Lateness losses: tardy workers cost money

by Iain Hopkins10 Apr 2013

It’s easy to think 10 minutes is no big deal, and sometimes it isn’t, but if you have workers consistently flouting start times it could be costing your organisation in productivity.

“We all have alarms not going, traffic being bad and missed streetcars – it’s a problem when you see a pattern,” HR consultant and trainer Timothy Holden said. “Often lateness has a variety of reasons. Sometimes people aren’t motivated or need hours changed to accommodate their timing.”

And the costs add up. If a company with 150 employees have 10% (15) running consistently 10 minutes late, and those workers earn the average Canadian hourly rate of $24 an hour, that’s a productivity loss of almost $14,000 a year for the company.

The first step is to make sure HR has a simple and consistent way to track lateness, whether that’s swipe cards, time sheets or computer log in times it needs to be easy to measure and objective, so if you are addressing lateness issues with individuals you have supporting evidence. Secondly, there needs to be consistency across individuals and departments to avoid accusations of bias. Have a policy that is well communicated and understood across the board.

“Some managers may be quite lax about adhering to it but you can’t have one department where people arrive at the time they see fit, where in other departments people get warnings if they arrive late,” Holden said. “It’s about training your managers and communicating the policy so everybody knows it and making sure the same action is taken across departments against individuals who are late so there are no accusations of inconsistency, bias or favouritism.”

The policy should include how severe lateness is and how often someone can be late before it becomes a disciplinary issue. Everyone is going to have crises sometimes, so a zero-tolerance policy would be unsustainable, but for people who think their start time is something flexible a well-managed policy is key to enforcing rules fairly for every worker.


  • by MM 10/04/2013 3:58:14 PM

    Don't forget that you also can't try to have it both ways - disciplining for "lateness" and in return giving no thanks/rewards/payment when that same person regularly works late or through their lunch break

    Swings and roundabouts is often a good way of working - especially in an office environment when there would be no "catastrophe" attached to being a few minutes late (as compared to working in a shop that must open on time or lose customers).

  • by Tony 10/04/2013 4:22:36 PM

    What about all the time that people give for free - how much benefit does that give businesses?

  • by MIke 11/04/2013 5:28:55 AM

    Good will is the first thing that goes when Managers become inflexible in relation to start finish times - if lateness is consistent - Manage it - start them later

Most Read