HR Expert: Poor Timekeeping

How should my client handle a short-service employee with poor timekeeping?

Dealing with repeated instances of lateness at work can be frustrating, especially when it involves short-service employees who should be intent on making a good impression. From your client’s perspective, allowing poor timekeeping to continue unchecked can cause a whole host of problems, however, thankfully there are few options available to them when it comes to managing this issue.

Firstly, as the employee has less than 2 years’ service it would be straightforward for your client to dismiss them for continued lateness. After all, they do not possess the level of service required to claim unfair dismissal. Therefore, your client doesn’t necessarily have to complete a protracted disciplinary procedure before dismissing them. Whilst this approach is not generally advised from a best practice perspective, it is certainly an option that is available to your client, particularly if the employee offers little in the way of an apology or explanation for their time-keeping issues.

Alternatively, your client may opt to take a more measured approach in these circumstances and refrain from rushing into a dismissal. When doing so they should lean on any existing policy around lateness, working with the employee to resolve the issue. In this situation, your client should look to document each instance of lateness and be sure to address this verbally, thereby ensuring the employee knows they are expected to arrive at work on time. Your client could also incorporate a disciplinary procedure complete with a series of warnings to encourage improved timekeeping. Whilst it is good to give individuals sufficient opportunity to address the issue, your client will be in a good position to dismiss them if the persistent lateness continues.

It is also important that your client considers where outside factors may be causing the employee’s poor timekeeping, including the influence of a pre-existing disability. Your client must remember that they have a duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 that remove any barriers caused by an employee’s disability. Therefore, they should speak with the employee and look to incorporate changes that would alleviate this issue. This may vary depending on the employee, however, examples include assigning a designated disabled parking space, amending their work schedule or allowing a period of home working. Taking disciplinary action in this situation without considering the need for reasonable adjustments will leave your client open to claims of disability discrimination.

Ultimately, it is up to your client to decide how exactly they wish to approach this issue. Whilst it may be tempting to simply dismiss the short-service employee, they may be better served showing more patience in this situation particularly if the employee is of value to the business. Either way, it is important to be consistent so that the employee cannot claim they are being treated differently from anyone else.

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