Preventing Punctuality Problems

Tuesday September 20, 2022

In our personal lives, punctuality is a courtesy; but professionally, it usually means so much more.

Whether it is taking over a shift (with a colleague not being able to clock off until the next person arrives), or manning a helpdesk where customers will be kept waiting if someone is late, or being ready for a team meeting with colleagues – showing up on time matters.

Therefore, as a leader, ensuring your employees practise good time-keeping is an important part of the job.

Finding the balance

We would always advise being hot on the management of time-keeping, as we will outline in a moment. It is, though, important to be proportionate and strike the right balance between being robust and fair.

One example of being too heavy-handed comes from an overseas anecdote posted on Reddit. An employee with seven years of service was supposedly fired for being 20 minutes late for the first time ever.

In Ireland this would be risky, with a distinct danger of an unfair dismissal claim following suit. But even in this instance it caused problems: all the employee’s co-workers decided to show up late every day until he was reinstated.

While this example is an extreme case of intervention, there are a host of problems that can arise from not being strict enough on punctuality: erosion of team spirit, increasingly more persistent time-keeping violations and diminishing productivity, to name a few.

Managing time-keeping

So what is a good process for managing punctuality?

The management of time-keeping should begin in your employee handbook, with a written policy on lateness that is explained during their induction. This will give you the framework for how to respond when employees are late.

When lateness does occur, make it clear that you have noticed it, not glancing sarcastically at your watch but speaking to them. This may serve as a soft deterrent before it gets more serious. Making it your business to notice poor time-keeping will also help you to keep fully informed of who is guilty of it and how often.

If you have a close-knit team all on one site, observing time-keeping will likely be easy. If your team is larger, spread over more than one site or working from home, it may be more difficult.

A technological solution may be the answer, with a cloud-based clocking-in system being both affordable and effective. It will also keep records for you, which will be useful if disciplinary action is pursued.

When someone is late, an informal chat will establish the underlying reason(s), determining your course of action. Bear in mind that there might be a private reason: one which they do not wish to shout out in front of all their colleagues.

Persistent tardiness should trigger a 121 meeting. During this you can dig a little deeper as to the causes, and also communicate what the effects on the business are, such as putting extra pressure on colleagues. If no satisfactory reason is provided, you can consider following your disciplinary procedure as outlined in the employee handbook.

If, however, there is a more legitimate cause it would be sensible to see whether a workaround can be agreed upon that works for the business and them. For example, if it is a troublesome school run which is making them late, would flexi-hours work? Or if there is a health issue, explore how that could be addressed.

A helping hand

If you discover you do not have a written policy on  time keeping , or are in the midst of a particularly difficult case, we are on hand to help. Local, experienced and expert, we can help you sort the problem so that you can concentrate on your primary concerns in the business.

Preventing People Problems

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