Excuses, excuses… Managing lateness effectively

Wednesday May 8, 2024

If an employee was to show up for work an hour late this month, claiming the alarm on their iPhone hadn’t worked you may be sceptical. That is until you picked up a newspaper and saw that the trillion-dollar company was working on a fix for a global glitch!

It got us thinking about excuses, and while a childcare issue, or transport delay will be a certainty from time to time, there are plenty of more unusual excuses that you may have to weigh up when managing a workforce.

A quick web search found these beauties from America:

  • “My pet didn’t wake me up.”
  • “I got lost in a fog.”
  • “I had to get a squirrel out of my car.”
  • “A bear attacked my car.”
  • “I was chasing a burglar.”
  • “My pet snake escaped into the garden.”

Of course, if any such outlandish excuse is genuine, then you will probably be able to chalk it down as one of those things. However, whether it be to maintain customer service, ensure important meetings are held on schedule or keep production lines at full capacity, you will generally expect excellent punctuality from your team.

Here is a checklist of good practices for minimising lateness in your business.


Cover it in your company handbook

As soon as you start employing people it is good practice to have a company handbook. This will include all your policies which inform staff of how to behave and what the consequences are if they are in breach of them. We’d advise being clear about start and finishing times and linking poor timekeeping to your disciplinary policy. As flexible working becomes more prevalent, think how this will be included in your policies, if necessary.


Keep a record

As with absence, ensure you keep a record of when people are late. This will allow you to spot patterns where you must escalate matters and have the evidence to enforce your policies with authority. Even the very act of keeping records may discourage tardiness, as it shows your team you are serious about this issue.


Be consistent

As with most matters of HR, treat everyone equally to maintain a good culture and avoid any notion of favouritism. For example, you may be minded to give everyone a pass on their first incident to show goodwill. Always find out the reason why someone is late, and use your judgement to decide whether the excuse is genuine and acceptable.


Line manager training

If your team is larger and you rely on line managers, ensure they understand your company policies and how they should enforce them with their team. Giving them training on this will help them act consistently across your company and ensure that matters of lateness are dealt with efficiently, so disruption is minimised.


Include punctuality in your performance reviews

Don’t forget to address punctuality in your one-on-one performance reviews. Not only will this help manage those who do have a record of tardiness, but it is also an opportunity to recognise the good time-keeping of those who are punctual. Some employers may even choose to incentivise exceptional attendance and punctuality.


Have an issue with lateness?

All of the above are each important components in managing punctuality, and together they will help you build a positive culture in this area. If you need further help though, or assistance in one particular approach, please get in touch with the experts in your local HR Dept office.

Preventing People Problems

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