Should employees be fined for being late?
It has recently been reported that Chelsea Football Club have substantial fines in place for 1st team players who arrive late for work.
Players are fined a whopping £20,000 if they arrive late for the start of training, £2,500 if they arrive late on a matchday and £500 per minute if they arrive late for team meetings! This means that getting a red card and scoring an own goal are no longer the only things the players need to worry about!
The proceeds from the Chelsea fines are given to charity or used for team activities. However, this raises the question of whether an employer can lawfully impose fines on its employees? Yes it can providing this has been agreed in the employee’s contract of employment or the employee has provided other written consent. This combined with an appropriately worded deduction from wages clause would, in theory, allow an employer to deduct these sums from an employee’s wages relatively easily!
What can we learn from this?
Outside of the world of football, should other employers consider fining its employees for tardiness? There are benefits for employers to do this particularly if their hours of business are dependent upon an employee's punctuality such as being able to open shops, restaurants and offices on time and failure to do so would cause the business to suffer loss or reputational damage. Fines could be deducted from an employer’s basic pay or alternatively, they could be used as part of bonus schemes and determine how these are paid.
However, there are also caveats in taking such an approach. In particular, the fines would need to be proportionate to the wages earned and reasonable as to the misconduct in question. For lower-paid staff, individual circumstances may mean that employees are not actually able to afford the fines and the consequences for them could be extremely serious. In addition, there could be complications in relation to statutory rights such as taking time off for dependants in cases of emergency and the policies could potentially place certain groups of employees at a disadvantage giving rise to indirect discrimination claims. The decision to impose fines also needs to be applied on a consistent basis otherwise this could give rise to other discrimination claims.
Is there a better way?
Perhaps, therefore, a better way to address punctuality would be for employers to ensure that they have in place a robust disciplinary policy and managers who are adequately trained to deal with these issues promptly as and when they arise.
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