Employers expect employees to
arrive at work on time and are sure to agree with William Shakespeare when he
wrote ‘better three hours too soon than a
minute late’. Employers do, however, understand the occasional lateness of
employees for genuine reasons such as traffic, train delays or family issues.
Whilst once or twice is
acceptable, being persistently late without good reason should not be
tolerated. The Employment Tribunal has examined this issue in a recent case.
This case involved a long serving employee who was dismissed for persistent
lateness following an accumulation of warnings.
The employee was advised that
his timekeeping would be monitored and that disciplinary proceedings would be
carried out if there was no improvement. Following a series of warnings and
discussions, the employee was issued a final written warning.
Around the same time, the employer
began an initiative to improve all employees’ attendance and timekeeping. This
included disciplinary meetings and warnings for staff who had a certain level
of absence / lateness. As the employee was already in receipt of a final
written warning, he was dismissed for misconduct.
The employee brought a claim
for unfair dismissal on the grounds that he had a difficult bus journey to work
and his two previous warnings were unfair, among other things.
The Tribunal acknowledged the
employee had a difficult journey to work, but his claim was rejected because he
had been persistently late, he knew the importance of arriving at work on
time and that any failure to do so could result in disciplinary action and the employer
had conducted a fair procedure.
case shows that persistent lateness can lead to a fair dismissal if the
- manages lateness fairly and consistently;
- has a clear absence policy which sets out the
required timekeeping standards and the consequences of failing to meet
those standards; and
- documents every discussion and warning to be able
to provide evidence if needed.