“Sorry mate, got a quick appointment to get to – I’ll be in later.”

“Massive night gaming, bit too tired for work, will be in tomorrow – lol!”

These are actual text messages some of my clients are receiving on a weekly, if not, daily basis! Some of their employees think it’s okay to be continuously late, and that their mates, and their boss, will be fine to deal with it all.

Yet for many of my clients and their teams, they are not. In fact, they’re over it. Recently I have had many clients calling who are quite simply over this form of absenteeism and want to do something about it.

Yet for others, they keep sweeping it under the carpet, hoping it’ll sort itself out.

When an employee is late for work, there may be a valid reason. However, if the behaviour continues then it is the managers responsibility to discuss the issue and find a solution to the repeated lateness.
Let’s look at why dealing with lateness is important, and then explore how to fix it.

Facing lateness/tardiness:

So why is it important to front up about punctuality?

1. Decline in Team Spirit: Being late is not just a productivity issue – it can be an emotional one as well. Your on-time employees can start to feel resentful as they have made the effort to get to work on time, and this resentment can quickly kill your team spirit and cause rifts in relationships.

Recently a client called me to say his lads had had enough of their team mate always using his childcare arrangements as a reason for being late, as they were often having to wait for him since they were travelling in one van. The other morning the team decided enough was enough and left without him.

The manager should have dealt with this before then, and if he failed to address the employee, then he ran the risk of others following the trend – sending a message that punctuality is optional.

2. Productivity goes downhill: When employees are late, tasks get delayed, deadlines move out and then become critical and work suffers.

This stalls momentum and can put more pressure on an already stretched team. Last year, one local business owner had an employee who kept spending way too long on their break time, often found hiding in the van on their phone. This leads me to the next point …

3. Customer Perception: We are in a time when impressions really matter as competition for work increases. Absenteeism damages your company’s reputation. One client has had to offer a significant discount to his customer in order to keep the job since one of his key employees failed to show for a meeting with the customer and a sub-contractor. To make matters worse this was not the first time, and when asked why he was late he said “I have no excuse”. My client said to me it was a real life WTF moment!

Getting on top of Punctuality:

So how do we get on top of punctuality, check out these steps:

1. Keep your cool: If an employee is late again it might be tempting to fire off a text message “get your lazy arse in here now” but a cool head is required.

2. Seek to understand why: Your employee might have a valid reason, or it could be one that is embarrassing for them. One employee shared had a health issue he had, another that he was currently the primary caregiver for his father.
In these situations, an understanding approach is required, allowing them some flexibility for a while.

3. Consult your policies: Check procedures and your employee handbook regarding attendance and punctuality, and clearly communicate expectations to the team through toolbox talks and meetings.
If the situation requires a more formal approach, then we can do an invite to an attendance meeting, where the company reinforces contractual obligations and establishes an attendance management plan

4. Be consistent: Ensure that you follow the same steps for all employees who repeatedly turn up late. I had one case where the boss turned a blind eye to his star employee who would frequently rock up to site 15 minutes late but came down hard on someone else who did the same.

5. Get on to it early: Try to avoid a pattern emerging. When we see a pattern and checking company procedures and policies has not worked, then it’s time to move to a disciplinary process, as employees have an obligation to turn up on time and adhere to their employment contract.

6. Lead by example – your supervisors, team leaders and managers should model punctuality and reinforce its importance through their actions. Staff notice all this, even if you think they aren’t paying attention, take it from me, they are, as I hear about it.

Final note

Whether through clear communication or disciplinary action, prioritising punctuality sends a powerful message that time matters.

Whatever action you decide in managing punctuality, always make sure that it is fair and consistent across your workforce. At Tradie HR we are experienced at handling these (and other tricky HR issues) so please don’t hesitate to call in confidence.

This article is not intended to be a replacement for legal advice.