We receive a lot of questions here at Direct 2 Lawyers about whether employees can and should be disciplined for being late to work, and whether dismissal is a fair sanction if they are disciplined for being late to work. We’ll therefore take a look at the issue in this post. This will involve an examination of:

  1. Can I be dismissed for being persistently late at work?
  2. Should earlier warnings that I’ve been given count towards my dismissal?
  3. Have I been unfairly dismissed from my job because I was late?

Can I be dismissed for being persistently late at work?

The simple answer to this is “yes”. However, whether you should be dismissed – and whether this dismissal is fair or not – are two entirely different things (which will be addressed below). The key word here is “persistent”. If you’ve been persistently late then this means that your employer has noticed that you’ve been late on several occasions and (presumably) warned you. If you’ve failed to improve your timekeeping then your employer may be justified in taking further action against you – including dismissal (where this would be a dismissal for “conduct” rather than “capacity”).

Should earlier warnings that I’ve been given count towards my dismissal?

The answer to this questions really depends on a range of factors, including:

  1. Were the earlier warnings fair in themselves?
  2. What were the warnings for?
  3. When were the warnings given to you?

If the earlier warnings were not fair in themselves then dismissing you on the basis of these warnings may be unfair. However, in order for an earlier disciplinary sanction to have been unfair (i.e. the provision of a final written warning) the disciplinary outcome must have been manifestly inappropriate. There’s a high standard to achieve in showing that a warning was manifestly inappropriate so this shouldn’t be overly relied-on as a means of demonstrating that a dismsisal was unfair. Further, if the earlier warnings are for something completely different to bad timekeeping (say, for example, they’re related to the fact you’ve been underperforming) then it may be inappropriate to use this warning as a justification for your dismissal. Finally, if the warnings relied on were provided 12 or more months before your dismissal date (and have therefore “expired” – although check your staff handbook for details of when warnings expire) then it may be unfair to have relied on that warning as a justification for your dismissal.

Have I been unfairly dismissed from my job because I was late?

Again, this depends on a range of factors, including (but not limited to):

  1. Was dismissal a reasonable response in the circumstances?
  2. Was a fair procedure carried out by your employer in dismissing you?
  3. Were there any non-expired, relevant warnings on your file?
  4. Were you given an opportunity to improve your performance?
  5. Are that any mitigating circumstances (i.e. you were late for good reasons, long service, good record etc.)?
  6. Are there any aggravating factors in your dismissal (i.e. you used bad language when you were brought up on it etc.)?

If you’ve been dismissed for persistent lateness then it’s worth contacting an employment law solicitor to determine whether you’ve been fairly dismissed or not.

Direct 2 Lawyers can put you in touch with expert settlement agreement solicitors and criminal defence solicitors

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The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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