What To Do When Employees Are Late To Work

Employees who are repeatedly late to work can cause serious problems for your project, your team, and your business as a whole.

Don’t let one person’s tardiness bring everyone else down.

Learn what to do when employees are late to work and how you can keep it from affecting the rest of your team.

Late To Work: Legal Protection

man running late to work

Employees will give any number of reasons for being late to work.

Some of them will be reasonable — e.g., traffic or weather issues — while others will be completely unreasonable — e.g., thinking it was still the weekend or having to wait for a late pizza delivery.

But there are three reasons for being late to work that are acceptable according to the laws of the United States federal government.

Those reasons are:

  • Family illness
  • Death in the family
  • Some other extreme emergency

Sometimes, an employee’s reason for being late will fall nicely into one of these three categories. Sometimes, their reason won’t. You have to decide.

For example, one employee may say:

  • They had to take their elderly mother to the hospital to deal with a case of pneumonia
  • Their grandmother died unexpectedly
  • Their house caught fire last night

These reasons clearly fall into the three protected categories and, unless they happen on a regular basis, do not necessitate that you implement disciplinary action.

On the other hand, another employee may say:

  • Their partner has a mild case of the sniffles
  • They just found out that their second cousin once removed whom they haven’t seen in thirty years passed away
  • They’re having their garage remodeled

As family illness, death in the family, and extreme emergencies go, these reasons for being late don’t seem as strong as the others. You’ll have to decide whether to accept them or not.

If you do accept them as valid, you won’t need to do anything else (unless the employee starts using those reasons often). If you don’t accept them as valid, you’ll need to know what to do next.

What To Do When Employees Are Late To Work

1) Address The Situation Immediately

One instance of showing up late to work in six months isn’t necessarily something to be concerned about. Document the late arrival and move on.

But, if you start to notice a pattern — e.g., being tardy once or twice a week — address the situation immediately.

The sooner you can broach the subject of their tardiness, the sooner you’ll be able to show them that being late to work is unacceptable.

2) Clarify Your Expectations

When you sit down with an employee who’s repeatedly late to work, make a point to clarify your expectations about proper behavior in your business and how tardiness affects their teammates.

State the facts — the employee has been late these dates and times recently — and then explain in clear language what they need to change, what you expect from them going forward, and the consequences if they fail to heed your warning.

3) Refer To The Company Tardiness Policy

Employee getting written up for being late to work

One of the best ways to start the conversation about being late to work is to refer to the company tardiness policy.

This section in your employee handbook should contain all of the rules and regulations for behaviors like:

  • Tardiness
  • Excused and unexcused absences
  • No-call, no-shows
  • Job abandonment

This section also lists how your business will handle absenteeism and tardiness, both for the first offense and for any repeated offenses thereafter.

4) Respect Their Privacy

As you talk to the employee about being late to work, do your best to respect their privacy.

You don’t necessarily need their reasons for being repeatedly late — just the fact that it’s happening is enough — so don’t feel like you have to delve into their personal life or interrogate them to get an explanation.

You can, of course, invite them to share, but then let them choose how much detail to provide.

5) Set Goals

Once you’ve clarified your expectations and reviewed the company policy with them, take some time to set goals with the employee to help them avoid being late to work in the future.

For example, if the employee regularly works late to get things done, oversleeps, and is tardy several times a week, you might:

  • Analyze and revise their work habits so they don’t have to stay after hours
  • Suggest personal goals they can use to get more rest (e.g., earlier to bed, better sleeping conditions, etc.)
  • Review their workload and reduce the number of responsibilities they have for a few weeks

Don’t overwhelm the employee with things to work on, but find at least one or two goals they can set to improve their ability to be at work on time.

6) Implement A Time-Tracking System

A Time-Tracking System

Implementing a time-tracking system can help everyone on your team avoid being late for work.

And that system doesn’t just have to be clocking in at the beginning of the day and out at the end of the day. You can also include tracking individual time on task to better reveal their productivity throughout the day.

7) Check In Regularly

After you’ve met with the employee and come up with ways to prevent them from being late to work, check in on a regular basis to see how things are going.

This support will help them maintain their forward progress and prevent them from sliding back into old habits.

If they’re having issues with the goals, don’t be afraid to revise your expectations so that the employee has a higher chance of success.

8) Commend The Employee When They Improve

When the employee who’s been repeatedly late to work improves their behavior, don’t be afraid to commend them and acknowledge their effort.

Many managers feel that doing so somehow gives the employee permission to fall back into old behavior.

But, if you make it a point to encourage them to keep up the good work — perhaps even giving them another long-term goal to work on — they’ll stay focused on what they have to do to keep improving.

9) Document All Events And Conversations

Even if it’s the first time an employee is late to work, it’s a good idea to document this event so you can identify if, and where, a pattern starts.

It’s also a good idea to write down notes about any conversations you may have about their tardiness so you don’t have to rely on memory should the issue come up again.

10) Start The Day With A Meeting

Meeting to discuss employees being late to work

A great way to motivate your team to arrive on time is to start the day with a meeting. When your employees know that their absence from the meeting will stand out like a sore thumb, they’ll be more inclined to make every effort to be on time.

If it doesn’t benefit your workflow to schedule a meeting every morning, consider holding them at the start and end of the week (i.e., Monday and Friday) when team members are more likely to arrive late.

11) Consider Punctuality During Mid-Year Reviews

Mid-year reviews are an excellent time to consider the subject of punctuality and how it relates to an employee’s job performance.

Team members are often more susceptible to feedback during these formal conversations and that gives everything you say a bit more weight and seriousness.

Even if an employee hasn’t had an issue with being late to work, mention that you’ve noticed this fact, that you appreciate their efforts, and that you hope this habit will continue.

12) Change Their Work Schedule

Wall clock

If, for some reason, an employee can’t seem to remedy being late to work, consider changing their work schedule slightly.

Move their start time to later in the morning (even just 15, 30, or 45 minutes) and then extend their workday that same amount so that they put in a full eight hours.

13) Reward Improvements

Commendation is one way to reinforce good behavior, but you can also reward any improvements to strengthen the habits further.

You might implement a business-wide policy that when every employee goes six months without being late, or the team has no absences for the same period of time, you’ll bring in lunch for all to enjoy.

Rewarding behavior in this way is a strong motivator to get people to change for the better.

Keep Your Team On Track

Keep Your Team On Track with inch

One of the best ways to prevent one employee being late to work from affecting your team is to keep everyone on track with the right task management software.

Inch is that software.

Regardless of where your team works — be they in-office, distributed, remote, or in the field — our app provides flexibility and versatility through cloud-based access and operation.

What that means for you and your team is that Inch is available anywhere, anytime, and on any device your team might use.

And employee task management is just the start of what Inch has to offer.

You also get robust features, such as:

All of this together in one integrated suite of tools makes Inch the 21st-century solution to all your employee optimization and workforce management needs.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.

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