Attendance, Scheduling, TimeClock   ·  

How Late is Late? 5 Things You Need to Know About Tardy Employees

Do you have that one employee who is always tardy at work? Read on to learn how to handle and prevent tardiness from occurring in the future.

It’s 9:20, and Joe was supposed to be behind the counter at 8:45.  And this isn’t the first time. Most days he’s at least 15 minutes late.  And it’s been getting worse. He never misses a day of work, but showing up late makes it hard for other employees who have to cover for him.

So now what?

Before you take any action, here are five things you need to know about employee tardiness.


  1. What are the rules? Even small businesses usually have rules about employee attendance, work hours, coming in late, and docked pay. Check your written policies, if you have them. If employee tardiness is covered, reminding Joe about the rules might be all you have to do.If you don’t have written rules, or you need to change the rules you have, make new ones that address late arrivals, so you can avoid problems going forward. Just make sure all employees are notified of the changes in any employee tardiness policies before they go into effect.
  2. What is the common practice? Even if you have rules in place, if many of your employees come in late without consequences, you can’t single out one employee for disciplinary action.  That could open your company up to fines or a lawsuit for discrimination. If “everyone is doing it,” you’ll need to address the issue with the whole staff.
  3. What are the federal, state and local laws? This may seem overwhelming, but many employee absences or late arrivals may be covered by federal, state or local labor laws. Some of the legally-protected leave may include time off for voting, appearing in court, attending a parent-teacher conference, caring for a sick relative or managing an illness.
  4. What’s the impact? In some businesses, set start and stop times are essential to getting the job done. But in others, the quality and/or quantity of work may be more critical. If employees are performing very well with less-than-standard hours, you may want to think twice before talking about tardiness.Enforcing stricter hours could hurt morale and performance. But in many cases, late or absent employees affect your bottom line.Many business owners make the mistake of thinking only unscheduled absences are an issue. Even if you don’t have an employee absence problem, just having employees come in late might be costing your company money in lost sales, poor customer service or low morale.
  5. Do you have good employee attendance records? Even if you don’t want to address the issue of employees coming in late now, do keep records of missed hours in case late employee attendance does start impacting work quality. That way, you’ll be able to document the connection.

Whether it’s the first time or the 15th time, you should be keeping track of employee tardiness from day one. Noting the number of instances, the amount of time and the reason for the late arrival is good business practice.

Tracking employee absences, late arrival and early departure is important to your business. If you ask these five questions, you’ll keep your business on track and employee tardiness under control.  Then you can get back to the business of managing your business.

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