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How to Deal With Employee Lateness

by Peggy Emch

In some businesses employee lateness doesn’t really matter. Some jobs simply require completion, like stuffing envelopes for example, and it doesn’t really matter if it gets done at 10am or 10pm. But for most workers, being on time does matter, and for some, it matters a whole lot.

Sales people, for example, have a window of time when their prospects are available; store clerks are needed on the floor to help customers as soon as the store opens; managers need to be available for their workforce; and teammates need to collaborate. In most businesses, work is conducted during specific hours and employees need to be there during those times. If they’re not, productivity slides.

Assess the Problem

First decide how big of a problem it is you’re dealing with. Is the lateness a recent development? Is it a long standing issue? Is just one employee, several, or your entire workforce late for work? This is important because if the whole workforce is chronically late, they are probably doing it because they believe that it is an accepted practice. Figure out just how frequent it is happening and how many minutes per week your employees are late. You can use our convenient tardy reports to help with that. The severity of the issue will be a lot clearer and you will be able to make smarter choices about correcting it.

Correct the Problem

Which steps to take to correct a problem with chronically late employees is a personal decision – dependent on the employee’s personality, their reasons, and the extent of the problem. If a discussion with the employee results in total compliance with your tardiness rules, then you don’t need to do anything. But obviously, it’s not always that easy.

  • Set rules and include in employee handbook. Define consequences.
  • Be consistent and firm with these rules. Employees who notice that managers don’t care or aren’t going to do anything about it, will begin to abuse it.
  • Use the performance reviews, commendation letters, and disciplinary action letters provided in our suite of HR Docs.
  • Adjust employee schedules for employees who have to drop off the kids or drive in early morning rush hour.
  • Have a meeting with the employee and explain the effects of his lateness, like missing customer calls and the fact that other employees have to pick up the slack when he’s late.
  • Ask the employee to offer his own suggestions to fix the problem. Get a glimpse into the mind of the perpetrator. Maybe there is a good reason that could easily be fixed.
  • Doc the employee’s pay when it becomes a chronic, frequent problem.
  • Offer company bonuses when the team is on time.
  • Be a good example and get to work on time yourself.
  • Add up the minutes and hours an employee misses at work and present it to him in the form of our tardy report. Employees don’t always realize how often they are late.
  • Be fair and flexible and let employees know that anomalies are expected from time to time.
  • Simply utilizing an online time tracking system often fixes the problem. Working times are more transparent with an online system than they are with a punch card system, where employees can’t see their week’s punches in clear view each day, or on a paper time sheet where employees may write down false time entries.

Nip the problem in the bud as soon as possible so that the entire workforce does not see your workplace as a culture of flexible schedules. It doesn’t take long for a problem like this to spread. When employees think it’s ok to be late and that no one is going to get in trouble for it, they can’t see any reason not to do it themselves. Start with clearly defined rules and consequences and then stick to them.

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