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Can I fire an employee who is always late?

28 June 2018 2 minute readShare

Promoted by Employsure.

A consistently late employee can be very damaging to your business productivity.

But before you rush to terminate their employment, there are important considerations to be made and steps that need to be taken. Some of these factors can include the individual circumstances of an employee, their length of service with the company, or a multitude of other issues which could reasonably explain their lateness. Given these issues, according to Employsure, it is vital employers consider the following approach.

Implement a Lateness Procedure.

A good strategy for reducing lateness is to implement a confronting procedure for an employee giving notice when they are running late. This means no texting or emailing. Rather, every employee must call you directly if they are running late and explain their reasons.

The lateness policy should include things like:

  • Your rules regarding lateness
  • Why it is important to your business that employees arrive on time
  • Consequences of being consistently late
  • Potential disciplinary actions
  • The reporting procedure if somebody is running late


Regularly being late can be symptomatic of a deeper problem for the employee in question. The employee could be taking longer to leave in the morning to spend time with a relative who is sick, the employee could be experiencing personal issues.

Discussing the lateness can be an effective way of addressing the conduct in the first instance. Discussing any reasons for this conduct can identify personal issues which may be the cause. If this is the case, counselling should be provided to the employee and all care taken to ensure these personal issues are not considered in any employment decision.


At every point in the process of rectifying the conduct or dismissing the employee, employers need to be in contact. Whether it is sending emails asking for the lateness to be addressed or making contact (by phone or in person) to discuss if there are any personal issues having an impact, the more effort employers put into giving the employee chances to change their behaviour will lead to a much more favourable outcome.


An employer must ensure that the employee is aware that there is a problem in the first place so a series of warnings should be used.

Depending on what is in the employee handbook, or in any relevant workplace policy, an employee should be warned in writing before dismissal is even considered. The warning to the employee should be clear and include all relevant details, explain what improved behaviour is expected, and emphasise the severity of the misconduct (the constant lateness).

While arriving late consistently may not be considered serious misconduct, the repetition of the behaviour can be grounds for dismissal. Given it is the repetition that will lead to dismissal, warnings and documentation are vital and will be the safeguard against an unfair dismissal claim should the terminated employee lodge a complaint with the Fair Work Commission.

Can I fire them?

Probably not, unless it is absolutely critical to the job and results in serious consequences for your business. However, if you issue several warnings and their behaviour continues you might have a case for dismissing them.

Careful consideration of the reasons and the process being undertaken must be givenbefore terminating any employee; download Employsure’s free e-guide to find out more.

In addition, listen to this free podcast with one of Employsure’s Advisers on the topic of termination, dismissal and how employers can avoid claims of unfair dismissal.

You can also contact the Employsure Advice Line day or night on 1300 651 415 for guidance and support to create your business lateness policy, how to provide warnings, and, if necessary, the correct process for dismissing an employee.

Can I fire an employee who is always late?
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