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Lateness at Work: How to Handle Employees Who Are Always Late

late employee hurrying to the office

Lateness. While sometimes inevitable, when made a habit, can become a problem for all those involved. Lateness at work can affect a multitude of factors like productivity, reliability, accountability, and one’s relationship with coworkers and management. According to a national survey, nearly thirty percent of Americans show up late to work daily. Odds are, you will encounter an employee who demonstrates chronic lateness in all lines of work. As a manager or business owner, it’s crucial to have a plan for addressing employee tardiness with patience and a clearly delineated protocol. We’re breaking down some common reasons and solutions for employee lateness at work.

Why Are Employees Late for Work?

employee checking time at workplaceCar troubles, sick kids, a ripped pair of stockings, and the occasional missed alarm are all reasons for making us late to the office from time to time. As humans, these things are inevitable, and even the promptest of employees are not immune to the late start. But what distinguishes this kind of lateness from chronic tardiness?

Chronic tardiness is defined as the habitual lateness to work; lateness that becomes a habit and occurs regularly with or without valid reasons. To begin to address employee lateness, it is important to understand various reasons why someone would constantly arrive late to work.

As mentioned above, there are uncontrollable factors in life that can contribute to clocking in after an employee’s designated time. For example, missing the bus or a delayed train arrival are unfortunate but common transportation mishaps that can cause an employee to arrive past their scheduled time.

However, constantly coming in late and using transportation issues as an excuse may be the product of poor time management rather than external variables. Constant lateness can also come as a result of an incompatible work and home relationship. Employees may have difficulty with their set start time due to childcare, health reasons, and other family dynamics. While these factors are certainly important to address before an employee comes to work, punctuality should be emphasized by management, and compassion should be demonstrated when trying to approach the employee with solutions and guidance to their lateness.

Is Employee Lateness Such a Big Deal?

As a business owner or manager, you know that time is money. Depending on your industry, workforce organization, and employee roles, it is up to you to determine how much of an effect tardiness has on your business. If you rely on employees to open shop and take customer service calls, then lateness at work may not be tolerated.

However, if an employee’s tasks are not necessarily time-sensitive, you may be able to give some leeway when it comes to clocking in late. With AMGtime’s proprietary time and attendance software, time and attendance tracking has never been easier. AMGtime employee time clock software helps employers keep adequate records of employee attendance, making it possible to track and monitor employee lateness.

How to Handle

Lateness at work is typically a delicate issue for both employees and management. It is crucial to approach the situation with grace and compassion. Reprimanding and repercussions are often associated with negative behavior and may be practiced; however, before taking that kind of action, business owners should have a clear outline for best practices, company policy, and a plan of action. Out of courtesy, these issues should be discussed in a one-on-one setting to promote privacy and avoid embarrassment.

Create a Lateness Policy

workplace meetingA clear and comprehensive attendance policy is the backbone of a transparent employee and employer relationship. This helps set expectations and guidelines to help employees understand what they can be held accountable for. Additionally, it levels the playing field for all employees, ensuring everyone is held to the same standards.

The first step in creating a time and attendance policy is figuring out what applies to your workplace. For example, a typical office environment may require more rigid guidelines pertaining to start and stop times, grace periods, and the disciplinary process. On the other hand, more flexible workspaces that allow remote and hybrid work models may require less strict guidelines.

However, the importance of a lateness policy still stands to hold employees accountable without the physical presence of management. Regardless of your employee and workspace structure, your lateness policy must contain certain elements: policy documentation, preferred communication methods, and the disciplinary process.

Whatever your attendance policy may be, what is most important above all is that it is published and available for employee and management reference. Whether it is in the employee handbook, a part of the onboarding presentation, or present in your preferred HRM or HCM tools, making your policy known and available will ensure that employees can read and refer to it whenever they need.

Rather than leaving employees guessing, addressing preferred communication methods for calling in late or absent is the best way to avoid miscommunication and promote reporting. Creating a communication plan with an employee will guarantee they know whether calling in, emailing, or messaging on tools like Slack are the best avenues. Additionally, you may require employees to mark themselves as running late or unavailable on shared calendars such as Google Calendar so that other employees know they are unavailable for meetings, assignments, and communication.

To avoid wrongful actions, hurt feelings, and confusion, a multi-step disciplinary process that is clearly written can be helpful for both employees and decision-makers. You may outline these steps however you see fit for your business and the overall industry. Still, typically employee lateness can be addressed with a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, a final warning, then possible termination.

Ensure lateness is documented by using AMGtime’s detailed reporting tool to keep track of the number of times an employee has been late and by how much. The timecard report shows detailed reporting of your employee hours, including regular time, overtime, and PTO, showing you all the information you need succinctly. Safe keep reports and documentation of written warnings if asked for in the future.

Other Solutions

While transparency and communication can solve many workplace issues, some problems require more creative solutions. If the steps above do not seem to curb employee lateness, consider setting meetings that start at the beginning of your employee’s shift. This will give them a reason to be extra accountable and arrive to work on time knowing that others depend on their responsibility.

Alternatively, another solution for management is AMGtime’s status board function which gives supervisors the ability to keep an eye on employee actions and monitor them in real-time. Following whether employees are working, absent, taking a break or lunch, or outside; allows you to track potential patterns in employee lateness as they occur.


Whether you take on a more lax approach to a time and attendance policy, or one that is stricter, the end goal is to ensure employee lateness is approached with fairness, transparency, and efficiency.


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