How to Deal with Employees Who Are Consistently Absent or Late

When it comes to your business, your team is important – and so is their punctuality.

But for most companies, even in organizations that treat their employees well, there’s often a worker who’s chronically late. While some business owners may dismiss this as not a big deal, it can become a far-reaching problem since consistently late employees can impact your bottom line and are a negative influence on other employees. Consider employee lateness more like a virus – which can spread from one tardy employee to their co-workers who feel that one of them is getting preferential treatment while the rest have to pick up the slack.

If left unchecked, consistently late arrivals can quickly escalate into a bigger problem with more serious implications for your work environment –and revenues as well.

If you have a worker who’s showing up late for work on a relatively consistent basis, you’ll want to look for a solution, and create an arrangement with your worker as soon as possible. Here’s a look at what you can do to handle absenteeism in a way that will ensure the best possible outcome for all parties.

Ensure That Your Workers Know What’s Expected of Them

First, it’s important to make sure your team understands exactly what’s required of them. This means that they should have a clear understanding of what time they’re supposed to start their work day, and your approach to instances of lateness. Don’t just assume that your workers should know these things because they read (or claimed to have read) the company policy. If you have a worker or two who are consistently running late, it may be worth running over the rules again with your entire team –without singling anybody out, to ensure that they understand that you expect on-time attendance.

Hold a Private Meeting

If you notice an employee who is consistently late, it may be time to hold a private meeting with them. The purpose of this meeting should be to try to determine, if possible, what is causing them to be consistently late – and to work with the employee to develop a solution. Are the hours they are scheduled to work interfering with their personal life? Is the commute difficult? Is it something involving childcare, or medical issues? Once you know the cause of their lateness, you can develop a solution, with actionable steps that your worker can follow, and that you can track, to help improve their timeliness. Sometimes, if it’s being caused by a particularly personal problem, you won’t be in a position to offer a solution, but you can guide them towards seeking outside help that would be more qualified.

Try to Be Accommodating

Employee turnover can be costly. In fact, it’s estimated that staff member turnover can range from 40–400 percent of an employee’s annual salary. In most cases, you’ll want to work to develop solutions with your worker who is late, rather than taking immediate drastic action and dealing with new employees. If the job doesn’t require a specific start time, you may want to consider flexible hours, which will allow them to choose when they arrive –and leave. Or, consider instituting a policy that allows workers to telecommute one or two days per week. Of course, every business’ needs are different, and required attendance varies considerably depending on the worker’s role, so use discretion when determining whether to allow flexible hours or telecommuting.

Take Disciplinary Action

Finally, if your solution that you agreed upon with your worker doesn’t work –and your employee is still showing up late, then you will have no choice but to take disciplinary action. Your employee handbook should outline the protocol that you should follow for late employees. Some companies use a points system –in which workers accrue points for tardiness, while others use a rolling attendance system where attendance infractions on a six or 12-month period are recorded. After the time period ends, the calculations begin again.

At the end of the day, no matter which system your company follows to track time and deal with attendance infractions – it’s important to be proactive, and ensure that it’s dealt with in a way that’s professional and conducive to a solution. Treat your team fairly by expecting the same attendance requirements from everyone. At the same time, don’t forget that even good employees can have a bad week that throws off their work ethic.

Never let one worker consistently slide – or else you will risk frustrating workers who are always there on time. Instead, work to develop solutions that make it easy for your team to succeed –both in their work, and with their attendance, to motivate your entire team to do their best.

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