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Susan M. Heathfield

Why Are Your Employees Late for Work?

By March 24, 2013

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Does your workplace suffer from employees who are frequently late for work? If so, you aren't alone. A recent survey about reasons why employees are late to work, conducted by CareerBuilder.com, shows that 15% of workers are late for work at least once a week. That number is down from 16% in 2009 and 20% in 2008. They speculate that the reduced late for work percentages are due to the recession.

In the CareerBuilder.com survey, employee excuses for being late for work ranged from the expected - to the unexpected. These were the most common excuses offered about why employees were late for work.

  • Delayed by traffic: 30%
  • Late to work because of lack of sleep: 19%
  • Bad weather: 9%
  • Delay in getting kids to day care or school: 8%

CareerBuilder found that other common excuses employees claimed caused them to be late for work included public transportation problems, wardrobe issues, or dealing with pets.

Best Excuses Employees Make About Why They're Late for Work

I've dealt with lots of strange, fabricated, wild, and crazy excuses about why employees came late to work. One of my best ever was the afternoon shift employee who claimed that her grandfather's funeral had run much longer than expected - forgetting that this was the third grandfather whose funeral attendance she had claimed.

Another employee had to borrow money for gas, perhaps not so crazy in that his wages were being garnished at the max. A brave employee said that he was so hung over that he had to stop for breakfast. CareerBuilder heard some best employee excuses, too.

How about you? What's the funniest, weirdest, oddest, most unusual excuse an employee has offered you about why he or she was late for work? Have more than one? Share all of them.

Manage Employee Attendance

Want to know how to manage employees who are late for work? You can manage employee attendance problems with these ideas for the supervisor.

Image Copyright Krystian Kaczmarski

More Related to Why Employees Are Late for Work

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March 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm
(1) gramanana says:

People do come to work sick, but they should be discouraged from doing so if they have something contagious. One person with the flu can cause an entire office to be shut down for days. Got strep or strep like symptoms? Stay home!
Do you want 20 people off for 5 days or one!

Its simple math.

March 28, 2011 at 11:26 am
(2) Alex says:

What an empty article this is.
Instead of the superficial causes, look at the deep ones.
What the excuses are not interesting at all.
Why are they _really_ late?

Proper way would be some type of intelligently done research but I would speculate that the following are real causes:
- because they asked to work overtime without their consent (they are forced to do so or they are afraid to decline to keep the job)
- because they don’t enjoy what they are doing
(bad work placement and match)
- they don’t have enough support or help from co-workers/team and/or boss
- the work hours are too strict or too much already
(even 9-5 or 9-6 could be too much, 40 hours is amazing time per week; why not work 20 or 30 hours per week!! employees/employers need a new paradigm; work as much as you need or something)
- they have not had a chance to take a proper vacation
- they need some hiatus
(they have been working all the time and not having enough life; it has been work, work, work)
- the work is not aligned with their real interests and life goals/purpose

“say what you need to say”

March 30, 2011 at 12:42 am
(3) Anonymous C says:

I agree 100% with what you say Alex. Somehow employers the world over conveniently forget that their employees could be overworked and might have a “LIFE”!!!
And the article did nothing for me either!

May 26, 2011 at 11:27 pm
(4) Anonymous says:

Corporate America does not have to wake up. YOU need to wake up and realize that being late to work is unprofessional, disrepectful, and just plain stupid. Why in the world would you be late to work when your schedule says to be there at a certain time? Let me guess its the lame excuse that you were up late or your not a morning person. LAME LAME LAME. You are adults not children, save the excuses for the 8 year olds who can’t turn in there homework on time. If your boss tells you to be there at 9 o’clock sharp than you should be there at 9 o’clock sharp. Not 9:02 or 9:05.you should be there at 9:00. You may think that you can make up for being late by staying later but guess what? YOUR BOSS WANTS YOU THERE ON TIME!! You may not be needed after your scheduled hours. These days the “ADULTS” in this world are more like kids. They think they can be late to work and not have any punishments. Well guess what world, if you want to get yourself fired, be my guest and get to work late because there are a select few who are willing to be to work on time and they dont have 8 year old excuses as to why they are late. So a summary of it all: Dont use some lame 8 year old excuse as to why you are late to work, be an adult and get to work on time, you are no better than your kids if you use an excuse. America’s work force needs to grow up and take responsibility.

November 10, 2011 at 9:46 am
(5) sue says:

You’re late because you’re not motivated to work and you lack the enthusiasm anymore.

March 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm
(6) ThisIsNotDan says:

“Why not work 20 or 30 hours per week?”

Alex, you should move to France or something.

March 21, 2012 at 8:02 am
(7) Amanda says:

I work in the manufacturing industry where everything is driven by production. If an employee is late to work, not only is it disrespectful but it slows down production. There are reasons that your boss wants you to work specific hours, just because you may not be aware of them does not mean they are not important!

March 21, 2012 at 8:04 am
(8) Amanda says:

Oh, the best late for work excuse I have heard recently is that an employee had to wait for his brother to wake up for school because he hid his keys the night before and wouldn’t tell him where they were. WOW!

January 26, 2013 at 1:25 am
(9) Robert says:

I can understand if others rely on you to be on time to perform their job, but if not, then giving an employee a hard time about being 5 minutes late to work once every couple of weeks seems a little power happy. After all, if you are gonna give someone a hard time over a few minutes a month then I think its pretty self evident as to why there in no rush to get to work. Understandably, rules are set by employers and it is important to follow these rules because it shows discipline and organization, but unless your company makes money off you being a precise time telling coordinator, then focus on the main reason someone is hired and usually that is to perform tasks and services using whatever skill set that may require. I work for a company that has relocated twice and is now over an hour away. On top of that, they just changed their hours from 7 am to 5 am, and I wasn’t given any say in the matter. Knowing it was gonna be a struggle for me, I went to the boss to no avail. Personally, I know I perform the tasks faster and more efficiently with a higher quality product than any of my co-workers. In some cases, I’m close to double the production, yet since the hour change I have struggled to get in on time averaging 5 to ten minutes every week or two. It is not due to a lack of motivation. Like Sue said, I don’t think anyone consciously is late to work cause they’re sitting on their couch looking at the clock saying, “eehh, I don’t feel like moving right now”. I have 2 alarm clocks and I’ve tried going to bed earlier, up to 11 hours before I had to get up, yet still I have slept right through the alarms. Usually, I end up getting woken up by my girlfriend cause she ends up waking up to my alarms. Either way I just end up running late here and there, and as of this morning I received a final warning.

January 26, 2013 at 1:25 am
(10) Robert says:

Next step is termination due to their strict rules on being late, I’m the second longest employee there. I’ve even been there 1 year longer than my bosses. The more years you’re with a company, the more days and higher the percent you are to show up late. Either way, this isn’t high school. I don’t show up to work on time cause I’m worried I’ll get in trouble, I show up to make money. I’m hourly, so I take a hit for every minute I’m late and I find it counter productive and stupid that companies put being exactly on time on such a pedestal. Cut your employees some slack. If they excel in every area except for the fact that they’re a few minutes late every once in a while, then back off, cause if I do end up getting terminated, it’s gonna hurt the company, not help it, and after all these rules were formed to help the company do better, not worse, it’s pretty simple what’s worse? Having an employee who pushes out double that of his coworkers, yet late here and there, or having an employee that you know you have to spend money to train and only produces half of that of the worker he is replacing, but at least he is on time.

March 26, 2013 at 9:50 am
(11) Marcia Lusnak says:

I think it depends on the environment you work in and your commitment to the job. Many of our best employees are not in their office at 8:00 a.m. everyday, but their work is done, and it’s done well. They are at the meetings they need to attend and they are on time. They are also the ones who are available after hours to help with business related emergencies when need be. To generalize this across all working situations in today’s day and age is naive. In the example of Production lines, I am in 100% agreement that being on time is essential. However, for other roles and environments, it may not be as critical and to push that when it’s not essential could dis-engage a good employee when you try to micro manage their time. With this topic, comes a lot of gray areas and different ways of thinking.

March 26, 2013 at 3:57 pm
(12) Anonymous2 says:

Alex, I agree to a certain degree with what you said. I, too, was disappointed with the lack of depth in the article. I’ve come to expect a lot more from this site than a simple regurgitation of a CareerBuilder.com survey. That would have been great as a link to a more developed article…

That said, I think you should take a good look at yourself and re-examine your feeling of entitlement and what it’s doing for you. If the company where you currently work doesn’t support your lifestyle choices, make a change. Either get a new job at a company where they don’t care about you being on time (although rare, it is possible, so good luck with that) or change your attitude. In this economy, jobs are still hard to find and the market is very competitive – employers know that, so don’t let the choice be taken away from you by gettng yourself fired.

Keep in mind that most companies (especially in the U.S.) exist to make money, not to provide some kind of social welfare or bend over backwards to accommodate the lifestyle needs/wants/whims of their employees. Now that is not to say that companies can’t try to create a work environment that makes employees want to be there on time but, the point is, they don’t have to. In some cases, they can’t afford to let everyone come in whenever they feel like it for a number of reasons.

March 27, 2013 at 3:24 am
(13) DIANE says:

To all of you who think it should not matter if you come to work 2 to 10 minutes late:

I can’t leave until the 3:30 person finally decides to get to work. When that person is late, I miss the 3:40 bus and now I have to wait until 4:15 for the next bus. I also then have to call around and find someone to pick my kids up from school because, if I am not there to pick them up by 4:15, they not only charge me, but if this continues to happen they will throw us out of the school. So I either have to find someone or take a cab.

I should not have to find someone or pay someone or have to take a cab, which is not cheap, because some people REFUSE to get to work on time.

March 27, 2013 at 9:56 am
(14) Sue says:

Best excuses I’ve ever heard are: “they got a roll brush caught in their hair while blow drying it” and “the trash truck broke down in front on my house and I can’t get out of my driveway”.

March 29, 2013 at 11:27 am
(15) Nishi says:

Employees come to work late because their boss sucks as a boss and nobody wants to work for them.

March 30, 2013 at 3:02 am
(16) Marilyn says:

Comment #4 is correct to say that employees need to take responsibility to come in on time. There are jobs that require employees not to be late because it is not practicing teamwork and reliability. Also, being late effects productivity and that is why schedules are there to be enforced.

April 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm
(17) Jiet says:

Many malaysians are working more or less 72 hours a week… or more…what have you to complaint? As in my good company, it’s okay to be about more or less 10 minutes late… as long as our jobs are done… and done properly…

May 2, 2013 at 9:42 am
(18) Ro says:

Folks, it’s simple…find a job that will appreciate your presence. While being on time is efficient, I’ve found that some jobs are better left for more research-oriented and creative types.

I’ve had tardy issues a majority of my life. In some cases, (especially morning jobs), it’s funny I was only let go from one factory based job. However, since my work is more research oriented and creative, I’m a very productive worker. Timeliness aspects are only for those employers who love to gripe about shift issues. It DOES NOT encapsulate every aspect of timeliness on a job.

Go to a job or pick a career choice that will be willing to embrace that. Folks, it’s really simple in that regard. Now, if you messed around and had a family, then, you should know that you can’t do that all of the time. Also, always pray to receive divine help and favor with people despite your foibles. It would only make people like Anonymous more jealous and disgusted because favor is not FAIR. God protects his…and you better believe it! Also, your unique relationship with him is well…unique…but just have one. Then, you’ll be okay…through the good AND bad….

August 10, 2013 at 6:19 am
(19) Art says:

As a boss, I make my schedules out for you to be to work at the scheduled time I write down. If I wanted you to come in 5 minutes late I would have made the schedule to reflect that. If one person is late, it affects all the other workers who were on time. And when one worker gets “away” with something, believe me when I say the others will try to get “away” with it too! After all it’s only “fair”! So for me, if you can’t be to work on time, I’ll help you to find a job that allows you to come in when you feel like it (because you’re so productive) what a load of crap! And yes, my workers are happy because nobody gets any preferred treatment!

September 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm
(20) Christopher Kubota says:

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January 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm
(21) Kat says:

Sue – I nearly died laughing. Definitely the best excuses

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