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Managing lateness when the holidays are over

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Holidays give us a chance to recharge our batteries and take a well‐earned break from our usual day to day responsibilities.

And, in an ideal world, we’d all return from a summer break raring to go, full of fresh ideas and enthusiasm.

However, after days relaxing on a beach and getting up and going to bed whenever we want, it’s no fun having to set the alarm clock and do battle with commuter transport.

Unsurprisingly, punctuality can be a problem as employees struggle to resume their normal routine so it’s highly recommended that you have a clear employee lateness policy in place.

This policy should be included in your employment contract so that all employees know what is expected of them. It should feature information such as who to speak to if they fear they’re going to be late to work and whether they’ll have to make up the lost time.

Additionally, it should also give details of how you record employee timekeeping. Do your staff have to clock in or use a sign in sheet, for example?

It’s not just long summer breaks that can make workplace punctuality an issue. Barbecues on a “school night” and overindulging at weekend festivals, fetes or even in the back garden with the family, can take their toll too.

And, on a much grander scale, annual events like Notting Hill Carnival – which runs from Saturday August 24 to Monday August 26 this year – will see literally millions of people letting their hair down and having fun.

The 26th is a bank holiday but hopefully many of the carnival goers planning to “party hard” have officially requested a late start from their employer on the 27th or booked the day off.

Sometimes, though, employees are late back to work through no fault of their own. Last summer hundreds of UK holidaymakers were left stranded abroad when their airlines went bust, and they simply couldn’t get home in time.

In such circumstances, an unexpected absence is entirely beyond the employee’s control – although staff should, if possible, contact their employer and frequently update you on their situation.

Although employers don’t legally have to pay employees who aren’t at work unless they’re sick or on holiday, many choose to come to some arrangement with their staff.

Some employees might be able to continue to work remotely while stranded overseas, but in most cases, they were away on holiday, not on business, so that’s not a realistic option.

If you’d rather not pay your staff for unplanned time off, then you could ask them to take those days as paid holiday. Alternatively, you could allow them to make the time up through flexible working or by changing their shift patterns.

Whatever course of action is agreed, you must be consistent when dealing with unforeseen absences and treat everyone the same. If you’re not, then you could leave yourself open to a discrimination claim.

To run a happy ship, fairness must prevail. If employees have had their holiday enjoyment cut short by an airline company collapsing, then chances are, they’ll have been worried about the time and expense involved in travelling home. They will also be sad and disappointed not to have had a nice break.

A good employer will realise this, and your empathy and understanding will be much appreciated by staff who didn’t have the summer holiday they were looking forward to.

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.

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