal with employee lateness?

There are no hard and fast rules for dealing with someone who is always late.Every manager is different, as is every employee and their personal situation. However, with this being said, there are some steps that you should take if you want to deal with a late employee and help them improve their punctuality at work.

  1. Document the rules

A lateness policy in its own right might be considered excessive, but a section on lateness could be incorporated into existing policies and procedures covering Absence Management or Time and Attendance, for example. The policy should include:

– The standard expected of employees: details of working hours, highlighting that employees should be ready and prepared to start work as soon as their shift is scheduled to start.

– The procedure for reporting lateness: if an employee knows they’re going to be late, who should they report this to?

– Details of how working time will be tracked and recorded: do you use timesheets or do employees need to physically clock in when on-site?

– If applicable, provide details on how employees can make up the time they have lost from arriving late.

– A comment on the potential disciplinary action which could be taken for persistent lateness.

– A comment that lateness should be avoided as it is disruptive for everyone.

Make sure any new policies or updates to your  procedure are communicated to all employees and implemented fairly throughout the entire company. If this is something new to your company or if you have a particular problem with employee lateness, then consider running brief workshops for employees to attend in order to highlight the impact of lateness, go through the procedures with them and provide an opportunity for questions.

  1. Maintain records

Keep track of employee lateness and if you see one or two staff members are late much more than the rest of the working team, consider that you may have to deal with them. Keeping records means you will be able to use them as evidence when you speak to the employee in question, showing them facts rather than voicing your opinion about their tardiness.

  1. Proactively deal with the persistently late employee

Do not wait until you are angry and annoyed, or the rest of the team are feeling annoyed. Speak to the late employee before you get to this stage to help avoid it getting to that point. Schedule a meeting with the employee in question and in the interim, collate all the information you have regarding their working times, instances of lateness and reasons etc.

  1. Respect their privacy

While important for you to broach the topic with an employee that is always late, be conscious of their privacy. Take them to one side to discuss their lateness rather than confronting them and voicing your concerns in the main office which may cause embarrassment.

There may be a sensitive or personal reason for their lateness, so approach the conversation with compassion and give them the chance to take in your concerns and say their piece.

  1. Reward improvements

Recognising changed or improved behaviours, no matter how minor, should be reinforced. Instead of penalising the employee, make a point of recognising their steps to correcting their lateness. Your employee will know the reasons why they are consistently late, so in theory, they should know the ways they can remedy them.

How to raise the issue of an employee’s lateness

When meeting with the late employee try to remain calm, do not make it personal and avoid getting angry. Speak through your concerns over their lateness, present them with evidence and refer back to your company’s policy on employee lateness. Explain that you want to understand what is causing their lateness and find out if there’s something you could help with.

Try to understand whether they If you have any personal problems, medical issues or any other reasons which might be causing them to be late. Remember to bear in mind any potential issues which could arise through discrimination and any adjustments which could reasonably be made by the company in order to support the employee.

Updated: Feb 2020

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