Is my new tardiness policy fair?
November 28, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I am seeking feedback on the fairness of a new tardiness policy I instituted at my company. I own an IT services firm that also has a retail storefront (the more traditional computer repair shop model). We have had a situation with chronic tardiness, to the point where on a recent Saturday, at three minutes before opening, I was the only one there (whereas four people were scheduled that day). I have now instituted what I believed to be a fair and generous policy, and some don't like it as they say it is too strict. Please read on for the policy...

1-14 minutes late: 2 points
15-29 minutes late: 3 points
30-59 minutes late: 4 points
1 Hour + late: 6 points

With call less than 15 minutes ahead:
1-14 minutes late: 1 points
15-29 minutes late: 2 points
30-59 minutes late: 3 points
1 Hour + late: 5 points

With call 15 minutes or more ahead:
1-14 minutes late: .5 points
15-29 minutes late: 1 points
30-59 minutes late: 2 points
1 Hour + late: 3.5 points

Points are accumulated within any 30-day period. This is not the first through the end of any given month; it is a simple consecutive 30 days.
Consequences within 30 days:
6 points = Verbal warning
8 points = 1 day suspension without pay
10 points = 2 day suspension without pay
12 points = Week suspension without pay

Now...I am not an HR person...I am a tech who evolved into a businessman. I am looking for perspective, potential holes in the policy, and opinions as to it's strictness/fairness. Thanks to all in advance!
posted by titans13 to Work & Money (62 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your scheme looks legit (IANanysortofL) but really complicated. Why not a 'Third tardy in 30 days and you're history' policy? I've never had a job that would tolerate consistent tardiness, and now that I'm a business owner I still won't tolerate it.

Your employees are taking advantage of you. It's up to you to make an example of one or two and then hold the line.
posted by workerant at 6:56 AM on November 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

IMHO the answer is "you be here on time or your arse is fired". They get a warning or two of course and know that that will be the consequence.

If someone has a legitimate reason to be late then obviously you forgive but it shouldn't be a regular thing.
posted by polyglot at 6:57 AM on November 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

I am not an HR person either, but here goes.

1. It seems a little too complex to enforce easily. I would go for something simpler.
Maybe 2 points for 1-14 minutes, and 6 points for anything longer. But then you are going to get a lot of people clocking in 14 minutes late, and is that what you want?
2. Good on you for taking back control of your business.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:58 AM on November 28, 2009

In a bad economy, where jobs are hard to come by? Fair enough.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:59 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lose this scheme. Adults don't want to be part of a system with "points" for not meeting expectations.

Sit your staff down. Look them in the eye. Say, "We have had a situation with chronic tardiness, to the point where on a recent Saturday, at three minutes before opening, I was the only one there (whereas four people were scheduled that day). If this happens again -- if you are not here, ready to work, at exactly the time that we open our doors, you're fired. No excused allowed."

And then make it stick.
posted by ellF at 6:59 AM on November 28, 2009 [22 favorites]

I'm with workerant. Keep your tardiness policy -- and others -- simple. You want to run a tight ship, keep it tight. Part of being a business owner/manager involves discipline and following through with it. When you draw the line, draw the line and keep it there. Granted there will be instances that will beg for consideration of bending the rule(s) (e,g, an employee is late due to an automobile/bike accident, etc.). But, by all means set your expectations and let your employees know them. You can be strict and fair at the same time.
posted by ericb at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2009

It's definitely not too strict. If anything, my concern about this is that you are making it possible to be frequently late as long as the employee calls ahead, and you'll have a hard time stopping it because you've already established a specific consequence. If someone is 10 minutes late 10 times a month, but they always call ahead 18 minutes, it'll be really obnoxious, and you'll have a hard time stopping it.

I think workerant and polyglot are on the right track.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2009

Also, you probably can't dock pay without entering into murky legal territory; it's much, much easier to simply fire a someone with cause, documentation, and evidence of their failure. I'd suggest having a timecard system, as well as a formal warning that's signed by everyone who has been late.
posted by ellF at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fire the people that are late. Hire new people who are not late.
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:07 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is extraordinarily generous. By your model, I could call 20 minutes before to let you know I'm late, and be 25 minutes late six times and only get a verbal warning. It would be almost two solid workweeks of being 25 minutes late every day before a one-day suspension.

Managing employee tardiness is, I think, one of the most difficult aspects of managementm especially for a small business. One the one hand, you don't want to be the asshole who's flipping out over someone being three minutes late. On the other, you don't want to disappoint your customers because they're waiting there for your entire staff to arrive. Add to that the fact that sometimes people really do have good reasons for being late and it's very hard to separate the being-taken-advantage-of excuses from the genuine ones.

What is really key is to express to your employees the importance of being on time. Tell them that you appreciate their efforts at work, but that repeated tardiness is not acceptable. If someone shows up an hour late without calling twice in one month, without a medical or otherwise credible excuse, that to me is an offense worthy of termination.

I'm sorry I can't be more help. This is always tough.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:07 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Lose this scheme. Adults don't want to be part of a system with "points" for not meeting expectations.

Agreed. If your employees already don't respect you, a points system isn't going to help. polygot is right- the plan needs to be "Be on time, or you're fired".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:08 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am definitely with the above comments that you should just make it plain and simple to your employees that tardiness won't be tolerated and arses shall be kicked.

You can certainly use your system privately to document who the worst offenders are though.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 7:08 AM on November 28, 2009

It seems odd to me that calling in earlier has less penalty than calling later, if what you want to do is encourage people to leave home on time. If I leave home early and get stuck in a subway tunnel, my call would be much later than it would if I was dawdling at home hitting the snooze button. Though I understand that for you, more warning is better.
posted by xo at 7:09 AM on November 28, 2009

Most places I've worked have a 'three written corrections [i.e., for each instance of tardiness] then termination' policy. Your policy is too lenient (they can conceivably be late six times before you even give them a verbal warning) and too complicated. Write down a strict, simple policy, have them sign it, and then document and have them sign each correction so if it becomes necessary you can show you fired them with cause.
posted by frobozz at 7:13 AM on November 28, 2009

Far too complicated. With complications come opportunities to argue. Your deal looks a great opportunity for employees to justify being late without real consequence. Someone could be up to almost an hour late for work four times a month but calling it in 16 mins ahead before they get a day off without pay. If other employees are on time and doing double the work they will become resentful the tardy ones aren't being really punished.

Just to clarify though, your three employees were due to begin paid work at at time before opening (say 9.45 am) and not at opening time itself (10 am)? If you don't begin paying until the shop is actually open then they weren't tardy. I only ask because my sister worked at a retail shop that required her to be in the shop and working from 8.45 am until however long the last customer who was inside after the shop when we locked the doors at 5 stayed to browse, but she was only paid 9-5.
posted by saucysault at 7:13 AM on November 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

According to your system, an employee can be 14 minutes late 16 TIMES in a 30 day period before even a 1 day suspension?

So as long as they call 15 minutes or more ahead they can be late 80% of the time (20 working day = 4 weeks of 5 days a month) without real consequence?

Your policy is complicated, easily abused and overly generous.

Within a 30 day period:
First day late - You make a notation in their file, but no real sanction.
Second day late - Verbal warning of termination, notation made in file.
Third day late - Termination

That is more than fair and I believe would stand up under most states UC regulations.
posted by sandra_s at 7:13 AM on November 28, 2009 [8 favorites]

This is over complicated and pretty soft. At my place of work 1 minute late is tardy if you didn't pre-arrange it, call or no-call. If you're tardy 3 times in a month you're on written warning for 3 months, if it's still an issue you're put on final warning for six months, if you keep being tardy you're fired.
posted by ghharr at 7:16 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I disagree with others who say you should just fire anyone who's late, or whatever. A system like this is more fair and less arbitrary. People will know exactly where they stand. As far as how fair it is, it really depends on where you work and what you do.
posted by delmoi at 7:18 AM on November 28, 2009

It's not too strict, but it is a bit crazy. Giving half points was the first thing I noticed. If you keep anything like this then get rid of fractions.

But I'd recommend losing the whole thing. If people are consistently late then they're consistently late and they need to be held accountable for that. Right now you're giving them a way to weasel out of the consequences.

The calling is just silly, because it assumes that someone will get the message. What happens if nobody knows the person will be late? Do you have a way to verify the time that the call was made? Does it still count as a call if nobody knows about it?

Plus with this detailed of a policy you don't get to be lenient at all. If someone is 1 minute late they have to get the points, whereas if someone is always on time but in one instance they're 1 minute late you can be forgiving.

I'm fine with the rolling 30 day count. But really, the whole thing is too complicated.
posted by theichibun at 7:19 AM on November 28, 2009

You don't mention whether people have to clock in or not (or perhaps log in). I think if you have that, and tell people you are keeping track, that makes people more prompt to begin with. That is a bit clearer for someone to understand, and that there is a fixed deadline (you could argue three minutes based on watch synchronization).

I don't think having an arbitrary system with appeal is good, as it sends a slightly confusing message. You could still use it yourself, but once you set the ground-rules applying it fairly sounds tricky.

More generally, I think if there is a problem like this, it is due to a poor system rather than lots of lazy people.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:23 AM on November 28, 2009

Your point system seems more than fair, employees don't like it because it because it means they can't be late anymore. As other have said, though, it seems complex and may be more of a pain than it's worth. More important than fairness, I believe, is clarity and straightforwardness. Three tardies in a month is a lot simpler and should have the same effect. Also don't forget that you can reward as well as punish --if employees have any upward mobility, make it clear that preference will be given to those who show up on time. Or you could do a small bonus for people with no tardies after a certain amount of time. (or one that decreases a certain amount each tardy, so that after they are late once, it doesn't eliminate their motivation to be on time)

Another option is to have everyone get together and make up a policy. (which of course you have to approve)

At the very least, don't accept complaints like "it isn't fair". Make them tell you why, and give specific examples. When you have to be specific, you can't use "it isn't fair" when you really mean "I don't like it."

And to again reiterate what other have said, FOLLOW THROUGH WITH IT. It's not going to work unless employees are sure it will be followed very strictly. A friend of mine is chronically tardy but when he knows there will be repercussions, he gets his ass there on time.
posted by ropeladder at 7:24 AM on November 28, 2009

I agree with EllF. A demerit point scheme to deal with employee tardiness is both unlikely to work and also treats employees the wrong way. A sit down meeting is more appropriate, with consequences if your employees interpret the situation as not requiring a behavior change.

At this point you need to cover a few main topics:
1. State explicitly that on time arrival is a part of the job requirements.
2. Acknowledge that sometimes S*&% happens. In that case you'd rather get a phone call to know someone is running late than not. The sooner someone calls the better. Be clear about whether you'd rather have a call as soon as someone -might- be a few minutes later, or if they should wait until they know they will be.
3. I'm assuming you have clear expectations about hours to start and end shifts. If necessary review them.
4. Be clear that your primary concern is that you all work together toward the same goals. That means you look out for each other, but also that you all contribute to getting the job done. This includes opening on time with adequate staffing to handle the customers.
5. Be ready to explain why you want everyone there before the doors open, particularly if it is usually not the case that there are a significant number of customers needing support immediately. An explanation of how their tardiness affects other employee's time, work flow and work load (including yours if necessary) will make the importance of the request more tangible.

It is difficult to build this ethic in people who don't already have it. They are unlikely to do it just because you say so (which forces you into the accept or fire decision). However, if you give them reasons to do so (keep your job, support your fellow workers, have a more relaxed start to the day) and you give them support you'll learn which ones come through.

If you don't see changes within a week make it clear the question is whether the individuals involved would rather have the personal flexibility to be tardy or keep their jobs. If you have employees that don't value their employment enough to show up, ultimately you are better off firing them and finding someone who does.
posted by meinvt at 7:28 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

some don't like it as they say it is too strict

They're full of it. Don't coddle, but be reasonable. They don't like the old policy? No problem. New policy:

Be on time.
If you are not on time, you will get a warning.
If you are not on time again, you will be fired.

Nice, fair, and easy to remember. If you want to be a "nice guy" you can have some policy of expiring warnings every month.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:28 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Be reasonable: I would always schedule a couple of people to be openers, and to arrive 15 minutes before the store opens. Tidy up, make sure there's change, etc. Talk to people about the schedule; can it be set up to work better for the business, and also meet personal needs? Explain that having the store prepped and open on time is important for business, important to you, and you will enforce work hours.

What gets rewarded, gets repeated: When people are a few minutes early, thank them, buy them a cup of coffee, or get breakfast treats that are put away 2 minutes before opening time. Give a good prize to the person with the best on-time record for the next month.

Enforce consequences: On a calendar that's available to everybody, keep track of who's late. Tardiness will affect raises and promotions. People who are on time get scheduling preference. People who are chronically late get warnings, then a sit down chat, and potentially fired.

You sound like a boss who wants to please employees. I believe it's possible to have a partnership, where you and your staff work together for a common goal, and the employees have a voice. But it sounds like your staff is not very respectful of the needs of the business, so it's time to toughen up. Conflict is a drag, but your staff must respect the needs of the business.
posted by theora55 at 7:34 AM on November 28, 2009 [8 favorites]

This is way too complicated. Here's what I did when I was a retail manager:

I always overlooked less than 10 mins late, personally, but this is because everyone was scheduled half an hour before opening. If it was only 15 mins before opening, I'd overlook 5 mins late.

No Action: Calling in two hours ahead to notify of lateness (once) or doc's note, or verifiable emergency (car accident, etc.)

Verbal Warning: A first lateness where they call ahead at least half an hour, or less than half an hour late without a heads up.

Written Warning: A first lateness where they are more than half an hour late without a call or a second lateness of more than 15 mins with or without a warning.

Write Up: Third lateness of more than 15 mins of any sort.

Suspension: Fourth lateness.

Termination: Fifth lateness.

Rolling 90 day period.
posted by spaltavian at 7:36 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Lose this scheme. Adults don't want to be part of a system with "points" for not meeting expectations.

Seriously. I get what you want to achieve with this, but this scheme seems nitpicky and sort of petty, and you will not believe the amount of ridicule it will garner. I agree with the plan to schedule openers, and the three-strikes policy outlined above.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:40 AM on November 28, 2009

I can see how you're trying to be fair and get your employees to take accountability with your tiered penalty scheme, but I can also see how demoralizing it is for your employees to be slapped with a new tardiness policy and have to learn a none-too-simple scheme to compute their own penalties.

I would suggest keeping it simple, and would recommend a per-instance basis, with an upper limit (say, 2 hours) before they are considered "absent" or "AWOL". Therefore, whether they're 1 minute late or 15 minutes late, it counts as one instance and would merit a verbal warning. Another instance, move to the next level of disciplinary action. That way, you address the tardiness issue and establish a firm boundary against it, as opposed to a blurry "it's more okay to be 2 minutes late than 10 minutes late" consideration.

Also, do explain your rationale clearly, and why it is good thing for the company and a win-win for everyone to be on time. It's better to motivate them into coming on time than punish them for not being on time. If there are still a few chronic offenders after everyone else has improved, address them individually and try to find any underlying causes to their chronic tardiness (logistics? personal problems? hate the job?), and work with them to come up with solutions.
posted by Lush at 7:50 AM on November 28, 2009

Warn your staff that the first person late within the next 30 days is going to be fired. Then fire that person. When the staff mention that Joe got fired, remind the staff that you warned everyone. When that 30 days is up, warn them all again. Repeat until they turn up on time.

I would ask, though: on that particular Saturday, what time did you have people rostered in at? If you open at 10AM, and have people rostered in at 10AM, then that's the time they'll get there. That's not them being late. If you want people with you to open the store, then roster people in earlier to be there to open the store with you. If it takes 15 minutes to prep the store, then roster people in for 9:45. It's unfair to expect people to be at the store for 9:45 if you don't start paying them until 10:00.
posted by Solomon at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

I never worked retail, but you are saying they weren't there 3 minutes before the store opened? Were they getting paid for the three minutes? Were they there on the dot?

I'm a cronically tardy person (not drastically but somewhat). I would expect though that if I was expected to be actively working at 8AM (not hanging up my coat) that I would be being paid from 7:50. And then I would be expected to be in the building by 7:50, no later. But to expect someone in 10 minutes early without paying them, I don't know about that.

Again though, I've worked a lot of somewhat lax admin jobs...never retail. Still, I don't think you can expect people to be somewhere when you are not paying them for the time. Did they arrive in those intervening 3 minutes?
posted by sully75 at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2009

I agree with others that this is simultaneously too complicated and also unlikely to be effective. I am also curious about sully75's question. When I worked in a public-facing job at the public library, I got paid for my shift which started at exactly the same time the library opened to the public. There were a lot of angry threatening memos about how we were supposed to be at the reference desk with our coats off when the doors were opened. I thought this was crazy and got there exactly on time even though this certainly looked like late. The library was saving money not paying us for times when the public wasn't there and yet also not accepting that starting a shift requires some actions that, in an ideal world, happen before the public gets there.

My point being that if you're paying your employees to be there right when the store opens, it's not okay to expect them to be there earlier, unpaid. If you're paying them to be there earlier it's totally not okay for them to not be there. So, if you'd like to be reasonable, I'd do a meet people partway thing.

1. everyone's shift starts fifteen minutes before the store opens. You are expected to be on time and doing opening tasks before the store opens (this is a decent deal for them, imo)
2. not being there when the store opens [i.e. fifteen minutes late] is unacceptable and a warning
3. two warnings is the maximum number of warnings you can have in a 30 day period
4. third warning and you're suspended without pay
5. any additional warnings in a rolling 30 day period and you're fired.
6. the occasional "I'm going to be late" phone call is okay. The common "I'm going to be late" phone call is not okay. Find your own way to handle this. [this allows you to be lenient but not a sucker]

No one likes demerits. It's more work for you and makes people feel like it's school and not a workplace. And you want to solve the problem which is not so much slacker workers as no one being around when the store opens. You can't really solve the other problems which is making people be on time, you can just have systems for what happens when they're not on time.
posted by jessamyn at 8:24 AM on November 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

I agree with the 'ditch it' comments - you're incentivizing tardiness with this scheme. Think of it from your employees' perspective. They're tired and don't want to come in - no worries, they've got 6 points to spend before anything remotely bad happens to them. See Freakonomics example here.

Go with the 3 strikes and you're out policy. It's fair and easy to understand.
posted by schwab at 8:50 AM on November 28, 2009

Okay, IAAL, and though IANYL, I do regularly review employee handbooks. We've observed that regimented progressive disciplinary policies can cause a number of problems.

1) Any deviations from the policy can lead to problems should you try to fire someone. If you deviate from the policy when you fire someone, they might be able to sue you for not abiding by the terms of the handbook. Furthermore, if you give someone a pass and then fire someone else, that person can sure you for discrimination.

2) The more detailed the provisions, the more likely they are to be construed as an employment contract, which will interfere with your employees' at-will status, which is bad for you.

You need to remember that you are the employer. This means that you are in control, not your employees. They are here to do your business, for which you write them a check every two weeks. You can't fire someone for being a woman, or black, or married, etc., but you can fire someone for tardiness after their first offense if you really wanted to. This isn't necessarily a good idea, but there's nothing but wisdom preventing you from doing that.

It's usually recommended that you simply say that tardiness, like all other employment issues, will be dealt with appropriately, with measures up to and including suspension and termination. Then do what feels right. If there's no written policy, it's going to be very difficult for anyone to complain. Be reasonable, and you should be fine.

sully75 is correct in that you need to let your employees clock in when they arrive, but it's entirely reasonable to expect them to be there at a designated time and to take corrective action if they aren't. You do not necessarily need to have a detailed plan as to what that action is.

Either way, you should have your employee handbook and any disciplinary policy reviewed by a local attorney before implementing it. It's entirely possible that your jurisdiction has labor laws which may be very detrimental for this sort of thing.
posted by valkyryn at 8:51 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

That article doesn't give the explanation for why the tardiness rose, btw. The book explains the study more in depth and concludes that parents saw the extra fee as simply a payment for extra care whereas without the fee, they felt guilty about not picking up their child on time. Payment reduces guilt. Your scheme has a similar vibe.
posted by schwab at 8:53 AM on November 28, 2009

One thing that I don't think anyone has brought up yet: 1 day of unpaid suspension is not necessarily a punishment, especially for part-time workers (and lazy people). You have set up a system that allows someone to earn a 1-2 day unpaid vacation just by showing up a few hours late, without the risk of losing their job as long as they only do it once every 30 days.

If you're going to use suspension to punish employees, it needs to have a significant financial impact on them (at least 1 week). I think jessamyn's system is more reasonable and gives you the flexibility you need to fire people if/when necessary.
posted by helios at 9:32 AM on November 28, 2009

Are you managing Millennials? If you are, they reportedly have some challenges as a generation re: workplace expectations. Us Thirteenth generation types may be tattooed and surly, but at least we tend to show up on time to work.

Do not give them a system to game. And you do no need to waste your time playing scorekeeper. You have a business to run.

Lay down the law. You are expected to be at work, ready to go at X:XX. Showing up after that, or not ready to go, is late. Given that chronic lateness is already a problem, I'm disinclined to recommend even allowing them to call in saying "I'm going to be late". They've burned that bridge.

Effective immediately:
First late, explicit verbal warning.
Second late, written up, have them sign a copy of their write-up, then give them a copy of the signed write-up to keep.
Third late, fired for cause.

Put it all in writing, have them all sign the policy, then give them a copy of their signed policy. Because there are people out there, RIGHT NOW, who want their job and will show up on time to do it.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:08 AM on November 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Do not give them a system to game. And you do no need to waste your time playing scorekeeper. You have a business to run.

This. The points thing is ridiculously overcomplicated and full of loopholes to boot. It's not strong leadership.

Start time should be 10 or 15 min before the store opens, and yes, they should get paid for this time. They're expected to show up on time, or they get reprimanded. Three strikes and they're out.

In case of an emergency, they should call ahead to let you know that they'll be late. If it is a reasonable emergency or something beyond their control for real, you should excuse their lateness. If they call with stupid BS as a reason, you do not excuse it and it "counts" as being late.

Personally, I give about five minutes leeway for lateness, but not as a stated policy. However, if my direct report shows up at 9:05 every single day, they get fussed at.
posted by desuetude at 10:25 AM on November 28, 2009

Aggree with many of the comments above about the complexity of the system. Work is already composed of a host of complex cognitive processes. The complexity of the system you're proposing makes things more difficult -- instead of more simple -- from a cognitive point of view. For me, the single most important thing you can do is to make it simple.

The system you propose leaves the room for evaluation on your employee's part. Weighing whether it's ok to be late today because of the number of points accrued, and all that. Rather, a clear indication that being late means you are warned, and that being late repeatedly (which will be tracked) is grounds for dismissal. Period. Make clear that this policy is within grounds for termination by state law -- which will generally say you can dismiss someone for violation of these types of stated policy. State law has a way of communicating what a boss can't, from time to time.

You should have reviews with your employees periodically in any case; this is an opportunity to review any past tardiness in any given period, and institute a warning, or a dismissal if they've already been warned.
posted by cloudscratcher at 10:30 AM on November 28, 2009

Don't like it. It assumes bad faith and encourages gaming the system. After all, someone who's on time every day loses trading free time off for "points." I like the comments that said, "show the F up on time, or you're F'in fired."

That said, everyone is late once in a while (and by that, I mean maybe once a month, not every other day). Setting concrete detailed procedures means you can't use your common sense to overlook the "shit happens" situations.

What you really need to do is some root cause analysis. You can either do this by yourself, or you can involve them in a "team meeting." Why are they late? Have you let it go so long they think it's accepted practice to be lax about starting time? Do they not think it matters (i.e., there are never any customers there for the first hour anyway?) Are there too many people opening? Are they just not that crazy about this job?

You don't have to explain the importance of being on time. You should, though, be able to say that it's your business and you want people who will be there when they say they are going to be there. You can also take suggestions like having a couple of people odd shift in an hour early to open, then leave an hour late (or the opposite). You need to impress, though, that once someone is assigned to be there at T, they will be there at T, not T+N or they will eventually be fired.

(Also, don't put in writing that they get one warning, or whatever. "Three strikes" means two freebies.)
posted by ctmf at 11:11 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oops, open early - leave early. Come in late - stay late.
posted by ctmf at 11:13 AM on November 28, 2009

Chiming in to second valkyryn. If tardiness is a problem, you want to keep records of who is tardy, when, by how long, etc. But you don't want to tie your own hands, you want to give yourself the room and power to be reasonable given all of the circumstances. If there is a person who is a problem, you want a policy that will allow you to discipline. If you have a great worker who contributes in humor, smarts, and leadership, but has a tardy spell, you want to give them time to bring their performance up to snuff or move them to a later shift. Those are just examples, but you get the drift. Management should not be an equation. You could end up regretting a rigid by-the-numbers policy more than your workers.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:21 AM on November 28, 2009

In todays economy with tons of people out of jobs, 3 lates and your fired.

There are tons of people who would work at your company right now. You have to be strict when it comes to lateness.
posted by majortom1981 at 11:22 AM on November 28, 2009

Weighing in on the complication: I work at a school dealing with tardies and absences which we have to keep track of for giving out detentions. To you, the system might seem not complicated, but when you have to start keeping track of tardies & point, what time they came in, proper documentation, rolling over absences, setting them back to zero, etc, it quickly becomes a major and unnecessary time sink. Your scheme will require much more of a time investment than it is worth. For that alone, I would definitely follow other people's advice on how to deal with absences in the future.
posted by jmd82 at 11:37 AM on November 28, 2009

If all the employees are late all, or most, of the time, then the problem is systemic.

I notice that you didn't tell us what time your business opens, or what time your employees are expected to be at work. Obviously, you don't think that information is relevant, because you are the boss, you make the rules, everyone else has to follow them, etc. And yet, as you can see, it's not that simple.

There is one key question that you need to answer before you can solve this problem: Why is the lateness happening?

The typical answer here is "because the employees are unreliable scumbags with no sense of responsibility," but when the problem is widespread and chronic, then either a) that's not really the answer, or b) the real problem is that you suck at hiring reliable people.

How about this? Ask them. Sit them down as a group and say, "Listen guys, I've noticed that nobody ever gets here on time. What's up?"

Of course, you are not going to do this, because, like most small business proprietors, it is off your radar to consider that your employees might be able to tell you something about how to run your own business. So I'll give you the answer.

"Gee, boss. None of us were going to come out and say it, but... It's widely understood that your starting time is arbitrary and ridiculous. We all know that the business will be just fine if we don't get here by the time you've designated. Also, we are knowledge workers who seek validation through our problem-solving abilities, and we resent being treated as if we were ditch-diggers. Finally, we don't feel that you give us enough credit for the part of our work that actually matters. If we wanted to work at McDonalds, we wouldn't have gone to college."

Of course, you don't want to hear that either. It's not up to them, it's up to you, the economy is bad and they should feel lucky just to have a job, etc.

So here's the alternate solution: Fire them all, and replace them with people who have a different attitude. When that doesn't work, do it again. Repeat until you go out of business. It won't solve the problem, but at least you can keep reassuring yourself that you know what's best.

on preview: ctmf covers some of this.
posted by bingo at 11:41 AM on November 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

I agree with the others. It is not too strict, it is too complicated, juvenile and sets up a way to make tardiness habit forming.

I would define tardy (10 minute grace period? or be here by the time the clock on the wall says 8:00). Then do a three strikes, you're out policy. And I would make it maybe three strikes within three months or something.

That point system is crazy. Everyone is late from time to time. But damn if your policy doesn't let them make it a lifestyle choice. Besides, who wants to deal with suspension and cutting pay and all that crazy stuff?
posted by Bueller at 11:42 AM on November 28, 2009

You're being too soft, and your employees are whiners. There are people who would stand on their heads for those jobs. If your employees don't want to show up on time and work, fire their asses and find someone who does want to show up on time and work. (and if you're anywhere near Atlanta, MeMail me and I'll have ten resumes of experienced and unemployed techs in your inbox by the end of the day)
posted by deadmessenger at 11:51 AM on November 28, 2009

Whatever you do, I'd make everyone sign a form saying that they have read the new policy, and keep it in their files. Document every time someone is late (maybe make them sign too?). That way you have a record in case someone tries to claim wrongful termination.
posted by radioamy at 11:53 AM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

If it's a small group, and people are generally cool about things (like where I'm used to working), it may be as simple as saying "hey, everyone? The other day I was the only one here when the doors opened and that made me double-plus-pissed. Can we work on being here on time, as if this is a real job, with real rules? Thanks."

That kind of thing would have been enough at my last job to work for a while. I've actually overheard people saying stuff likem "Dude, be careful, ctmf is kind of pissed about that lately. Maybe we should do this other thing instead." Things go in cycles, and I'd have to do it again after a few months. I preferred handling things informally like that to official written policies, though. On very rare occasion I had to take someone into the lab behind a closed door and say "Ok, now really, wtf, man?"

The only time I ever had to fire someone was because of an actual criminal act. A good talking to isn't appropriate in that situation, but seemed to work every other time.
posted by ctmf at 12:09 PM on November 28, 2009

If they are being paid to start at a certain time, lets say 9am, they should be ready to work at 9am. you are not paying them for putting away their coats, having a cup of coffee, etc. At my part time job we have a fairly generous policy. 5 absences or tardies within a rolling 12 month period and a warning (written), another 5 within the same rolling 12 months and a final warning. another 5 after that and they are fired.

Whatever method you go with, write up the new policy and have everyone sign that they understand. Keep track of tardies. When the first person gets fired, you'll notice a dramatic increase in people's ability to get to work on-time.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 12:36 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Too complex, too soft.
posted by A189Nut at 12:43 PM on November 28, 2009

I would do two things.

First, I would explain to everyone (as well as putting it in writing) that the policy is first tardy is a warning, second tardy is termination. You run a business that relies on people being there on time and ready to work.

Second, I would put an ad in the classifieds for qualified techs. Interview any respondents at the store and tell them you expect openings in the near future. When you get questions from your current employees, explain that you are concerned that they are not going to take the policy seriously and that one or two positions are going to become vacant. You are just preparing for the future.

You will either have full compliance, or a ready replacement available.
posted by Old Geezer at 12:53 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

My point being that if you're paying your employees to be there right when the store opens, it's not okay to expect them to be there earlier, unpaid. If you're paying them to be there earlier it's totally not okay for them to not be there.

This is an excellent point. It's one thing to be tough on slackers, quite another to be Draconian and tyrannical. I wouldn't pay for people to be taking off their coats and getting their morning coffee. When the clock starts, you're expected to be ready, not just-coming-in-the-door.

That said, if there's any prep work that needs doing, any pre-opening cleaning or setting up that requires actual labor before the doors literally open, it is absolutely not right to simply assume people will come in early and do this for free. If you need people to be in 15 minutes before official opening to get everything ready, then you need to not only stipulate this explicitly, but compensate for it in their pay. Same goes for closing up shop. Restaurants are notorious for this kind of "assumed/unpaid" bullshit. Just because you're mopping floors instead of serving customers, you should still be paid.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:22 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

The point system is going to be a burden for you to monitor.

One thing you could do is have them clock in when they get in. That way you can work with objective data and not your memory. As a supervisor you need to record everything for your own legal cover in case they challenge their termination. Also you might get what you want simply from the Hawthorne Effect.

(You can also pay them from the start of their shift or when they clock in, whichever is later, lending a little financial consequence.)

For disciplinary action, I have been trained to meet with each employee who has the problem, explain to them your perspective on the problem and present recorded evidence of the incidents (even if it's just a pen and paper log). Then you work with them to establish a corrective action plan with consequences (eg no more than x minutes late x shifts in a week/month or you're terminated) and criteria for ending the plan (four consecutive weeks with no more than x tardiness incidents.) Be as objective as possible. Record the discussion. Both of you sign and date.

As a former mentor once told me, "Someone is always training somebody." In other words, either you train them about your expectations or they will train you about theirs.
posted by cross_impact at 1:49 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing the idea that it's not too strict but it is too complicated.

I'd just say "You're either on time, or you're not. If you're under five minutes late, you'll get a warning the first time, but after that, if you're not on time, you're fired. Extraordinary circumstances may arise, and if they do, they'll be dealt with on a case by case basis, but don't count on generosity there. If something about your circumstances makes it impossible for you to be reliable, see me to work something out."

Extraordinary circumstances being, I dunno, they got hit by a bus, or their spouse had a stroke in the shower, or something. Circumstances being, say, that they have to get their kid to school no earlier than 7:15, you have them scheduled at 7:30, and it's a 20 minute commute from there. Make it possible for them to be on time, but then hold them to it.
posted by KathrynT at 1:57 PM on November 28, 2009

A few posters are pretty enthusiastic about the two-strikes-and-you're-fired policy. It's certainly simple, but it also means: firing someone who may be a good worker and a good person; advertising for a new person; interviewing, checking references, hiring; training the new person.

The goal should be getting people to do the duties of the job, including set up and being there when the retail part opens, and responding appropriately to the boss's reasonable requests such as this is the time I need you to be here. The goal should not be to crack down for the sake of cracking down.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:12 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Regarding taking off your jacket and getting ready, I believe that I should be paid for that too. I shouldn't take forever doing it, but I don't think I should pay for it (in unpaid time).

In the same way that it would be ridiculous for me to expect my employer to pay for my commuting time to and from work, I think it's sort of ridiculous to expect someone to do all the emotional preparation to be ready for work on their own time. I feel pretty ok with my body moving through the door at 8:59 for a 9 AM job. And while I'm at it, if I stay 15 minutes late, I expect to be paid for it.

Because I think the important point is that if I was to leave 15 minutes early, I wouldn't necessarily expect to be paid for that.
posted by sully75 at 8:11 PM on November 28, 2009

If you keep the point system, I say eliminate the middle category of calling less than 15 minutes ahead of when you should be there, and have 0-15 minutes late be 0 points.

That said, is your biggest problem the opening shift? Then schedule people to be there 15 minutes ahead of the time that they're scheduled now, and give them something they *need* to do in the time before the store opens.

I'm a person who's usually several minutes late for work, but most of the time my lateness does not affect anything.

Once I started having a specific register shift at the beginning of my shift, I wound up showing up a lot more on the dot. Being late for a register shift affects the people I work with. Me showing up ten minutes late to shelve stock or organize things...ehhh....I can't view that as being as big of a deal. Meetings? I'll be there on time, because it's a responsibility that involves not letting other people down. Maybe have a brief store meeting before you open that goes over the day's agenda, and assign leftover dud activities to whoever is late for the store meeting?
posted by redsparkler at 9:36 PM on November 28, 2009

Short and simple.

New expectations time.

If store opens at 10am, people need to be there at X:XXam to open store, prepare, etc.

Install timecard system.

If people are more than 5 minutes (or X minutes, take your pick) more than 3 times (or X times, take your pick) in a given 60-day (or X-day period, take your pick), you will lose your job.

Go through timecards weekly. Circle in prominent red marker any late clock-in times.
posted by chrisinseoul at 5:17 AM on November 29, 2009

I agree that the new system is confusing and open to gaming, but I think the OP's problem now is that it's already been implemented - if the staff don't respect the owner enough to come in on time when it's important to him/her, how are they going to react if this new system is withdrawn and yet another put into place?

As far as the "taking off the coat" thing, I agree that shouldn't be on the clock time - it also shouldn't be a big deal, but I've worked with people who are "in the office" at 8am or whenever but then spend 10 minutes making coffee, shuffle to the bathroom for 20 minutes, come back to check in briefly with their personal email and maybe half an hour or so into the workday actually start seeing what work needs to be done. And are out the door like a bullet at 5. That sort of taking advantage can be annoying in an office environment but just doesn't work in a retail environment. If that's the attitude OP is dealing with time to schedule them earlier! (If it's not already being done - that's unclear).
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:23 AM on November 29, 2009

Seriously, titans13, could you answer some of the questions being posted here? Are you paying your employees hourly? Are you starting those paid hours right at opening time?

Addressing the issues raised in the comments above will help you get better answers. But in general, yes, your scheme is way too complicated and treats your employees with disrespect. Yeah, being late is disrespectful, too, but increasing the overall disrespect isn't going to solve your problem.
posted by mediareport at 9:00 AM on November 29, 2009

If you're setting up hard and fast rules like two strikes and you're out, you're going to be competing with places like Geek Squad -- a big corporate chain who can very effectively churn through employees. They have the hire, train, fire infrastructure setup perfectly and even if you manage to mimic their business model, at your size the overhead and administrative burden of this will kill you.

If it were me I'd have my employees come in 30 minutes before store open (and pay them for it).

Or you can do what my local retail shop did and not open until 10 AM.
posted by geoff. at 2:50 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "way too complicated". But I also wanted to say that if this is the way you solve management problems, you might want to do some management training. It's a whole different skill set to IT.
posted by kjs4 at 4:24 PM on November 29, 2009

I'm assuming your company is too small to fall under FMLA guidelines (where tardies could potentially need to be excused). Keep it simple - three strikes and you're out is most popular and easiest to document.
posted by Twicketface at 10:24 AM on November 30, 2009

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