Late for Work

From time to time, some of your employees will be late to work.

Whether they are delayed in traffic, their car has broken down, or have slept through their alarm–being late is part of life.

But lateness can become costly to your business and affect its productivity. If an employee is continuously late, you may need to take disciplinary actions–to protect your work practices and your workforce’s efficiency.

In this guide, we’ll explain why employees are late for work, how to avoid being late, and what you should do if lateness persists.

How to Address Lateness in the Workplace?

As an employer, you should expect your staff to be late maybe once or twice.

However, when an employee is late to work every day, you need to address the situation, or it’ll could get worse.

Other employees might think lateness is acceptable if the situation is not dealt with.

Talk to your employee and see if there are underlying problems which is causing them to be late. Communication is the best form of action in this case.

If your employee gives you reasons to be late for work, you need to state that it’s unacceptable and remind them of your lateness policy.

What are Valid Excuses to Be Late to Work?

Although employees are encouraged to arrive on time for work.

There are a few valid reasons for lateness that may be out of the employee’s control, such as:

  • Traffic.
  • Weather conditions.
  • Medical appointments (e.g., doctor or dentist).
  • A sick child or dependant individual.
  • Family emergencies.
  • Sickness.
  • Waiting for home repairs.

Whilst these class as valid reasons for being late, employees should still let you know at the earliest convenience.

Any other reasons for being late may be invalid and your employee should be told they’re unacceptable.

How many minutes can you be late for work?

In many companies, there is a grace period for being late. The length for this is entirely up to you, and what your policy states.

A typical grace period is five to seven minutes, but employees should still report their lateness.

If an employee is five to seven minutes late every day, you may need to speak with them to understand why.

How to Avoid Being Late for Work

As an employer, you should do everything you can to prevent your workforce being late.

In order to avoid being late for work, there are a few things for you to consider:

  • Find out why employees are late: If your employee is late because of their commute or illness, you should address it and avoid it happening in the future.
  • Plan a schedule: State that there is an appropriate grace period for employees to late.
  • Understand your employee’s mental health: Factors such as a lack of sleep or stress could be affecting their ability to arrive at work on time.

For employers to help their staff, they should also consider some ideas to help them arrive on time. To avoid being late, employers could:

  • Allow flexible work hours.
  • Give penalties for repeated lateness.
  • Using our lateness tracker.
  • Give incentives to those who arrive early- e.g., free breakfast.

What Are the Penalties for Being Late to Work?

As an employer, you should make it clear to your employees that lateness is a disciplinary offence.

If you can’t resolve the problem with your employee, you should then follow a disciplinary procedure. This can be done by holding meetings, issuing warnings and finally, dismissing the employee.

Disciplinary action can depend on the reasons for the lateness, and how many times it happened.

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, you can dismiss a member of staff for poor conduct and failure to meet the requirements of their contract.

However, you can only do this if this is stated in an employee’s contract, and it’s agreed to.

But if an employee has worked for you for more than two years, they may claim an unfair dismissal.

Make sure you adhere to your lateness policy and follow the correct procedure. This could be done by implementing a lateness policy into your workplace.

What should a lateness policy include?

To manage lateness in the workplace, you should refer to your lateness policy.

In your lateness policy, you should include information such as:

  • Reminding employees that they are expected to arrive at a sufficient time to start working.
  • Present how employees should report their lateness.
  • State what action will be taken if employees are consistently late. For example, this could be a disciplinary procedure.

Get Expert Advice on Lateness with BrightHR

Whether an employee is struggling with their commute or with an emergency, lateness should be dealt with in the correct manner.

If an employee is mistreated or even dismissed, they could make claim for unfair dismissal.

BrightHR can alleviate any stress you may have about lateness. If you need any assistance to create a lateness policy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts.

Book in a free demo today to see how easy it is. Give us a call on 0800 783 2806

Have a question?

Ask away, we’ve got lightning fast answers for UK business owners and employers powered by qualified experts.


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