In Ghartey v Royal Museums Greenwich, the Employment Tribunal dealt with the fairness or otherwise of the dismissal of a long-serving museum worker for persistent lateness. The case concerned a visitor assistant who had been spoken to as far back as 2005/06 about arriving late at work. He was advised that his timekeeping would be monitored and that disciplinary proceedings would be implemented if there was no improvement. Following a series of discussions and warnings, he was issued with a final written warning in 2014 following a period of unauthorised absence.

Around the same time, the museum decided to embark on a crackdown on timekeeping and attendance issues which resulted in disciplinary warnings being issued to staff who had reached a certain level of absence or lateness. As he was already in receipt of a final written warning, this resulted in the Claimant’s dismissal.

He brought a tribunal claim on the grounds that he had a difficult bus journey to work, his 2 previous warnings were unfair, the final warning did not mention that further misconduct could result in dismissal and the timing of the aforementioned crackdown was dubious.

Although the Tribunal acknowledged that the Claimant had a difficult journey to work, his unfair dismissal claim was rejected because:

 

  • the Claimant had been persistently late;
  • the Claimant had known the importance of arriving at work on time and that any failure to do so could result in disciplinary action; and
  • the museum had conducted a fair procedure.

 

The Tribunal’s view was that…

 

‘Ultimately it is an employee’s responsibility to take whatever reasonable steps are needed to get to work on time. It’s clear that it was a requirement that he attend work on time and if he did not it could cause operational difficulties for the Company and could lead to disciplinary action.’

 

As this case shows, persistent bad timekeeping can lead to a fair dismissal, but only if employees are fully informed of the standards required and any failures to meet those standards are managed fairly and consistently.

Poor timekeeping and high levels of absence can have a severe impact on a company’s productivity and profits, so it is important to have clear policies and procedures in place in this regard. Employee Management Ltd can help provide robust policies and commercially focused advice on managing timekeeping and attendance. If your business has a current need in this area, or you have any issues you would like to discuss, please contact one of our HR consultants for a no-obligation discussion in confidence.