Zero tolerance for tardiness in the workplace

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Our company recently implemented a policy that has quite a few people perturbed, myself included.

If an employee is late for any reason what-so-ever; traffic, weather, sick kid; the employee is forced to use their PTO time. We have for YEARS had the option of staying late to make up this time or use PTO. We are now forced to use PTO in order to curb excessive tardiness. A case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.

I was stuck in over 20 minutes of traffic this morning. Upon arriving late at the office in a bundle of nerves I sent an email to HR letting them know of my displeasure regarding this new policy. I even suggested a compromise that employees are given two or three “forgivenesses” per year for traffic issues, etc. I was basically told that this is the new policy and to deal with it.

Is this practice of forcing employees to use their PTO time for being late legal?

To read the answer click here: Zero tolerance for tardiness in the workplace

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14 thoughts on “Zero tolerance for tardiness in the workplace

  1. If you have an employee that consistently finds “traffic” an excuse that is one thing but isolated incidents from hard working employees with no tardiness history should fall under an entirely different type of policy.

    1. Exactly. Someone that always has excuses needs to be dealt with. Someone that every once in a great while gets stuck in traffic should be a non-issue.

  2. My previous employer tried this and, since PTO was only recorded in half-days, any tardiness would result in a minimum of a half-day loss. The result was that many employees, when unexpectedly delayed, would simply turn around and go home again.

    Management just couldn’t figure out why this policy did not fix the perceived attendance problem……

    1. Gee, I wonder why that didn’t work…

      Duh. It’s all about the incentives.

  3. Tardiness became an obsession where I used to work. The advice on leaving earlier became a bit more complicated because 9 times out of 10 there were no traffic problems and a technician was standing by the clock fo 10 minutes to punch in. Of course if they punch in early, they must leave early, otherwize (gasp) UNAUTHORIZED OVERTIME!

    I also had many of people who abused the “flex time” rules and came in anytime they pleased. This created the problems mentioned by EHRL. Especially problematic if the person is considered “exempt” and does not punch a clock. As a coordinator (not a manager) I was expecteted to pick up slack when someone did not show up. not fun.

    1. It definitely is a problem if your lateness causes someone else work. If it doesn’t, it’s a non-issue.

  4. In this instance, a manager tried to kill an ant with a hammer. This kind of punitive reaction shows poor management skills. The payback will very likely not overcome the cost of greatly increased employee dissatisfaction. In addition, the financial and social cost of bird-dogging each and every employee as they enter the building will eventually prove prohibitive.

    The new policy must apply equally to all employees at all levels. Managers must set the example and docilely accept getting their PTO docked if they, too, are tardy. And they sometimes will be. Some manager will disagree with this policy since they will think that they are privileged characters … and they can’t be. If some managers are allowed to subvert the policy, then the policy becomes effectively unenforceable.

    What can the person submitting the question do? Maybe two things.

    First, organize the individual contributors to keep track of the punctuality of the managers. If many individual contributors are involved, then reactive punishment becomes very nearly impossible. A policy change almost has to follow.

    Second, if there is some sort of event that results in many employees being tardy, i.e. a completely blocked freeway, a natural disaster, or an ice storm making driving unsafe, then ask nicely for the tardiness policy to be revoked for that situation only.

    A much more constructive option is to let the bad policy continue for a few months, then, assuming tardiness had greatly diminish, work within the system to encourage a step-wise relaxation with a better designed policy.

    1. You can have different rules for different groups of people. That’s fine.

      But this type of system never brings about the desired results.

  5. We have the same policy at work. It is a ridiculas policy and they fire more people for ” bad attendance” than they keep.

    A co-worker was off on a monday for not feeling well. She got an attendance point for that. She was able to get into a CT scan the next day but would have had to alter her hours a smidge. She could work an entire 8 hour day, but just split up a bit.
    She could come in at 7 work till 10. Get the CT ( it was 5 mins from us) and be back no later than 45 mins say) and then work the rest of the day to complete the 8 hours.
    No go. She did not give them 24 hours notice and therefore leaving work was considered an unexcused absence. So she would have gotten another point. So she opted to not go to work and take the day off. The first point just rolled into the next day. They kept their policy alright… at the cost of NO productivity.

    They actually told another employee to go to urgent care because of a bad cut. She was on her last point ( only 2 allowed the first 90 days ) and then they fired her.

    They have a really high turnaround.. not just for attendance but because they are just so bad to work for.

    1. Sounds like a bunch of geniuses running the show over there.

      I’m sure they don’t recognize their own stupidity as the reason for their high turnover.

  6. No they don’t. They have lost over 43 people over the last 5 months from people quiting some just walking out. That doesn’t include ones they have fired. I have been there about 1.5 years and they have lost over 100. The employee list averages about 155 but the names consistanly change of course.

    On the brighter side of things they have a heck a supply policy. A 2 page policy inculding a ” mission” statement , it identifies the ” lead” in charge of your area that you give the request to and the day and time in which you must sumbit it by.
    No black pen or ruler will be missing in action now !! Much easier to keep track of a pen or pencil than worry about the turnover… ouy… : )

  7. Oh and one more thing… HR has stopped fighting unemployment. Apparently they have no leg to stand on most of the time.

    We have 2 sides of the business, call it A and B. The ” A” side run by “Joe” does not have the attendance policy. The “B” side run by ” Mary”, my side does. The whole place is run by ” Horace” and knows about the inequity of policy and doesn’t care.
    Charming place to work…..

  8. I kind of agree with policies put in place that discourage “tardiness”. I know of someone that is ALWAYS late…even to social engagements…so no surprise–she is usually late to work…and continues to be–since nobody addresses this where she works. She merely makes up the time…but that IS NOT just for employees that are ON TIME and her peers. It creates resentment amongst peers. This same woman has taken off for long-term disability — and inspite of that, she is STILL late. Some people think they are immune to everything…and can’t be fired. I just think HR has to make it a point to address such unprofessionalism – for the sake of everyone else…AND to be fair to others who ARE conscientious and responsible punctual employees. And I do not work in HR either. I am employee. Some people just have zero time-management skills..and they are ALWAYS late – which is disrespectful.


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