One of the most frequent queries that are received from employers in respect of employment law regards how employer’s can and should deal with issues of bad timekeeping by their employees.

  1. Is bad timekeeping a potential reason for dismissal?
  2. Why should employers take action against bad timekeeping?
  3. What can employers do to prevent or punish bad timekeeping?
  4. How does an employer avoid an Employment Tribunal claim?

Is bad timekeeping a potential reason for dismissal?

Yes. Bad timekeeping is a potentially fair reason for dismissal under the potentially fair reason of “misconduct”.

Why should employers take action against bad timekeeping?

Different employers will place a different emphasis upon the importance of timekeeping in the workplace. However, persistent lateness can demonstrate a lack of discipline in the workplace, a potentially poor attitude, and a degree of disobedience.

What can employers do to prevent or punish bad timekeeping?

Employers should take the following actions to ensure that any action taken against an employee for poor timekeeping is fair and not arbitrary:

  1. Notify employees of the standards of timekeeping expected of them (in the staff handbook or in the contracts of employment
  2. Act consistently in taking action against employees for poor timekeeping
  3. Ensure that there’s an objective means of demonstrating whether the employee is guilty of poor timekeeping
  4. Act fairly in disciplining employees for poor timekeeping

How does an employer avoid an Employment Tribunal claim?

First of all, if an employee qualifies to make an unfair dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal (i.e. they’re an “employee” and have the requisite continuous service to do so) then it’s impossible to stop an employee from making  such a claim (although it’s a good idea to see if you can enter into a settlement agreement with your employee for a nominal amount to prevent them from pursuing you in the Employment Tribunal or High Court). However, you can avoid accruing liability for unfair dismissal by making a decision that was within the reasonable range of responses in the circumstances in dismissing the employee, and by carrying out a fair and reasonably thorough procedure when the employee was disciplined (and dismissed). However, employers have a wide degree of discretion in choosing to take action against their employees and the Employment Tribunal will take into account the circumstances of a dismissal. For example, one incident of poor timekeeping will normally not justify a dismissal unless the consequences of the lateness are great. A one-off late arrival at work on a normal working day therefore probably won’t justify dismissal but being late to an important client meeting may warrant such a sanction.

Redmans Solicitors are employment law solicitors based in Richmond and central London.

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About Redmans Employment Team

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees

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