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Can I Terminate an Employee Who Is Consistently Late to Work?

Published June 02, 2017 (last updated September 15, 2023) - Head of Operations

How do you deal with someone who is always late?

Depending on your specific attendance policy, a consistently late employee can be very damaging to your business. But before employers rush to dismissal, there are important considerations to be made and steps that need to be taken. Some of these factors can include the individual circumstances of an employee, their length of service with the company, or a multitude of other issues which could reasonably explain their lateness. Given these issues, it is vital employers follow an appropriate process before dismissing an employee based on constant lateness.

1. Warnings to employees for being late

An employer must ensure that the employee is aware that there is a problem in the first place so a series of warnings should be used.

Depending on what is in the employee handbook, or in any relevant workplace policy, an employee should be warned at least once in writing before dismissal is even considered.  The warning to the employee should be clear and include all relevant details, explain what improved behaviour is expected, and emphasise the severity of the misconduct (the constant lateness).

While arriving late consistently may not be considered serious misconduct, the repetition of the behaviour can be grounds for dismissal. Given it is the repetition that will lead to dismissal, warnings and documentation are vital and will be the safeguard against an unfair dismissal claim should the terminated employee lodge one in the Fair Work Commission.

2. Counselling Procedure

Regularly being late can be symptomatic of a deeper problem for the employee in question. The employee could be taking longer to leave in the morning to spend time with a relative who is sick, the employee could be experiencing depression, or there may even be an issue of substance abuse.

Discussing the lateness can be an effective way of addressing the conduct in the first instance. Discussing any reasons for this conduct can identify personal issues which may be the cause. If this is the case, counselling should be provided to the employee and all care taken to ensure these personal issues are not considered in any employment decision.

3. Communicate with your employee

At every point in the process of rectifying the conduct, or dismissing the employee, employers need to be in contact. Whether it is sending emails asking for the lateness to be addressed or making contact (by phone or in person) to discuss if there are any personal issues having an impact, the more effort employers put into giving the employee chances to change their behaviour will lead to a much more favourable outcome.

As is the case with terminating any employee, careful consideration of the reasons and the process being undertaking must be given. Employsure is on hand to provide guidance and support with warnings, and, if necessary, in dismissing an employee. Contact the Employsure Advice line on 1300 651 415.

About Employsure.

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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