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Having an employee arrive late a time or two is not typically a problem, but when it becomes chronic, that employee's tardiness can affect your entire team. If you're dealing with this at your workplace, it's time to nip the problem in the bud. You'll need to take action with current employees, but also consider how you're going to handle tardiness as you move forward.
What Does Your Policy Say?
First, determine whether your workplace has a tardiness and attendance policy. Some businesses don't, and that can lead to miscommunication about expectations. If your business doesn't have a written policy, it's time to make one. According to federal law, your business is allowed to set its own attendance policies. A policy in which employees are fired on the first tardy offense is probably not going to go over well with employees, though some companies do force employees to use personal time hours when they're late. In any case, your policy should probably build in a few flubs. Your policy might allow one or two tardy days before there will be a conversation with the employee, for example. After that, you might issue a written warning or create a corrective action plan, followed by punitive action such as docked pay or termination.
Review the Expectations
When you hire someone or create a policy, review the expectations around tardiness and attendance. Hiring managers say they've had the most success in getting people to work on time when they've reviewed the tardiness policy with each employee. They've also been clear upon hiring that tardiness is not tolerated.
Employ the Policies
With a solid policy in place and with all employees informed of it, it's time for enforcement. Generally, that starts with having a conversation with the employee after the first or second late arrival. Adopt a compassionate attitude as you talk with the employee, and try to find out the cause of the problem. In some cases, you may find out that the employee is having child care conflicts or has other time constraints. If that's the case, discuss with the employee what you might do to solve the problem. You might suggest a later starting time or rearrange the employee's duties to accommodate her, for example.
As you're going through the steps with a tardy employee, be sure to "document, document, document," reminds Tempe, Arizona-based staffing firm PrideStaff. When you have a conversation with an employee or employ your tardiness policy, make a note in the employee's file about the nature of the conversation. This helps you stay in compliance with workplace policies and applicable local, state and federal laws. With that in mind, it's also important to document each instance of employee tardiness in the employee's file.
- Society for Human Resource Management: Attendance Policy #1
- Society for Human Resource Management: "Sorry I'm Late. A Raccoon Stole My Work Shoe...."
- Tandem HR: 8 Best Practices to Managing the Late Employee
- PrideStaff: How to Handle Employee Tardiness
- Evil HR Lady: Zero Tolerance for Tardiness in the Workplace
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.