Employee Tardiness: Tips To Handle It In The Workplace

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As a business owner or manager in a large organisation, you may frequently have to deal with tardy workers. You must know how to handle late employees if you want to maintain effective time management and prevent unproductive behaviour in the workplace. Establish guidelines on how to address and improve time management skills to reduce tardiness at work

However, you must be cautious and sensible in deciding how to manage employees who are late for work. It is only on purpose occasionally, and there may be undiscovered reasons for chronic tardiness. In this article, we will be discussing what employee tardiness is, how to address tardiness at work, the effects of tardiness at the workplace, and the reasons for employee tardiness.

What Exactly Is Employee Tardiness?

When an employee is late for their scheduled shift, this is referred to as employee tardiness. Being late does not disrupt business and is readily overlooked in several work industries. In some areas, such as healthcare or manufacturing, being late might hurt others’ livelihoods or cause work production to be delayed for everyone. As an employer, learn how to address tardiness effectively by implementing a structured attendance policy at work. 

How to Address Tardiness at Work

When employees consistently fail to arrive on time, it is critical to identify and solve the issue to prevent building a culture that disregards professional standards. While occasional tardiness is common for most employees, frequent tardiness is detrimental to the work environment and an employee’s effectiveness while on the job.

Here are some suggestions on how to address tardiness at work:

#1. Address the Matter as Soon as Possible

If you observe a trend of tardiness, don’t hesitate to contact the employee. The sooner you start a conversation about the matter, the more you can demonstrate how this type of behaviour is undesirable at work and encourage the employee to stop doing it.

#2. Make It Clear What You Anticipate

When speaking with a chronically late employee, express clearly what behaviours they must modify and what you expect to see in the future. Use language that clearly expresses what being on time means to you and your firm. Present the facts that support your case at your meeting, citing dates and times. Avoid using ambiguous or subjective terminology that could lead to misconceptions.

#3. Refer to a Tardiness Policy

Use the corporate handbook or policy to establish ground rules for punctuality, such as when the workday begins and how many (if any) times an employee can be late before it becomes an actionable offence. If the tardiness continues, provide specific information about the disciplinary procedures that will be taken. It’s also a good idea to send this information to the employee in an email or other document stating that you’ve discussed the issue and the repercussions. Make sure to include any disciplinary actions in the document.

#4. Make Room for Privacy

Although you must acknowledge that the employee has a chronic tardiness problem, they are not required to explain why. When you meet with the employee privately, you can invite them to contribute but allow them to decide how much information they share. Allow yourself to be open to what they say—or don’t say. This is a method to preserve their privacy while still taking the necessary steps to prevent them from arriving late for work.

#5. Set Objectives Together

After you’ve finished talking about the tardiness, including your expectations and future penalties, allow the employee to set self-improvement goals. For example, if late arrivals cannot be avoided, they may advise a shorter lunch break to compensate. Provide feedback on these objectives and ideas to help them meet and exceed their aspirations.

#6. Check-in Regularly

Regular accountability and encouragement might assist in motivating an employee to overcome their tardy behaviour. Following up on your goals and demonstrating your concern for their advancement may be the best strategy to prevent further accidents. Encourage and support them while emphasising the importance of punctuality and their progress towards that objective.

#7. Recognise and Reward Better Behaviour

If you detect an improvement, acknowledge it to the employee. Because the staff member may not want to reveal their previous tardiness, it’s preferable to do this privately to avoid bringing attention to the cause of improvement. Try to commend the employee as soon as you notice the change, even if it is the next day at work.

#8. Record Discussions and Exchanges

It’s a good idea to keep a record of all conversations with staff members regarding tardiness issues. This eliminates the possibility of misunderstandings. A complete summary of your interaction, rather than depending on memory, maintains the information organised and truthful. Document the measures you took to identify and rectify the problem, as well as the positive changes you observed in the employee’s behaviour following the occurrence. This documentation can be added to the employee’s HR file.

#9. Create a Clock-in System

If tardiness continues to be an issue for a certain employee or others, it may be a good idea to implement a clock-in system for all employees. Digital applications and software can make this easier to use and track for all parties. A clock-in system can also be used to address chronic lateness.

#10. Set up Meetings to Begin the Day

Meetings that begin just when the workday begins can help drive employees to arrive on time. This can also set the tone for the rest of the workday. If you are unable to do this every day of the week, selecting a Monday or Friday morning can be beneficial in avoiding tardiness.

#11. Incorporate Punctuality Into a Performance Evaluation

Consider including punctuality as one of the issues evaluated in a performance review for employees who have difficulty coming to work on time. This strategy works well for quarterly reviews because this type of issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

#12. Consider a Flexible Work Schedule

Consider this option for regular late employees if corporate policy allows for flexible work times. Allow them to arrive 15 minutes later and then work 15 minutes later, for example. This may resolve a persistent issue that makes their rapid arrival problematic. It can also foster mutual respect and understanding while ensuring that work is completed on time. If you give a flexible schedule to one employee, you should be prepared to offer it to all.

Effects of Employee Tardiness 

Not placing guidelines on how to improve tardiness at work for your employees has effects not only on them but also on your business. What is the issue with employee tardiness? There are various issues with tardiness and they include

#1. Reduces Employee Morale

When an individual is regularly late, it can hurt workplace morale. It may cause other employees to wait, or it may simply be annoying that the person is late. If other employees do not see their coworkers being held accountable, it creates tension among employees and raises concerns among employers.

#2. Bad Habits Are Created

There is little motivation for the employee to rectify the problem if frequent tardiness is not addressed. The longer tardiness goes unpunished, the more likely the employee will continue to be late; they may even stop attempting to be on time. If the company does not consider it a problem, a more flexible timetable should be adopted.

#3. Reduces or Interrupts Production

Employee punctuality is critical in industries such as healthcare or those that demand staff to work on a production line. There are rarely substitutes available, and being late can have a ripple effect throughout the workplace. If an employee fails to show up for their planned shift in a hospital, it might be as critical as life and death. If an employee fails to show up for work on the production line, it may cause other employees’ work to be delayed.

#4. Monetary Loss

According to studies, an employee who is 10 minutes late every day for a year is the same as taking a week’s paid vacation. Of course, this is dependent on whether the employee is hourly or exempt, as the hourly employee would be unpaid. In any situation, wasted time leads the company to lose money and production time, at the very least.

5 Reasons for Employees’ Tardiness

Foster a culture of accountability by teaching employees how to improve their tardiness at work. Employees may make various, even absurd, explanations for failing to be at work on time. However, we’d like to focus on the five most common causes of chronic tardiness that every manager should be aware of.

#1. A Lack of Motivation

One of the primary reasons why some of your employees are late for work is that they are no longer motivated to perform their duties. These personnel may be demotivated for one of four reasons: they see no personal value in their work, they are overwhelmed by a difficult task or their entire burden, they suffer from bad emotions (anxiety, stress, sadness), or they are unable to recognise the true cause.

#2. Unhappiness With One’s Job

This is one of the most likely next stages after untreated low motivation. When a person loses interest in their job, they no longer worry about the consequences of appearing late, and they are likely looking for a new job. It is not the easiest problem to solve, so look for early symptoms of deteriorating motivation and performance and analyse them as soon as feasible.

#3. Fatigue and Exhaustion

Employees who have a poor work-life or work-rest balance tend to become fatigued and lose concentration and focus. Employees who drag themselves into the office, look fatigued day after day, and sit half asleep in meetings have severely low batteries. If you don’t approach the employee about their illness right away, it could lead to a long period of sick leave.

#4. Burnout, Sadness, or Stress

Uncertain job expectations, a toxic workplace atmosphere, a work-life imbalance, and personal concerns can all contribute to job stress and burnout. Learn to recognise the symptoms of burnout and depression, and have a talk with an employee as soon as you notice them struggling with mental health before it becomes serious.

#5. Personal Matters

When life outside of work becomes too much for employees, they develop the habit of arriving late for work. They may feel chaotic and out of control, making it difficult to show up at work and complete their fair amount of work. This could be the situation if you’ve been noticing a frustrated and agitated employee who has recently started being late for work.

What Disciplinary Actions Can You Take Against Late Employees?

Disciplinary action for late employees can vary depending on the company’s policies and processes. Here are some typical steps that may be taken:

  • Verbal Warning: The initial step may be to issue a verbal warning to the employee, reminding them of the company’s expectations and the impact their tardiness has on the organisation.
  • If the employee continues to be late, he or she may be handed a written warning. This paper should include information concerning the employee’s tardiness, the penalties for continuing to be late, and a timetable for change.
  • Suspension: If the employee’s tardiness continues, he or she may be suspended. This could be for a short amount of time, such as one or two days, or it could be for a long period, depending on the severity of the problem.
  • Termination may be the sole option if the employee’s tardiness persists despite earlier disciplinary actions. This should only be used as a final resort after all other options have been exhausted.

It is critical to emphasise that any disciplinary action must be carried out following the company’s policies and processes, and all employees must be treated fairly and consistently. Furthermore, rather than punishing the employee, the emphasis should always be on changing the behaviour and increasing performance. Invest in workshops that focus on how to address tardiness and improve a more punctual workforce at work.

What Should Employees Do If They Are Going to Be Late?

It is your obligation as a manager or leader to communicate to employees what you expect of them. This includes making it clear what they should do if they are going to be late for work. Here are some ideas to communicate with employees about being late for work:

  • Communication: If an employee is going to be late for work, make them call or text their supervisor. The person in charge will know not to be concerned and can go on with the workday.
  • Estimation: When an employee notifies their manager that they will be late, ask them to provide an estimated time of arrival. This implies that the individual intends to return to work as soon as possible.
  • Make a plan: Inform an employee that if they are going to be late one day, they must nonetheless complete their work on time. This may necessitate that they plan to arrive at work on time or early the following day, make transit arrangements, or alter their routine.

How Do You Justify Being Fired Because of Tardiness?

If you were fired because you did not complete your work on time, tell the interviewer about the time management skills you learned and how your issues are now behind you. Explaining how you overcame previous conflicts can make a hiring manager feel good about you as a candidate.

What Is a Letter of Termination Owing to Excessive Tardiness?

This letter is to advise you that your services at [COMPANY] are no longer required, effective immediately. We’ve witnessed a significant drop in performance during the last three months. We have decided to formally terminate your job due to excessive tardiness and failure to fulfil performance goals.

Who Can Deny the Importance of Punctuality?

Punctuality is a necessary habit in all civilised societies’ public affairs. Nothing would ever come to a finish without it; everything would be in a state of turmoil. It is only in a thinly populated rural community that it is possible to ignore it.

How Much Time Is It Acceptable to Be Late for Work?

The length is entirely up to you and what your policy specifies. Although a common grace period is five to seven minutes, employees should nonetheless acknowledge their lateness. If an employee is consistently five to seven minutes late, you may need to chat with them to figure out why.

What Is a Symptom of Chronic Tardiness?

Inattentiveness, impulsivity, and “time blindness” can all lead to tardiness. Understanding the causes of chronic lateness will help you improve your punctuality. You may have to work a little more to be on time if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


It is never easy to deal with consistently late staff. However, knowing how to handle late personnel is critical for maintaining a pleasant work culture and avoiding a negative impact on the bottom line. You must implement the advice provided in this guide. If a worker fails to modify their behaviour, you must take consistent disciplinary action. Train employees on how to improve their time management skills to reduce tardiness at work.


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