Summary Dismissal for being seven minutes late for work

A summary dismissal of a salaried employee who was seven minutes late for work was justified according to the judgment of 27 May 2014 delivered by the City Court of Glostrup.

The case involved an employee appointed as deputy manager in a supermarket who repeatedly showed up late for work - typically only a few minutes. It had been emphasised on various occasions to the employee that he had to show up for work on time - but without result. By formal written warnings delivered on 6 and 21 February 2013, the supermarket had again reprimanded the employee's late arrivals for work and underlined that it could lead to a summary dismissal if he was late for work again. On 5 March 2014, after showing up seven minutes late for work, the employee was summarily dismissed.

The question was whether the employee's repeated non-observance of the working hours constituted a material breach of the employment contract.

First, the Court had regard to the fact that a summary dismissal of a salaried employee is subject to the condition that a material breach of the employment contract has been committed. Then the Court pointed out that it is relevant for the assessment of the nature of the breach of contract to take into account elements like (i) the length of the unpunctuality; (ii) whether the unpunctuality was excusable; (iii) whether the employer had been notified of the late arrival for work; (iv) to which degree the unpunctuality had an impact on the employer's business; and (v) particularly whether the employee had been late for work previously and had received due and proper warnings regarding the consequences of repeated late arrival for work.

Subsequently, the Court established that the summary dismissal was justified, although the employee was only seven minutes late. The Court attached importance to the fact that the employee had been repeatedly late for work; that the unpunctuality had not been due to unpredictable or otherwise excusable circumstances; that the unpunctuality was not without importance to the operation of the supermarket; that the employee was holding the position of a deputy manager; and that it had been pointed out to the employee that unpunctuality would not be tolerated and that repeated late arrivals for work would entail a summary dismissal.

Furthermore, the Court took into account that the scheduled commencement of the working hours (6.45 a.m.) had been fixed with due consideration of the opening hours of the supermarket at 7.00 a.m.; that in this interval a number of important morning routines had to be completed; and that for the sake of the employees' safety and feeling of security it had been determined in the guidelines of the supermarket that, due to previous serious robberies, a minimum staff of two employees should always be present in the supermarket.

The judgment is consistent with normal legal practice according to which an employee's repeated failure to observe the working hours may constitute a material breach of the employment contract entitling the employer to summarily dismiss the employee. At the same time, the judgment shows the specific assessment that is made, taking into account the importance of the employer having issued a written warning for the unpunctuality making it clear that the employee's failure to observe the working hours in future would be a cause for a summary dismissal.

At present, it is not known whether the judgment will be appealed to the High Court.

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