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Expert opinion: What to do when an employee is always late for work

Written by Peter Jones on .

Peter JonesPeter JonesEmployee timekeeping can be a major concern to employers. Particularly in businesses which require staff to clock-in. Lateness, absenteeism, even keeping track of sick leave can all act as a distraction to the time-pressed manager.

There can be occasions when an employee’s timekeeping goes awry and your attention is taken away from other important tasks to manage their lateness. Didn’t you have enough to do already?

Whilst it might seem like a waste of your time to address it, an employee’s persistent lateness can lead to even bigger problems within your business.

When an employee is late for work it is frustrating and can upset the order of events for that day.

Co-workers who can make it to work on time may start to feel put out if they see a colleague constantly turn up late without reprimand. Not only can it affect morale but can disrupt their own work if they have to delay meetings, postpone projects or keep clients waiting.

You’ll want to nip it in the bud. But what do you do? Jumping from your seat having had enough of it and demanding an explanation in front of everyone could become a very awkward situation. Most importantly, there could be a very good reason for the lateness that the employee does not wish to be made public.

There are a few simple steps that you can take to effectively manage employee lateness in your business. Following a fair procedure and having a company policy in place will help.

  1. Let the employee know that you are paying attention. If it is a one off and they have provided a valid reason, such as a bad commute, you may not feel the need to take any further action. However, if it was poor judgement that made them late, you could ask that they make the time back.
  2. If the lateness continues, book in an immediate one-to-one with them to ask why it is happening and point out how it might be affecting their work or colleagues. If their excuses seem just that, excuses, and they don’t have a valid reason, you should issue a warning and initiate disciplinary procedures. Refer to your company policy on lateness.
  3. When an employee reveals to you that there is a reason behind their lateness, such as family problems or health concerns, we’d advise that you discuss this with them to see if and how you might be able to support them. Flexible working could be helpful here.
  4. Have a process in place to record lateness. If employees are working at multiple sites or locations, it can be difficult to manage timekeeping and attendance. You can’t be everywhere at once after all. Consider a cloud-based clocking-in system for accuracy and peace of mind.

Peter Jones runs the HR Dept in Swindon and Wiltshire www.hrdept.co.uk/offices/south-west/swindon