How To Deal With Staff Who Are Always Late

Occasionally employees will be late for work, but how do you deal with the ones who are always late? Read our article to find out how.


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


15 February 2019


11 July 2024
3 min read

Employee Lateness

Occasionally employees will be late for work. Whether this is due to a family situation, public transport issues or simply they overslept.

These are everyday situations where managers will need to decide if action is required.

If they are infrequent, it may be decided that it is not necessary as it could create tension in the workplace.

However, persistent lateness can have a considerable impact on the Company and there comes the point where timekeeping issues become costly to the business.

If the same member of staff is persistently late, this should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Not dealing with the situation may give the impression that the Company does not take time keeping seriously.

However, as a business, you pay staff to start and finish at certain times.

If employees are not starting at the agreed time, it is easy for them to fall behind with their workload or rush to get tasks completed which can harm the quality of their work.

Additionally, employees that are persistently late may have an impact on more conscientious individuals that ultimately become resentful that the situation isn’t being handled — resulting in teams being less productive because there could be a bad feeling there. 

Steps to Dealing with Persistently Late Employees

While it can be difficult dealing with lateness that results from personal circumstances, some steps can be taken to try and resolve the situation and change work habits.

  • Make staff aware of the timekeeping and notification policy. If the policy isn’t in place, it is useful to create one as a guide, so employees are aware of the Company rules. A policy can include;
    • Your expectation that they are ready to start work at their agreed time.
    • How to notify the business if they think they may be late.
    • State how lateness is recorded and monitored.
    • Perhaps allow employees to work time back if they are late and it could not be avoided.
    • Mention that lateness is disruptive to co-workers and the productivity of the business.
    • Potential consequences; for example disciplinary action if lateness persists.
  • If you know the individual and you think an informal chat would be enough to resolve the issue, consider having a quick meeting to pre-empt any further lateness. Some employees will respond well to this and may respect your decision to  
  • Keep up to date records;
    • If you do need to take action against members of staff, you will need to provide evidence at the disciplinary meeting, and it will save time if you already have accurate records in place.
    • Also, the records may help you recognise a trend in lateness. Individual employees may be late on the same day each week and may not always be aware of the pattern. It could demonstrate an obvious solution, for example, that traffic is worse on Monday and they need to allow more time to travel.
  • Show employees the impact that lateness can have on a business;
    • For example, how this affects Company productivity. Rather than just expressing an opinion on tardiness, emphasise that there are broader consequences to the business and timekeeping issues are disappointing for this reason.
  • Be proactive when dealing with lateness. Leaving it until it becomes a much more significant issue can create additional problems;
    • Arrange to have a meeting with employees that are frequently late to discuss it. Ask if there is a problem outside of work, for example, public transport means they cannot get to work on time where you could discuss starting and finishing later.

It is essential to act on issues within the Company; it is also important to acknowledge where improvements have been made.

Rather than daily addressing timekeeping, perhaps note the improvement in managerial one to one meetings.  

An employee is more likely to maintain behaviour when they feel it has been noticed and appreciated, regardless of it being part of their job.

Making staff aware of the timekeeping policy and any consequences for frequent lateness can be a simple way of preventing the situation from escalating to disciplinary action.

It may also be useful to encourage employees to discuss their timekeeping issues.

There may be a way to accommodate personal circumstances that are causing them to be late and resolve them before they become a bigger on-going issue.

Things to consider when dealing with a Perpetually Late Employee

  • Informal chats to make them aware a change needs to be made to their conduct
  • Refer them to the policy and consequences of lateness (disciplinary action)
  • Ensure that employees are aware of how being late for work impacts the business.
  • Keep records to identify trends or to enable you to determine whether disciplinary action is required.
  • Be pro-active when issues arise.

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