Can you dismiss an employee for persistent lateness? You can as long as you show that you followed procedure, ruled the Employment Tribunal.
The case of Ghartey v Royal Museums Greenwich recently asked the Employment Tribunal to resolve this question after Mr Ghartey, a former visitor assistant at the museum, was dismissed from his role following an accumulation of warnings.
The museum had raised Mr Ghartey’s timekeeping as an issue in both 2005 and 2006. In 2013 the museum had a conversation with the employee about his sickness absence, before they issued him with a final written warning in 2014 following a period of unauthorised absence.
At around the same time the museum decided to hold a timekeeping and attendance drive, with every employee with ten or more recorded timekeeping offences from the previous year receiving a formal warning. As Mr Ghartey was one of these employees, the formal warning triggered his dismissal.
Mr Ghartey brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal on the grounds that:
- He had to rely on public transport to get to work
- The two previous warnings were not fair
- The final written warning did not mention that further misconduct was likely to result in dismissal
- The timing of the attendance drive was dubious
The Employment Tribunal acknowledged the difficulty of Mr Ghartey’s commute. However, it also stated that “it is an employee’s responsibility to take whatever reasonable steps are needed to get to work on time.”
The Tribunal determined that the previous warnings would have to be taken at face value, as Mr Ghartey should have raised a complaint when they were issued if he felt that they were unfair. While it was conceded that the final written warning neglected to state that further misconduct may have resulted in his dismissal, the Tribunal also noted that Mr Ghartey was made aware that this was a possible outcome when he was given the warning.
In the Tribunal’s view the timing of the attendance drive was just bad luck for the claimant. As Mr Ghartey was responsible for his own timekeeping and attendance at work, the Employment Tribunal ruled that his dismissal on the grounds of persistent lateness was fair.
Employee absence can have a severe impact on your productivity and your profits, which is why it’s important to have a clear absence policy and procedure in place. Use this to set out both the behaviour that you expect of your employees and the disciplinary action that you can take in the event of any misconduct.
Persistent lateness can lead to dismissal, but only as long as you manage it fairly and consistently. If you are having any issues with poor timekeeping and attendance please call us for advice.