What to Do About Chronically Tardy Employees

4 minutes

More and more, you hear talk about flexibility in the workplace. Workers generally like the idea of more flexible hours and/or the option to work offsite, for better work/life balance. Managers are coming to realize when they allow greater flexibility, the reward is more loyal and engaged employees.

Unfortunately, not every work situation is suitable for flextime or remote work. Medical clinics, schools, assembly lines… there are plenty of examples of workplaces where employee attendance on-site during certain set hours is crucial for getting the job done.

Even in instances where remote work might be possible (say, for a distributed call center) you still might need your employees to be available for work at scheduled times. If a remote call center employee regularly logs in to the system late, you may not have sufficient coverage for your busy times, and other call center employees will have to try to take up the slack.

So, what do you do when one (or more) of your employees is chronically late to work?

Reasons (May) Matter

The first thing to do is to talk to the employee. Find out why they’re late so often. It’s possible the problem could be solved with a relatively minor adjustment or two.

It’s also important to find out if their tardiness is related to situation that might be covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). For instance, if an employee is caring for a sick family member or has a medical condition that causes them to be late, you may need to engage in an interactive discussion with them to see if you can find a reasonable accommodation.

(Note that a “reasonable accommodation” doesn’t exempt the employee from fulfilling the essential requirements of their job. So if being at work on time is truly an essential requirement — as, for example, on an assembly line, where the line can’t start if the employee isn’t present and ready to work — permitting the employee to arrive late isn’t necessarily a reasonable accommodation, and you aren’t obligated to allow it. But together perhaps you can find some other solution that works for both of you!)

Communicate Clearly

If you don’t already have an attendance policy, it’s probably a good idea to create one. Even if you don’t have a problem with tardiness now, you may have one in the future. And having the policy in place up front allows you to set proper expectations with both existing employees and new hires, which could help reduce the chances of future problems.

A policy doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. In fact, the simpler the better — it’s easier for everyone to understand! That said, here are a few things you might want to include:

  • If they know in advance they’re going to be late, what are the approval procedures to follow?
  • If the lateness is unexpected (say, for instance, a car malfunction or getting stuck in a traffic jam), what are the reporting procedures to follow?
  • What are the consequences for not following the approval / reporting process?
  • Are there any limits for how many tardy incidents are allowed in a given time period?
  • If so, what are the consequences for exceeding the “allowable” number of incidents?

Whatever standards and consequences you decide on, make sure they take into account the fact that everyone has “one of those days” occasionally, and that they offer chronically tardy employees the opportunity to improve and (eventually) wipe the slate clean. Even your employees who are never late will likely be turned off by a “zero tolerance” policy.

Be Fair and Evenhanded

One of the most important aspects of any attendance policy is that it needs to be applied fairly and evenhandedly. Nothing will kill employee morale faster than seeing one of their co-workers getting away with murder while others are hauled on the carpet for the same infractions!

(Not to mention, that’s just asking for a discrimination lawsuit, should you discipline someone who’s a member of a “protected group,” while allowing others who are not members of the same protected group to get away with the same behavior.)

So what you don’t want to happen is to discipline only those who are unlucky enough to be caught arriving late — while allowing those who are better at sneaking in get away with slipping in the back entrance and claiming they were there all along, just working in another part of the building.

That’s a piece of cake for sneaky employees if your company doesn’t track time at all.

Sadly, it’s not that much harder for someone to do when you use paper time sheets or spreadsheets to track time. Employees can enter whatever arrival time they want, and unless you actually saw them walk in the door, you have no easy way of proving them wrong. (And who’s got time to stand there by the door all morning taking attendance?)

Even if you use a standard punch clock, it’s relatively easy for an employee to ask another to “buddy punch” for him. All he’s got to do is promise to return the favor when his buddy is running late or wants to sneak out a little early. The employee’s time card may indicate he was at work on time, but that’s just because his co-worker clocked him in.

How to Know When They’re On Time

The best way to ensure employees are where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there, is to use biometrics. Fortunately, Acroprint offers several biometric options — even including a traditional punch clock, for those of you who want a paper time card:

  • ATR360: A unique biometric punch clock. The best of both worlds — a paper time card and the security of biometric verification! No PC connection or computer software needed.
  • Acroprint BioTouch®: Possibly the easiest biometric time tracking ever! Works with familiar Excel spreadsheets, so there’s no new software to learn. Does not require a direct PC connection, so it’s suitable to use in remote locations.
  • timeQplus® Software Suite: Offers three biometric options to meet your needs and budget: finger-scan, hand-scan, and facial recognition. Easy and intuitive software with all the essential features you need to effectively manage employee time and attendance, minimize unplanned overtime, and eliminate costly clerical errors.
  • AcroTime® Workforce Management: A cloud-based suite that helps you manage HR “from hiring to retiring.“ Administrators can access all information centrally, making AcroTime ideal for multi-location facilities. AcroTime supports finger-scan and hand-scan biometric terminals for time tracking.

For more information on our time tracking systems or to make a purchase, visit the Acroprint online store.

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