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Always late for work? There’s really no excuse

Jeremy Harvey, Partner and Head of Employment and HR at Coodes Solicitors, comments on a recent tribunal that ruled that an employee was fairly dismissed for being persistently late for work.

With the traffic jams, delayed trains and buses and the family
responsibilities that many of us have to deal with at home, it is no wonder
that we will all occasionally be late for work. Most employers are sympathetic
and appreciate that staff may occasionally not make it in on time. If being
late is a regular event, however, that needs to be dealt with.


A recent case deemed that a museum was justified in dismissing a member
of staff as a result of ‘persistent lateness’. Apparently, the member of staff
had been warned a number of times about potential disciplinary action. At the
hearing, he argued that he had a difficult bus journey to work and that these
warnings were unfair. The tribunal ruled that the employer had not acted
unlawfully and was justified in sacking him after issuing his final written


This was a fairly extreme case, in which a staff member was regularly
late. My advice to anyone would be to speak to his or her employer about any
issues that are affecting their ability to get to work at a particular time. If
you are occasionally late, you should apologise and explain the reason. If this
is an ongoing problem, you will need to raise it with your employer and try to
come up with a solution. In the far South West of England, where I work, many
people live in rural locations where public transport can be patchy. If you
only have one train every two hours and the times don’t fit well with your
working hours, you could speak to your manager to see if your contracted hours
could be adjusted, for example. With everyone with a minimum of 26 weeks
service now having the right to request
flexible working,
your employer should seriously consider your request. The
worst thing you can do is to hope your lateness has not been noticed.


An interesting angle in this case was that the warnings came after a
lengthy period where nothing had been done about poor time-keeping.  A decision was made to deal with this and
this was communicated to staff before this particular disciplinary action was
started.  It underlines that employers
can decide to deal with bad habits and use disciplinary action to do so, but
should first be very clear that this is what is going to happen and the
consequences of not meeting the new standards.


Poor timekeeping impacts on productivity and can cause real problems for
any business. It is also annoying and demotivating to other staff members if
the same people regularly arrive late and are seen to ‘get away with it’. The
legal advice is clear: it is an employee’s responsibility to take whatever
reasonable steps are needed to get to work on time.  If your company has not been clear on this,
perhaps now is the time to ensure everyone knows what is expected.

For more information on this or any Employment
enquiries contact Jeremy Harvey, Head of Employment and HR at Coodes Liskeard
office on 01579 325794 or

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