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You might be running a business with grown-up employees, but your workers’ excuses for being late can often be no more inspired than a third grader’s claim that the dog ate her homework. While at first it might be amusing to hear your employees’ creative excuses, a pattern of tardiness can have very serious consequences for your operation.

For one thing, you schedule staff because you need their input. Without them, your valued customers might not receive the level of excellent service that they deserve. When one worker is forced to juggle her responsibilities with those of her slacker colleague, two consequences occur: her stress level increases as her productivity and morale drop. In the end, she, your customers and your company suffer.

Multi-tasking can have other unintended consequences as well. It is far easier for a harried worker to make mistakes or ignore customers as she struggles to do both her job and that of her tardy colleague. And if the tardy employee is rushing to make up for time lost on the job, mistakes can often happen there as well.

Depending on the type of work you do, this can result in injuries, omissions, accidents, poor service and angry customers. In two worst-case scenarios, someone could be badly hurt or a customer might leave in frustration, never to return.

The damage that an employee’s lateness can do can even extend beyond physical injuries and lost customers. You could actually find yourself at the wrong end of a lawsuit if your employees’ actions or the lack thereof cause injury to a customer. For example, imagine that one of your front desk employees fails to show up for work on time. You delegate one of your maintenance workers to cover his position temporarily leaving his cleaning work undone for a period of time. When a customer slips on a spill that your janitor was not there to mop up, you are in real danger of being sued for the medical costs the victim sustains.

If this scenario sounds a little too close to home, there are two priorities to consider. First, spend some time developing a clear, consistent employee tardiness policy. Communicate it to everyone, ensuring that each and every worker understands your requirements and pledges to follow them. Second and just as important, be sure that you have adequate insurance coverage to protect you in the event of injury, property damage or loss. Fortunately, affordable business insurance options are plentiful. It’s simply a matter of assessing your needs and contacting a reputable insurance agent.

Employee lateness is no joke. Take steps to protect your company against its consequences. You, your business and your customers will benefit.