Can I dismiss an employee for being late?
Well, it turns out that in certain circumstances, yes, you can dismiss an employee for being late, as shown in the recent case of Tijani v House of Commons Commission.
Miss Tijani had been working for the House of Commons since 2015. During that time, it would be fair to say her time keeping was less than perfect.
In 2017, she received a written warning for poor time keeping after being late for 17 out of 20 shifts and received further written warnings for the same issue in 2018 and 2019.
The House of Commons invoked its disciplinary procedure and ultimately decided to dismiss Miss Tijani on this basis, as her lateness was causing repercussions. Of course, she appealed their decision but was unsuccessful in her attempt, with her employer relying on the fact she had been persistently late, even if only by a few minutes each time.
What was the outcome?
The decision to dismiss led Miss Tejani to take her case to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal. The peculiar point in this case was that the Tribunal did not receive a copy of the House of Common’s disciplinary policy and therefore had to make a decision without reference to it.
Instead, the Tribunal took the view that poor timekeeping and lateness, especially to this extent, would generally be classed as misconduct and therefore ruled that the dismissal was in fact fair.
Clearly, Miss Tejani was not in agreement and so appealed the ruling further to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Again, the Appeal Tribunal did not have sight of the disciplinary policy when weighing up the facts, but even then, held that the dismissal had been fair, based on the fact that employees have an obligation to be present on time and ready to work.
What can I take away from this?
Employees can be dismissed if they are persistently late! Whilst the correct policies and procedures should be followed, there is nothing preventing employers from going down this route.
The Tribunal commented that in the ordinary course of proceedings, it would expect to have the disciplinary policy to be disclosed, but given the persistently poor time keeping of the Miss Tejani, it was fair that she was dismissed.
However, it highlights the importance of having the correct policies and procedures in place, especially if dismissal is in contemplation, as it can otherwise weaken the employer’s grounds.
Just because the dismissal was deemed fair in this case, it does not mean that you should not have an appropriate disciplinary policy!