Home > Discipline > Maintaining Punctuality

Maintaining Punctuality

May 1, 2012

Late coming is one habit among employees which the employers find tough to handle. Though there are rules emphasizing the importance of punctuality and regular attendance, they are followed more in breach than in observance. For example, the Model Standing Order no (8) under schedule –I appended to Central Rules requires workmen to be punctual in attending to their duties. The employer will be bewildered to find ways to curb late coming since it is neither too serious a misconduct to resort to removal of a delinquent employee nor too light a problem to be ignored as productivity is linked to man hours. It is like pimple on the face which is not a serious skin condition yet, is irritating to have. If not controlled, it may burst into acne, spoiling the looks of the person. Hence needs to be nipped in the bud.

Is late coming still relevant issue in the modern work culture?

Though technology has revolutionized the concept of working by introduction of flexi timing,  work from home , online servicing etc.,  punctuality is still a critical factor for productivity in manufacturing, retail, hospitality, entertainment and service sectors like banking, insurance,  IT and ITeS companies.

Assuming that an establishment consists of 30 employees and half of them come late by 15 minutes daily. On a 6 days a week work schedule, the total man hours lost per day is 2.25 hours and almost 59 hours per month at 26 days per month. It means the employer is losing more than seven productive days in a month, if the normal working hours per week are taken as 48 hours. Thus the cumulative effect of late coming on productivity is adverse though it appears innocuous on the face of it.

Need to classify latecomers

Late comers are of different kinds. There cannot be one universal solution for all of them. one needs to have different approaches to different categories of latecomers. On a broad level, the late comers can be classified into following categories

Chronic latecomers

They are habitual latecomers. Any amount of requesting and pleading with them for being punctual will have no effect. They do not even feel shy and are rather proud of the fact that they come late. They offer any reason under the Sun- from transport problem to tooth ache and from sudden illness to stumbling on a rock on the way. They are good story tellers.

Performing latecomers

Employees falling under this category will be excellent performers. Though they come late, they handle their work efficiently and complete their work within the stipulated working hours. Their argument will be that they are not keeping any work pending and therefore the management shall not bother about their reporting time. They bargain this advantage against late coming. The situation for the management will be between the devil and the deep sea. It cannot afford to upset them and at the same time cannot tolerate indiscipline in the office. While the performing late comers are relaxed, management is perplexed.

Late sitting late comers

The employees falling under this category will sit late daily without being asked by the management. They do not claim overtime. They pose themselves to be wilting under the burden of work and sacrificing their comfort for the sake of the company and try to impress on every one that all that they want for this great sacrifice is the small favour from the management of turning a blind eye at their late coming.

Factors responsible for promoting this habit

  1. There is lack of an effort to track and monitor latecomers.
  2. Management treats the problem as frivolous in the beginning till it becomes chronic and serious.
  3. Misplaced sympathy for every kind of late comer whether genuine or routine kind.
  4. Example set by senior employees

 Approaches to framing the policy

There can be three approaches to deal with late coming as explained below.

1)      Collaborative approach :

This approach shall indicate the empathetic sense of the employer by showing that the employer understands the circumstances and the reasons for late coming. Under this approach, the employer may indicate willingness to share employee’s concerns and help him in suggesting solutions. This approach is best suited for performing late comers and for those bent on sitting late

The employer may adopt the following steps in collaborative approach

i)     Call a meeting of employees coming late.

ii)    Praise their efforts and the quality of their work

iii)   But at the same time, request them to be on time

iv)   Explain them as to how it affects general discipline in the office

v)    Explain them, how it affects productivity and how productivity is important for survival.

vi)   If there are genuine reasons in the case of one or two employees, try to stagger their working hours.

Note of caution : Do not resort to staggering working hours to suit the convenience of every employee who makes  a request for it since it may lead to a prospect of  converting an office into a tourist hotel with employees checking in and checking out at regular intervals.

2)      Controlling approach

This approach shall indicate that the employer will step in to control the situation when it is getting out of control when it is becoming a habit with some employees or it is spreading slowly to other employees who are hitherto punctual in attending office.

This approach can be used to tackle the chronic or habitual late comers


The controlling approach may involve the following steps.

i) The habitual latecomers shall be tracked and their attendance shall be monitored regularly

ii) The habitual latecomer shall be issued a “caution memo” advising him to mend their ways.

iii) If they still persists in his unpunctual attendance, their wages may be deducted on “no work-no pay’.

iv) If they still continue this habit, an appropriate disciplinary action may be taken as per standing orders r service rules.

The disciplinary actions need to be in line with the defined HR policies and procedures and should not be discriminatory.


3)      Complimenting approach

This approach shall show that the employer recognizes those employees who are punctual in attending office and shall design a scheme to compliment such conduct on the part of an employee by offering incentives in the form of cash or in kind. This encourages employees to be more punctual.


Tips for framing a policy for late coming.

Here are some tips for the employers to frame a policy.

1)      Object of the policy. Lay down the object of the policy

Under this head;

a)the employer need to explain as to how late coming leads to loss of man-hours which affects the productivity of the organization as a whole and how important it is for customer service which is the life line of the organization.

The object of the policy is to send a message to the delinquent employees that late coming is not condoned in the organization, if it becomes a habit.

2)      Define unpunctual attendance

Under this head ;

a) Refer to the standing orders and service rules which require employees to be punctual in attending office or reporting for work.

b) The employer needs to define what is unpunctual attendance with reference to the working hours of his organization. ‘Punctual’ in general means observing the appointed time. Punctuality with reference to working hours of an office means reporting at the time prescribed under the rules/settlement/contract of service for commencing the duties.

3) State exemptions from the above rule.

Under this head;

a) Describe grace period which means the period up to which, late coming is condoned.

b) Stipulate the number of occasions per month, an employee is permitted to come late within the prescribed grace period.

c) Do not commit the mistake of listing out the reasons that can be acceptable to management for late coming as every employee will quote the same reasons for late coming .It may put the management in defence.

c) Make it clear that the decision of the Reporting Authority in deciding whether the reasons are genuine is final

4) Action for habitual late coming

Under this head;

a) Inform the employees that if any employee who is found coming late even after three exemptions as stated above, will render himself liable for the following action.

b) He will be administered a caution memo which will be placed on record.

c) If still persisting in late coming, he will render himself liable for proportionate deduction of wages on ‘no work-no pay basis’.

d) If he still does not mend his ways, he will be liable for appropriate disciplinary action as per the standing orders/service rules. You can incorporate the steps suggested in the “Controlling approach” above.

5) Rewards for being punctual

Declare rewards for those employees who are punctual in attending office. You can design a rewards system either in cash or in kind or relating it to their appraisals and increments or publishing their photos in In-house magazines etc.

In today’s highly dynamic work environment, time is of essence and may be critical to success or failure of many processes, projects and plans. The best way for an employer to inculcate the importance of timeliness and punctuality is by setting an example and thereby building a culture of discipline & sincerity.


This is a Guest post by Sai kumar, an HR professional with three decades of experience in the field of labour laws and industrial relations in a public sector as well as in a reputed labour law firms. 

Sai Kumar has been  involved  extensively in research on labour law issues and case-law  on subjects such as the Industrial Disputes Act, the Standing Orders Act, the Factories Act, the Contract Labour Act, the P.F Act, the ESI Act  and the Gratuity Act etc

%d bloggers like this: