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15 Ways To Deal with Employees Who Are Late for Work

While it may not seem like a critical issue, an employee who is often late for work can cause serious problems for the rest of your team. Chronically late employees can bring down team morale, engagement, and productivity.

Learn how to deal with team members who are repeatedly late for work so their actions don’t affect the rest of your business.

Ways to deal with employees who are late for work

Ways to deal with employees who are late for work

1) Create a company tardiness policy

If an employee starts to arrive late for work on a regular basis, create a company tardiness policy that lays out all the rules and regulations your company has to deal with issues such as:

If you already have a tardiness policy in place, refer the late employees to this document right away so they understand the consequences or what will happen if they’re late again.

2) Talk to the late employee as soon as possible

The very first time an employee arrives late for work, pull them aside and find out what happened.

They may have had car trouble or an emergency medical situation, but it can help you understand the situation better to hear these details straight from the employee.

Take this opportunity to highlight the company tardiness policy so the team member understands what to do if they find themselves running late again and what could happen if they don’t let their manager know.

3) Change their work schedule

In some cases, it may be beneficial to change an employee’s work schedule if they are going to be late for work on a regular basis because of a recurring medical appointment, family health concern, or childcare issue.

For example, you may choose to set their morning start time at 9:30 a.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. to give them time to handle the recurring matter and still arrive at work on time.

To avoid ill will from other team members, it can also be helpful to extend the employee’s end time based on their new start time so they’re working the same eight-hour shift as their coworkers.


4) Start the day with a meeting

early morning meeting to help prevent people coming late for work

A great way to motivate late employees to arrive on time is to start the day with a meeting.

In some business environments, it’s entirely possible for team members to arrive at work and get started without interacting with their coworkers. This lack of accountability can make it easier to show up late for work because the employee may think no one will notice.

But, when you start the day with a team meeting, they may be more motivated to arrive on time because they don’t want to walk in late or miss the meeting completely.

5) Require a phone call if they’re going to be late for work

As part of your company tardiness policy, you may want to include a section that outlines what employees should do when they know they’re going to be late for work.

In this case, you might set a rule that an employee should call to let you know why they won’t be arriving on time.

If you receive too many of these phone calls from a single employee, you may want to talk to them further about changing their habits and about the penalties you may have to levy if they fail to do so.

6) Document all late arrivals and conversations

From the very first instance that an employee arrives late for work, document the details so you can refer to them later if needed.

Even if the tardiness happens for an acceptable reason — inclement winter weather, medical emergency, etc. — you’ll have a record of past behavior should the reasons become unacceptable and you have to establish a pattern.

7) Set goals to help employees improve

An effective way to deal with an employee who is late for work before levying penalties and punishments is to set goals to help them improve.

In some cases, this may be something as simple as leaving the house a few minutes earlier in order to make it to work on time. In other cases, it may be something a bit more complex that has to do with lifestyle choices and making the right ones during the work week.

8) Identify the signs of burnout

Woman who is in burnout

Arriving late for work on a regular basis is often a sign that something else is going on — in their personal life or in their work life. Either way, talk with them and see if you can identify the signs that they may be suffering from burnout.

Armed with that knowledge, you can deal with the root cause of their tardiness instead of treating the symptoms.

9) Discuss tardiness during performance reviews

Another good place to address an employee’s habit of arriving late for work is during the regular performance review.

This is also a great time to set goals, monitor their progress, and discuss what may happen if the late employee doesn’t change their behavior.

10) Reward improvements

Once you’ve talked to a chronically late employee, reminded them about the company tardiness policy, and set goals to help them change their behavior, reward any improvements that the employee exhibits.

This may be something as simple as thanking them for arriving on time (either face-to-face or with a note on their desk) or as elaborate as a rewards program for all team members who exhibit good attendance.

11) Implement a time-tracking system

time tracking system to help prevent people coming late for work

Accountability is very important for motivating team members to arrive at work on time. One surefire way to add a bit of accountability to your workplace is to implement a time-tracking system into your workflow.

With an attendance and clock-in/clock-out process in place, employee tardiness will be more obvious and team members may be more motivated to show up before work commences.

12) Zero tolerance

Some businesses have found success by publishing a zero-tolerance tardiness policy in their employee handbook.

A policy like this means managers will discipline a team member according to business standards if the employee is more than a set number of minutes late for work — even on the first offense.

Zero tolerance can be very effective if it includes a progressive scale of penalties that go into effect if an employee continues to be late for work.

13) Require making up missed time

Another effective way to establish consequences for repeated late arrivals is to have the employee make up the time they missed — either over the course of a few days or all at once.

For example, if an employee was 15 minutes late for work four times during a two-week period, you may choose to have them work 15 minutes past the normal end-of-day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in a single week.

Or, you may choose to have them work a full hour past the normal end-of-day on a single Monday.

14) Establish a point system

Establishing a point system is a great way to handle attendance and tardiness issues in your business.

In this system, late employees accrue points that trigger certain repercussions, such as:

Whatever point system you choose, be sure to publish the details in your employee handbook so that everyone is familiar with the process.

15) Deduct time missed from paid time off

If your business offers a paid time off program, an effective penalty for repeatedly arriving late for work is to deduct the missed time from the pool of time off hours that the employee starts with.

Combat habitual tardiness with Sling

employees at work

In many cases, an employee may have a very good reason for being late for work on a specific day of the week or time of the month. They may have to care for a sick family member or attend a regular doctor’s appointment.

You can combat habitual tardiness by allowing for some flexibility in your team’s work schedule. That’s where scheduling and workforce management software, like Sling, can help.

The Sling app comes with a long list of features that can help you organize and optimize your team’s activities and deal with late employees, including:

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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