Tardiness Might Be Road to Termination

By SHRM Online staff Mar 3, 2009

Getting out the door and to the workplace on time can seem like an Olympic event, and some workers have trouble crossing the finish line until long after the race is over, a recent survey finds.

Twenty percent of workers arrive at work late at least once a week, according to a CareerBuilder.com survey conducted November-December 2008 with 8,038 full-time U.S. employees and 3,259 full-time hiring managers and HR professionals responding.

Traffic was the main reason one-third of workers used for their tardiness, lack of sleep was cited by nearly one-fourth of workers, and getting their children ready for school or day care was the main reason 10 percent used for being late to work.

Public transportation, and wardrobe or pet issues, also were common excuses for tardiness.

“While some employers tend to be more lenient with worker punctuality, 30 percent say they have terminated an employee for being late,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of HR for CareerBuilder.com, in a press release.

A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) member recalled firing an employee who lived a few blocks from the office for repeated tardiness.

The employee’s excuse: her proximity to work.

“She just felt no sense of urgency in the morning and would get caught up in little things like making tea. Since she had no train to catch or car to get out of the garage, she had no prompting to get going. So, in a way, it was our fault for finding her an apartment that was too convenient,” the SHRM member recalled in a March 2008 HR Talk posting.

“Workers need to understand their company’s policies on tardiness,” observed Haefner. “If they are late, make sure they openly communicate with their managers. Employers have heard every excuse in the book, so honesty is the best policy,” she said.

Among the most outrageous excuses for tardiness that hiring managers have heard, according to CareerBuilder.com:

  • My heat was shut off so I had to stay home to keep my snake warm.
  • My husband thinks it’s funny to hide my car keys before he goes to work.
  • My son locked me in my trunk.
  • My father didn’t wake me up.
  • On the way out the door I walked into a spider web and couldn’t find the spider, so I had to go back inside and shower again.
  • A raccoon attacked me so I had to stop at the hospital to make sure the raccoon hadn’t been rabid.
  • My bike tire went flat after a groundhog bit it.
  • Last night’s rain washed away my driveway.
  • A gurney fell out of an ambulance and delayed traffic.
  • I feel as if I’m in everyone’s way if I show up on time.
  • I had to go to bingo.

Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Join us for the largest and best HR conference in the world, June 23-26, 2019 in Las Vegas.



Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect