Small and medium-sized business owners are creating problems for themselves in the difficult trading environment by taking an unnecessarily tough line with late employees.

Research by the Tribunal Service has revealed that one in six business owners are prepared to sack an employee for being late just two or three times.

With lateness costing British businesses £1.8bn every year it is clearly an issue that company owners need to take seriously but firms have been warned against taking action that will negatively impact staff morale and been reminded that there are legal procedures to which they must adhere.
Over the past year, employment tribunal cases have risen from 151,000 to 236,100 - a 56 % rise

Company owners must give documented, objective and fair warnings in writing and the employee must have the chance to correct any issues. In legal terms, being late for work comes under general misconduct and doesn't warrant dismissal for a first offence.

Business owners that don't follow the rules could end up at an Employment Tribunal and be ordered to reinstate or re-engage the employee in a similar post, or more commonly, give financial compensation to the employee.

The Tribunal Service has published figures showing a sharp increase in the number of employment tribunal cases brought against employers. Over the past year, employment tribunal cases have risen from 151,000 to 236,100 - a 56 % rise.

"If you want to dismiss an employee, follow the rules and avoid tribunal claims. Employment legislation is a minefield with many employers still unsure how to dismiss an employee properly. Employees should be given a verbal or written warning in the first instance," said Neeta Laing, head of employment at law firm, Lewis Hymanson Small.

"With many businesses still suffering as a result of the recession, consistently slow starters can add to the pressure and policies and procedures are often the last thing to be considered. However, it is vital the correct systems, procedures and advice are in place to protect employers from costly and unwanted tribunals."