You may be tempted to think that one late employee won’t significantly impact your business’ bottom line.

After all, as long as they arrive –at a reasonable time, then it’s not really a big deal –right?

Wrong! It may not seem like a major problem, but the implications can be more serious than you might think. Employee tardiness can start to erode at worker morale, encouraging others to show up late as well. Eventually, this lack of respect for rules and guidelines will rub off on the rest of the team, and before long, the business will start to suffer.

According to one study, an average of 590,000 workers arrives late every day. Each late employee loses, on average, 97 minutes per month, which then costs their employers $480 per head each year. The cost to the economy is an estimated $14 billion –no small matter!

While it is important to be understanding with your team –and to recognize that unexpected things can happen –cars break down, traffic causes delays, and illnesses arise –it’s also important to be aware of the importance of regular, on-time attendance. Your business relies heavily upon your employees being punctual –and working to create a work culture that rewards on-time workers can go a long way toward encouraging your employees to arrive on time –more frequently.

With this in mind, here’s a look at a few ways that tardiness can have a detrimental impact your business and its profitability.

Erodes Employee Morale

When one employee shows up late, especially for shift work, the rest of the schedule is thrown off, and other employees are left scrambling to pick up the slack. While on the surface, arriving ten minutes late might not seem like cause for concern; chronic lateness can impact the rest of the team –causing tension and stress. If a worker is consistently late, it sends the message that on time attendance doesn’t matter, encouraging other workers to arrive late themselves. It can also erode employee morale and prove to be a source of conflict among your employees who may feel that others are being given special treatment by being allowed to arrive late.

Disrupts the Workflow

A tardy employee can cause great disruption among your employees who have already begun to work. When an employee arrives late, the rest of the team may get distracted, and find it difficult to stay on task until the new arrival gets settled. You might also have disruptions as the manager attempts to help the employee catch up and fill them in on what they have missed. These disruptions can be time-consuming and costly.

Sets a Poor Example

Lateness is a poor example of how you run your business and ultimately, a poor reflection on your company. Allowing employees to arrive late or putting up with their tardiness can give off the impression that you are disorganized and unprofessional –this is especially the case if you are in the service industry, and the late employee has kept a customer waiting.

Can Encourage Time Theft

When employees are late, the other workers may feel tempted to cover for them. It’s estimated that the average employee steals 4 hours and 5 minutes every week, according to the American Payroll Association –something that the APA estimates can cost companies up to 7 percent of their gross annual payroll. Often, time theft comes in the form of covering for another worker who is late, or on an extended break.

While it may not be immediately obvious, there is a cost value associated with late employees –something that can add up considerably over time. An employee who is 15 minutes late just once, might not represent a significant loss; but if left unchecked, this behavior can add up significantly over time.

If you have a chronically late employee, or notice that your team isn’t showing up on time any more, it’s important to take steps to address this behavior as soon as possible. Take the time to discuss the issue privately with your employee, and try to identify the cause of their lateness with them. You can then work together to create a solution, complete with actionable steps, to improve their on-time attendance.