Many employers struggle with late-coming of employees. While most consider this a relatively minor offence, habitual late-coming by an employee may begin to impact on production output and encourage a laissez-faire approach to time-keeping by other employees. Many employees who are habitual late comers will generally justify their poor time keeping on the grounds that he or she relies on public transport which is often unreliable. The charge of poor time keeping in its very nature speaks to a failure to allot the necessary time to arrive at work promptly, in the face of any contingency, including unreliable public transport. Where an employee is plagued by unreliable public transport, his or her obligation to the company to arrive on time is not negated. Based on their own experiences, the employee ought to have adapted his or her morning routine to allow for these delays simply to comply with his employer’s rules.
This position is supported by various decision makers. For example, in CEPPWAWU obo Motshene v Sandoz SA [Arbitration Case No. CHEM305-09/10] a commissioner held that “an employee must not only come to work – he or she must come to work on time, and be at the workstation during the agreed hours – even if the employer has no work for him to do.” He stated further that “when an employee fails to correct his conduct and where his late-coming continued, it undermines the employer’s trust in him or her. The employer cannot run a business when he cannot rely on the Applicant to be at work on time. This would in turn, break down the employment relationship. It is therefore unreasonable, under the circumstances, to expect the employer to carry on in such an employment relationship.” In light of the above, late coming should be dealt with seriously by the employer by the application of progressive discipline. Each incident of late-coming should be met with some form of disciplinary action. For the most part, progressive discipline may be applied in the following sequence: informal counselling; verbal warning; written warning; final written warning; and dismissal (following a disciplinary enquiry). The intention of progressive discipline is to correct an employee’s behaviour. Where progressive discipline fails, the employer has no other option but to consider dismissal. As the employer will be able to evidence every attempt to correct the employee’s conduct without success, it is unlikely that any future dispute regarding the fairness of such a dismissal will be successful.