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A new survey from CareerBuilder finds that people are showing up to work on time this year more than in the last few years, apparently due to workers’ desire to make a good impression since the recession began.

The survey found that 15 percent of workers said they arrive late to work once a week or more, down from 16 percent in 2009 and 20 percent in 2008.

This national survey was conducted among 2,482 U.S. employers and 3,910 U.S. employees between November 15 and December 2, 2010.

So what was the top excuse for tardiness given by those who were late? Traffic was cited by 30% of respondents, followed by lack of sleep (19 percent).  Nine percent blamed the bad weather for their tardiness, while eight percent indicated a delay in getting their kids to daycare or school.  Other common reasons included public transportation, wardrobe issues or dealing with pets.

Many employers have a little to no-tolerance policy for being late. One-third (32 percent) of employers said they have terminated an employee for being late.

Hiring managers provided the following examples of the most outrageous excuses employees offered for arriving late to work:

  • Employee claimed his car was inhabited by a hive of bees and he couldn’t use the car for two hours until bees left.
  • Employee claimed her cat attacked her.
  • Employee claimed there was a delay with public transportation and produced a note signed by “The Bus Driver.”
  • Employee claimed his Botox appointment took longer than he expected.
  • Employee claimed his hair was hurting his head.
  • Employee claimed he knew he was already going to be late, so he figured he would go ahead and stop to get donuts for everyone.
  • Employee claimed her karma was not in sync that day.
  • Employee claimed he got hurt taking a fork out of the dishwasher.
  • Employee claimed he wasn’t late … the company clock was wrong.

“Whether it is a result of fear associated with the economy or just a shift in attitude, workers over the last few years are doing a better job of managing their schedules and getting into the office at the designated time,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder.  “While workers will sometimes be late due to circumstances out of their control, they need to be aware of their companies’ tardiness policies.  Regardless of the reason, workers who are running late should always be honest with their managers.”

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