By Claire West

Bosses under pressure from the recession are creating problems for themselves by taking an unnecessarily tough line with late employees, according to employment law experts.

Lateness costs British businesses £1.8 billion every year and stressed UK bosses are cracking down, with one in six prepared to sack an employee for being late just two or three times.

Despite this, businesses must follow the rules. Documented, objective, fair warnings must be given 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.

Bosses who 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 warning comes as the Tribunal Service publishes 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 per cent rise.

Neeta Laing, head of employment at law firm, Lewis Hymanson Small, said: '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'.

'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'.

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