7 Steps to Get Your Habitually Late Staff to Work on Time

Tardy timekeeping costs your business money. It causes friction amongst staff and drives managers up the wall. Now we all realise there can often be a good reason for lateness.

Traffic accidents happen, children get ill and unexpected problems arise. We lose keys, or the alarm doesn’t go off. We’ve all been there. But when excuses start to mount, and when several warnings fall on deaf ears, what exactly do you do about it?

Running employee late for work

We’ve put together an easy 7-step guide to help you get your habitually late staff to work on time.

1. Identifying late behaviour

When you are running a business it’s sometimes hard to keep your eye on absolutely everything that is going on. You either rely on dedicated managers to be your eyes and your ears or if you are lucky enough to have shift planning software, you’ll have greater awareness of who is supposed to be in at what times. With a centralised rota system it’s much easier for you to keep tabs on patterns of late behaviour.

Identifying the problem is the first important step in managing persistent lateness.

2. Respect privacy

There’s usually a reason why someone is persistently late. Try not to embarrass your employee by asking in front of the team why they keep arriving late.

3. Take your employee out for lunch (or a coffee)

When casual comments don’t appear to be having any impact on persistent lateness, it’s time to take your employee to one side and investigate. At this stage, it’s best not to make the whole thing too formal. Taking your employee out for a coffee away from the office may get you a better result. Start by asking your employee how things are going, rather than jumping in with questions about specific timekeeping issues.

Take a personal approach and you’ll often find you uncover a more truthful reason for problems with timekeeping. It may be your employee is experiencing problems at home with a family member, looking after someone who is ill, or is having difficulty sleeping.

4. Set some rules

If the goal posts are too lax, there are always going to be those who take advantage. Be clear on the time people need to be in the office to start work. Also, make sure staff know if they have to arrive earlier to prepare for the day. If staff arrive exactly on time, but then proceed to hang coats, make coffee, do the morning rounds for a chat and don’t actually start work until 30-40 minutes later, you’ll need to clarify exactly what is acceptable.

This is where HR software works really well. It offers the opportunity to share company procedures easily with company rules plain for all to see.

Late employees policy and procedures

5. Create a formal late procedure

Don’t be afraid to discipline staff who are habitually late. The longer you put off dealing with a timekeeping problem, the harder it will be to resolve. Some people just need a gentle reminder, and once they are familiar with the timekeeping rules and what is expected of them they will actually change their ways.

When verbal warnings and reminders don’t work you need to have a clearly defined, formal late procedure, and you’ll need to track and record arrival times. If it means a written warning then so be it. A written warning is sometimes what is needed to get attention and force tardy timekeepers to shape up. In most cases you’ll find a written warning stops the problem in its tracks.

If that doesn’t work, then you’ll need to follow your further disciplinary procedures carefully. It could be worth taking advice from a regulatory body like ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). But, when all else fails, persistent lateness is a justifiable grounds for dismissal.

6. Develop an action plan

In most cases, uncover the problem, and you’ll be able to agree to a temporary workable solution. If you uncover a genuine reason for persistent lateness, maybe your employee can temporarily work reduced hours, or start later and finish later.

Or if there’s no genuine reason for lateness, go through the reasons why it’s important your employee arrives on time and how it impacts the team. Lay out the rules for what will happen if the persistent late behaviour continues. Make sure your employee understands what will happen if they continue to arrive late for work.

7. Reward improvement

You can reinforce a change in behaviour through praise. Let your staff know you appreciate their efforts to get to work on time. Kind words often go a long way.