“The joy late coming late departs.” – Lewis J Bates
In the wise words of White Rabbit “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!”
Punctuality is a basic fundamental employment commitment that forms part of a company disciplinary code. In fact it goes deeper, and can be viewed as a sign of disrespect towards your employer.
Employees can be dismissed if they are continuously and persistently late (provided the company follows the correct policy and procedures).
Valid Reasons for Late Coming?
When an employee enters into an employment contract with an employer, the employee is expected to be able to attend work on time. Two basic common law employment obligations, relate to coming to work on time and often. Habitual late coming by an employee may begin to impact the production output, place strain on fellow employees and may even result in other employees adopting the idea that lateness is acceptable in the workplace.
However, some unavoidable circumstances may play a part in contributing to an employee’s ability to arrive at work on time. If an employee can prove that they were prevented from arriving at work on time for reasons beyond their control, the employer cannot treat such late coming as being an act of misconduct.
Some possible valid reasons for lateness out of the employee’s control may be:
Whilst the abovementioned could be seen as valid reasons for being late, employees should still let their employer know of their late coming as soon as possible and make every attempt to ensure that they did not contribute to the lateness.
Consequences of Tardiness
Ordinarily, repetitively late coming will be seen and treated as a minor offence by employers with measures of progressive discipline. However, if an employee arrives for work substantially late, it may well warrant dismissal even though it may be the first instance of late coming, especially if the employee has short service and shows no remorse.
In the matter of CEPPWAWU obo Motshene v Sandoz SA [Arbitration Case No. CHEM305-09/10] the court-endorsed dismissal for a habitual late coming. The commissioner in this matter found that “…the employee must not only come to work – he/she must come to work on time, and be at the workstation during the agreed hours – even if the employer has no work for him to do” and continued that “… when an employee fails to correct his conduct and where his late-coming continued, it undermines the employer’s trust in him/her. The employer cannot run a business when he cannot rely on the Applicant to be at work on time. This would in turn, break down the employment relationship. It is therefore unreasonable, under the circumstances, to expect the employer to carry on in such an employment relationship.”
Employers Expectation of Employees
Make sure to tell your manager or supervisor, as soon as you are able to, that you will not be in the office at your expected time as this can affect your manager or supervisor’s planning for the day ahead, your co-workers, as well as any tasks that would have been assigned to you for completion or assistance.
Always apologise to your manager or supervisor for your late coming as this lets them know that you realise that your lateness has the potential to affect the operations. When you notify your superiors that you are running late, let them know what, if any, tasks will be affected and which deadlines you may need to adjust, if applicable. If your lateness is minimal and you do not expect it to affect anything, then reassure them of this too.
Once you arrive at work, let your manager or supervisor know you are there. You can either go to their desk and check in or if they are unavailable, send them an email to let them know you are in the office, as this will give them the opportunity to inform you of any tasks you need to take care of or the tasks reassigned to co-workers. It is important that you make suggestions on how to catch up on the work you missed and reassure them that you will do whatever it takes to keep the workload up to date.
Whilst employees may be faced with lengthy travels to work and increasingly frustrating traffic congestion, this does not ordinarily justify late-coming, unless of course a single unforeseen traffic accident, for example, prevents you on any given day to arrive at work on time. It is your contractual obligation to report for duty on time and to do so regularly.
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