I've got an employee who does a pretty good job with her work. She does stay on top of tasks but she has a serious issue with start / end times. I am pretty flexible as long as work gets done so I don't mind it too much.
She is a single mother with two kids (both pretty young kids) so she has to take them to day care and pick them up from day care. She also has summer camps for her kids and a whole slew of other stuff.
A while back she filled out a company document allowing her to start at 8:30am EST rather than everyone else's "be at the office by 8am policy". But even this has not helped her — she arrived today at 9:10am.
I have had a couple of talks with her telling her to be a bit more attentive with her time / attendance but without pursuing any sort of further action. The rest of my team who report directly to me know this and do not complain about it as they know being a single mother is difficult. So I am okay with it and others in the same department seem to be okay with it.
What seems to be the issue lately is other departments who either just notice it and mention something or need something from her directly. They will come over to me and say, "Hey where's X, I haven't seen her today...is she in?" and many others who just like to gossip. I don't like the gossip but I also don't like how her attendance reflects on my department. At the same time she gets stuff done...
She is also the type who doesn't take disciplining very well. If I say something to her she usually ends up trying to ignore me and gets less done. I understand having two kids and being a single mom is hard and I've asked her to be careful, to which she replies, "I am a single mom I can only do what I can do...my kids come first".
I really cannot tell her "No, you cannot go pick up your kids from daycare". She also has NO family here — so no one else can help her out at all.
The question I really have is: How do I get her to understand that her attendance is critical but at the same time try to cater to her being a single mother? I think this is a tough question because everything I think of comes back to her answer of "...well I'd love to come in earlier but I have kids...and I'm a single mom."