rsz_p1030740It’s frustrating when staff members turn up late to their shifts because they slept in, or not at all because they had something better to do. Summer usually triggers AWOL employees who are more interested in enjoying the warmer weather than working.

So how do you deal with this?
In the first instance, lateness and time management issues need to be dealt with in an informal manner, as these issues are seen as performance-related by the courts. But if your head chef is arriving three hours late and your lunchtime service is a mess then I would certainly suggest inviting the employee to a formal disciplinary meeting.

At this meeting, you can give the employee the opportunity to respond to the issues and you, as the employer, can determine any disciplinary sanction. This type of conduct can put the business in serous disrepute.

Legally, as always, your actions are to be based on the circumstances at hand and doing what a fair and reasonable employer would do in those given circumstances. For example, an employee who is several hours late to a busy shift because they slept in (and you know they were out the night before) would be a reasonable situation to investigate the conduct in a formal matter. Repeated lateness can also be dealt with formally.

And what about employees who don’t turn up to their shift at all? No reasonable explanation, a simple shrug of the shoulders – what do you do then? Again, this needs to be addressed in a formal matter where you invite the employee to a meeting (in writing) to discuss the conduct and allow them to provide an explanation.

Once you’ve listened to their comments, you can decide on the appropriate outcome – which may be a warning or no further action depending on the reasons provided.

What about the meeting outcomes?
Can you terminate the employee’s employment for lateness? How many warnings should you give before terminating someone’s employment?

Again, outcomes are based on the circumstances given. A series of minor time-management concerns would typically incur several formal warnings and a final warning. Serious misconduct can lead to a final written warning, and in some cases, instant dismissal.

However, the courts have made it very clear that serious outcomes (like dismissal) must be as serious as the charge given. An employee must be aware that their employment is in jeopardy and given the opportunity to provide any feedback and comments before you make a decision – which must not be predetermined under any circumstances.

In summary
It is important to assess each situation as it arises. More serious situations, along with recurring lateness without reasonable explanations can result in formal disciplinary meetings. Employees who fail to turn up to their rostered shifts can also be addressed in a formal meeting and outcomes are always based on the information you have at hand as well as the seriousness of the conduct.

Article supplied by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand.

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