Q- My client has an employee who is regularly late to work on Monday morning and blames traffic issues, are they able to dismiss him?
A- Infrequent lateness can be an annoyance, however when lateness becomes a regular occurrence it can cause a whole host of problems for your client which may lead them to consider an employee’s future.
Despite the inconvenience of frequent lateness your client should avoid firing the individual without first carrying out the correct procedure. It is advised they keep a record of each instance of lateness and verbally acknowledge this with the individual on each occasion they arrive late to work. If the lateness persists a disciplinary procedure should be put in motion which follows the guidelines of the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
An investigation should be held which looks at the cause of lateness. This can be followed by a formal disciplinary meeting in which your client can explain the issue to the employee in question and ask for an explanation or any mitigating circumstances for the continued lateness. Only once the full disciplinary process has been completed should your client make a final decision on the future of the individual. They are advised to weigh up any reasoning provided by the employee, the frequency and length of the lateness and the overall disadvantage this lateness has caused the business.
Where the disciplinary procedure uncovers underlying factors which cause the lateness, they may be required to address these rather than dismissing the employee. For example, if your client’s workplace does not have disabled access parking or adequate lift facilities then this could be a cause of lateness for disabled employees. Under the Equality Act 2010 your client has to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled workers are not disadvantaged whilst at work and not treat them less favourably because of their disability or something arising from this e.g. their persistent lateness.
Similarly, your client may allow flexible working if a succession of lateness is due to childcare commitments. It may benefit employees responsible for the school-run to have the freedom of starting later, making this time up at the end of the day.
Clients have a difficult task to determine whether continued lateness represents an employee’s lack of commitment or if this is due to circumstances beyond their control. Ensure the client’s policy on lateness and notifying managers of lateness is communicated to ensure this can be properly monitored.
However, if adequate measures are in place and the lateness continues, your client may take formal disciplinary action to deal with the situation, including termination of employment.