Paymaster Magazine

Late For Work (Part One)

General Comments

When is an employee regarded as being late for work? That would depend on your contract of service or in some instances the agreement between the employer and Union or Bargaining Council. But that doesn’t actually answer the question. If a contract of employment or agreement, which ever the case, determines that an employee is to start work at 08h00 in the morning then there is still a few questions that is unanswered.



Some business owners are of the opinion that if an employee is to start work at 08h00 and the employee arrives at work at 08h05 he is being regarded as being on time. The said employee then still has to get dressed or eat breakfast and would therefore start work at 08h20 instead of 08h00. When doing the calculation for hours lost you will see that the amount of money lost could be quite substantial and it is therefore important that all expenses are either caped or avoided.


What time is being regarded as being late?

One second pass 08h00 is being regarded as being late. An employee is to ensure that he starts to work at exactly 08h00. Some employers who employ administration staff will allow there staff to eat breakfast at their desks. However if you do not ensure that your employees start to work at 08h00 then consistency in the workplace might disappear which may cause unhappy staff with low productivity.



Usually if a certain employee is consistently “late” for work then management must ensure that they apply the late-coming-rule consistently and fairly. It would not be regarded as good practice if one employee is subject to disciplinary steps for reporting 5 minutes late while another employee who also reports 5 minutes late is not subject to the same disciplinary action. Therefore apply the rule for the reason that it was designed for and that is all employees have to start work at 08h00. Obviously in certain cercumstances employees will have good enough reason for being late but that should rather be the exception than the rule.


Managing the situation

When an employee reports late for duty enquire what the reason is for him being late and if the excuse that the employee presents for being late is not acceptable speak to the employee to ascertain what the problem area is and how it can be avoided in the future. By speaking to the employee you let him know that you are aware of the situation and that you require him to take action to rectify the matter. The afore-mentioned will put him in a position where he feels he is in control of his personal situation and that if he changes his behaviour it would be regarded by the company as doing the right thing. This creates a positive atmosphere in the work place.


However if the employee in question continues his behaviour by being late the first disciplinary step appears on the horizon in the form of a verbal warning. This warning plays a critical part in the process as this is the first step that the employer takes control of the situation and not the employee due to the fact the employee already had an opportunity to rectify the matter. The second important thing about this step is that the employer has to instruct the employee to be on time for work through the verbal warning. If the employee in any way contravenes the warning that the third step would not be that of another warning for being late for work but that it would be regarded as insubordination as the employee would have ignored a formal instruction by coming late. This method is a bit different to the traditional way of dealing with late comers as it changes the issue from late coming to that of insubordination by way of action. The reason for this is that insubordination is a far more serious transgression than merely reporting late for duty and would therefor put the employer in a position of firing an employee without any side issues as would be in the case of reporting late for duty.


Next week we will look at personal issues in late for work (part 2) and how to deal with them in such a way that is humane and at the same time that makes business sense.

Adrian Baillie-Stewart

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