The State of Workplace Tardiness

HR & Safety

How many employees are late and why

Getting to work on time can be hard enough without the added obstacles imposed by car trunk thieves, gas station stick-ups, and shower mishaps. Yet, these are just the types of incidents some workers claim prevented them from getting to work on time, according to a survey from CareerBuilder.

More than 2,100 hiring and human resource managers and more than 3,000 workers participated in the nationwide survey, conducted by Harris Poll.

Tardiness Trends

When asked how often they come in late to work, more than one in 5 workers (23%) admitted they do it at least once a month, and 14% say it’s a weekly occurrence for them.

Of the workers who have admitted to being late for work in the past, three in 10 have lied about the reason for their tardiness. Perhaps they feel the need to lie because the repercussions of lateness could be serious: 41% of employers have actually fired an employee for being late.

Some employers are more lenient than others, however. One third of employers say they have no problem with the occasional late arrival, as long as it doesn’t become a pattern, and 16% say they don’t need employees to be punctual if they can still get their work done. (Indeed, 59% of workers who arrive late will stay later to make up for it.)

Traffic is the most common cause of tardiness among employees (50%), followed by lack of sleep (30%), and bad weather (26%).

Trying to get the kids to school or daycare is a roadblock for more than one in 10 workers (12%), while public transportation and wardrobe issues get in the way of being on time for 7% and 6% of workers, respectively.

You Were Late, Why?

For some workers, however, the blame belongs on less conventional culprits. When asked about the most outrageous reasons employees have given them for being late, employers shared the following:

  • I knocked myself out in the shower.
  • I was drunk and forgot which Waffle House I parked my car next to.
  • I discovered my spouse was having an affair, so I followed him this morning to find out who he was having an affair with.
  • Someone robbed the gas station I was at, and I didn’t have enough gas to get to another station.
  • I had to wait for the judge to set my bail.
  • There was a stranger sleeping in my car.
  • A deer herd that was moving through town made me late.
  • I’m not late. I was thinking about work on the way in.
  • I dreamed that I got fired.
  • I went out to my car to drive to work, and the trunk had been stolen out of it. (In this case, the employee had the photo to prove it.)

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