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If your employee just doesn’t pitch for work, what should you do? This also includes arriving late for work as it falls into the same category.

Firstly, without a proper written agreement in place, holding your employee to task for lateness or being absent will prove to be an uphill battle . Besides being a legal requirement, an agreement sets the days and working hours that the employee agrees to work. Common law implies that your employee should provide the employer (you) with his/her labour – This means to be at work. In order for this to be done, he/she must obviously come to work, but must also come to work on the agreed days and times.

There are a multitude of reasons your employee might give you for them being late or being absent, the difficulty lies in filtering out the truth from fiction. There might be times when reasons given are genuinely valid and acceptable.  Uncontrollable weather like floods or cyclones, taxi strikes or stay-away’s, to name a few examples.

If the reason given is not acceptable, you should have a counselling discussion with your employee and you are within your rights to issue a written warning for the absenteeism.

Regardless of the reason, it is a right and expectation that the employer (you), should not have to pay for work that you have not received. Based on this, whether the excuse is acceptable or not, you have the right to enforce a policy of “no work – no pay”. This is your decision. It’s important to be fair and whatever you decide to enforce, should remain constant in all dealings with matters of this nature.

Dealing with absenteeism or lateness is something that should be met head on. Often employers let it slide and before they know it, it’s a habit. If you have issued several warnings and the employee still continues to be late or absent, you are not expected to maintain the employment. An employment relationship where the work you require is not being done, even after several warnings, is intolerable. At this point, you are entitled to have a disciplinary hearing and dismiss the employee.

Habitual abuse of sick leave could also be placed in the absenteeism bag of problems. If an employee is regularly absent on paydays or Fridays / Mondays. These all create a pattern. As was discussed earlier in the Sick Leave post, you are entitled to ask for a sick note for more than two days in a row or on more than two occasions during an 8-week period. If one is not provided then the time off is unpaid. If a clear on-going habit of sick leave abuse is evident, follow a disciplinary process. You could also allow it to continue until the employee’s sick leave is exhausted, then any further days are unpaid, but at the end of the day, you will lose out on work and productivity that should be provided as expected.

It’s important to remember that any form of discussion where you are correcting a wrong, should be written down and kept. There might be a time later on that you will need proof of an attempt to rectify something. If it’s not written and dated, chances are you won’t remember and if you do, could be construed as hearsay.  It is also important to follow correct disciplinary and hearing processes.


This article does not cover what is a huge scope around absenteeism. If you are not sure what to do in a situation, rather contact us so we can assist.