Always Late For Work – Tips To Deal With Employees

When you own your business, you learn how to handle various demanding situations and issues, but there is one thing that annoys you the most – that one employee who is always late for work.

How to deal with that? What can you do to make your employee punctual?
Follow our guide and learn how to deal with this issue professionally.

How Often Are Your Employees Late?

According to a CareerBuilder report, 29% of employees come to work late at least once every month.

man running to work

Well, it makes sense to let it slide if you notice your employee coming to work late once or twice. However, if lateness starts to become a habit, then you should intervene.

What Is Considered Late For Work?

That really depends on company policy. Some companies said that if an employee isn’t 15 minutes earlier, then they are late. Otherwise, some companies have a policy that “it’s okay if the employee shows up exactly on the time”.

Why Do You Need To Deal With a Persistently Late Employee?

There are many reasons why you should deal with that accordingly. If you don’t react, this employee will think that their tardiness isn’t an issue and start turning up late even more.

Also, that will impact other employees, they may think why they are bothering to arrive at work on time when being late isn’t a problem.

new office

That always-late employee could become more relaxed with other company policies. This will decrease the overall work quality and work ethic of the team.

An employee who is chronically late usually has a million excuses – traffic, children, dogs, emergency with the car, illness, the alarm, the weather and so on, and so on.

Reasons Why Some People Are Always Late

There are so many reasons why people are late for work and we have already mentioned some of them, such as traffic, children, car problems, illness, the weather, the alarm, etc.

Also, there are deeper reasons for lateness, it isn’t always rudeness or scatter-brained behaviors. For example, people who are always late can be procrastinators. These people often find themselves preoccupied with doing something else while delaying the task they actually need to do. They might struggle with anxiety and distraction, too.

People with ADHD or autism also find time management hard.

There can be valid reasons to be late for work, but it’s important to recognize the cause of unpunctuality and fix it.

In some cases, being late may be the behavior of insubordinate employees so check the methods on how to handle it professionally.

Tips To Deal With Employees Who Are Late for Work

  • Document the Rule – If your company doesn’t have any official lateness policy in place, some employees will choose to come to work late. That policy should include the standard expected of workers, the procedure for reporting lateness, and potential disciplinary action for persistent tardiness.

writing a report

  • Employees Must Know The Rules – If there is any new policy or update, make sure these new rules are communicated to all workers.
  • Maintain Records – Let the employee know that you are aware of their lateness. Sometimes that is enough and your employee won’t be late again. But, keep track of employee lateness and you’ll easily notice if one of employee is late much more than other staff. Also, you can use these records as evidence when you speak to the employee.

company policy

  • Be Proactive – Don’t let an employee’s tardiness go so long that you react in anger. It is necessary to deal with the situation as soon as you see a pattern. You need to have a professional conversation with that employee. You can take them out of the office and have a conversation in a more relaxed manner. Don’t confront them in front of other employees, because there can be a sensible reason for their lateness.
  • Come Up With a Plan Of Action – Understanding the cause of the problem is important, but won’t solve it. If your employee has a legitimate reason (for example, they need to drop the kids off to school), then you can allow them to come to work later and leave the office later. But if there is no legitimate reason, then you should be firm and tell them this is something you will tolerate.


  • Reward Improvement – You warn your employee and they change their behavior. Instead of penalizing the employee, you can show that you appreciate the change.
  • Take Disciplinary Action – If your employee isn’t responsible enough, they will continue with their tardiness. If it gets to this point, you should take some disciplinary actions. Call the employee to your office and explain that the next time you’ll have to write him/her up. Sometimes this verbal warning will produce an effect.
  • Writing Up An Employee – If a verbal warning doesn’t work with this employee, then you should give your employee a written warning. They will know that they break the company’s lateness policy. Outline the consequences if the employee doesn’t change their behavior. That includes – requiring the employee to make up for lost time, decreasing their bonuses, docking their pay, being sent on unpaid suspension, and termination.

writing warning

  • Check in Regularly – Regular support can help encourage an employee to overcome their habit of lateness. Show that you care about their improvement.

What Employees Should Do If They’re Going To Be Late?

As an employer or manager, it’s your responsibility to take care of employees and to let them know what your expectations are. This means they need to know what they should do if they going to be late to work. Here are some suggestions.

The first thing is communication. If a worker knows they are going to be late for work, they should call ahead or send a message.

woman makes a phone call
The second is an estimation. Ask your employee to provide an estimated time for their arrival. Then plan ahead – Although the employee is going to be late and you know that, they are still expected to complete their work for that day.

Can Employee Be Fired For Being Late?

Well, yes, they can be fired because of being late. In at-will states (most common in the USA), an employee can be fired anytime for any reason. Most employers won’t fire their employees for lateness. But if an employee is constantly late and doesn’t want to change their behavior, termination is the only option.

Final Verdict

At the end of the day, the employer pays their staff for their time, therefore an employee that is always late effectively steals time from the company. That will cause many other problems, which should be prevented on time.

Joana graduated in 2014. and has a master's degree in linguistics. The education makes her an expert in business communication while her 5-year work experience gives her expertise in business researches and writing. She has been working on several services as an editor and writer studying business cases and publishing results she has come to. She has established many collaborations with experts in human resources and management so she uses the knowledge of experts for writing the articles.