Dealing with an employee who's always late | Moorepay
March 5, 2024

Dealing with an employee who’s always late

man drinking coffee and checking his watch

Unforeseen roadworks, a missed alarm, or the elusive bus – we’re all late from time to time; it just happens! But when lateness becomes persistent, it’s time to address it. Join us as we run through the best approach to managing an employee who’s always running against the clock.

Being punctual isn’t just a nicety – it’s a necessity for productivity and business success. One of the most common challenges that impacts on the effectiveness of a company is employee lateness. Employers understand that occasional tardiness happens, but consistent lateness shouldn’t become the norm.

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

If you notice a staff member is persistently arriving late, it’s essential to nip-it-in-the-bud before it has a knock-on-effect. Accepting ongoing lateness not only intensifies the issue, but also negatively impacts productivity and morale.

Lets look at some of the issues caused by persistent lateness:

  • The employee can become more relaxed with other company policies, negatively impacting an otherwise positive culture.
  • They may start to fall behind on their duties, make easily avoidable mistakes due to rushing, or leave work uncompleted.
  • Other team member may have to pick up the slack, causing some resentment and tension.
  • Colleagues may begin to wonder why they bother taking pride in their time management, leading them to follow suit.

At the end of the day, a company pays 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 who is continually late is effectively stealing time from the company.

How can you deal with employee lateness?

There are no hard and fast rules for dealing with someone who is always late. Every employee’s situation is likely to be different. However, there are some tried-and-tested steps you should take to help them improve their punctuality at work.

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 employee absence or time and attendance, for example. The policy should include:

  • The standard expected: details of working hours, highlighting that employees should be ready 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 and implemented fairly throughout the company. If this is something new to your company or if you have a particular problem with employee lateness, then consider running brief workshops to highlight the impact of lateness; go through the procedures with them and provide opportunity for questions.

Maintain records

Keep track of employee lateness. Keeping records means you will be able to use them as evidence when you speak to the employee in question. It’s better to show them facts rather than voicing your opinion.

Proactively deal with the persistently late employee

Schedule a meeting with the late employee as soon as possible. Prepare by collating all the information you have regarding their working times, instances of lateness and reasons etc.

Respect their privacy

While it’s important for you to broach the topic with an employee, be conscious of their privacy. Take them to a meeting room or other quiet space to discuss their lateness. Don’t voice your concerns in the main office/workspace as this may cause embarrassment and is deemed unprofessional.

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

Recognise improvements

Changed or improved behaviours, no matter how minor, should be recognised. 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 employee try to remain calm, do not make it personal and avoid getting angry. Talk through your concerns over their lateness; present them with evidence and refer to your company’s policy on employee lateness. Explain that you want to understand what’s causing their lateness and find out if there’s something you could help with.

Try to understand whether they 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 to support the employee. For example, if the employee normally travels to work by bus, which is always affected by the amount of traffic on the roads, could the employee start work half an hour later and finish half an hour later?

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Elaine Prichard
About the author

Elaine Pritchard

Elaine has a wealth of knowledge in producing contracts, training materials and other documentation as well as training other consultants. She piloted a scheme whereby she went on-site to act as a client’s HR Manager two days per week, whilst the post-holder was on maternity leave. Elaine also previously ran her own retail business for seven years, employing four people. Elaine is a field based consultant for Moorepay and provides on-site HR and Employment Law advice, consultancy and training services to our clients.