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August 3, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

How to Get Employees to Clock In and Out

For anyone who has never worked in human resources or payroll management, the question of how to get employees to clock in and out every work day might seem absurd. After all, clocking in and out is how employees get paid, and how employers track time accurately and consistently. As any human resources professional can tell you, however, making sure your workers don't forget to punch in and out is a consistent source of frustration.

Why is it important to make sure workers don't forget to clock in and out?

Failure to track time efficiently and consistently may seem like an irritating but ultimately minor concern for a business's payroll and HR teams. Looking at the issue more closely, however, poor time clock habits can have a number of damaging effects on an organization. Some of the risks of employees failing to clock in or out habitually include:

  • Spending too much time training workers on time clock management
  • HR and payroll employees spending too much time tracking down employee time sheets
  • Greater risk of incomplete and incorrect time-tracking records
  • Greater risk of noncompliance with FLSA timekeeping requirements and other laws
  • Increased chance of overpayments and underpayments
  • Increased risk of buddy punching and other forms of time fraud

The bottom line is that failure to clock in and out in a timely fashion leads to a great deal of wasted time and effort for both the employee and the administrators in charge of time and attendance recordkeeping. That wasted time quickly translates to wasted money, and no employer is eager to spend money unnecessarily, especially on an issue as easily avoidable as sloppy time clock management.

What are the compliance risks of bad time clock habits?

The problem becomes potentially more serious when it comes to compliance with federal regulations. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets rules governing recordkeeping and overtime pay for non-exempt hourly employees, both of which can be strongly affected by poor time clock habits. FLSA rules require employers to report accurate records of a number of timekeeping factors, including:

  • Time and day of week when employee's workweek begins
  • Hours worked each day
  • Total hours worked each workweek
  • Basis on which employee's wages are paid (e.g., "$9 per hour", "$440 a week", "piecework")
  • Regular hourly pay rate
  • Total daily or weekly straight-time earnings
  • Total overtime earnings for the workweek
  • All additions to or deductions from the employee's wages
  • Total wages paid each pay period
  • Date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment

If a significant number of employees fail to clock in and out on a consistent basis, all of those records can be impacted. Not only is cleaning up those kinds of errors complicated and time-consuming, it can also lead to significant fines for noncompliance levied by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

What is buddy punching and how does it connect to clocking in and out?

Buddy punching is one of the most common forms of workplace time fraud. It can take a number of forms depending on what time clock technology a workplace uses, but the basic definition is that one worker clocks in or out on behalf of another. This essentially falsifies a worker's reported hours for the pay period and allows them to receive payment for hours they did not actually work. While a missed clock-in here and there is inevitable, in some cases an employee supposedly forgetting to clock in or out can provide a convenient excuse for padding their hours.

How to remember to clock in and out on a regular basis

It is difficult to overstress the importance of clocking in and out at work, but it is also true that old habits die hard and good new ones can be difficult to form. Fortunately, there are a number of reliable tools and methods employers can use to give their workforce a better understanding of how to punch in and out at work.

Set a clear policy for clocking in and out

In most cases, it is easier to teach people good habits early than it is to try to correct their behavior after the fact. Setting policies up front for clocking in and out can help to avoid neglect in the future. That might involve:

  • Laying out clear, step-by-step instructions for using your time clock system during employee onboarding
  • Including clock-in and clock-out guidelines and instructions in your employee handbook
  • Including instructions for clocking in and out in periodic time and attendance training sessions and refresher courses.

Provide physical clock in and out reminders

As the old saying goes, sometimes out of sight also means out of mind. If your organization has experienced problems with employees who can't remember to clock in and out, it may be helpful to post reminders around the workplace, to add a clock-in reminder icon to employee's desktops or mobile devices, to set up automated calendar reminders on your email system or mobile app, or to set your organization's clock-in page as employees' default homepage on all company computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Invest in upgraded time tracking software

Failure to clock in and out consistently can usually be chalked up to human error, and one of the surest ways to reduce human error in the workplace is through increased automation. Among the many benefits of time management systems is a significant decrease in the chance of employee error. Investing in automated time tracking software is a reliable way for employers to:

Reduce time fraud

An automated time and attendance system with multi-factor verification makes it much more difficult for workers to engage in some of the most common varieties of time fraud, including buddy punching, unauthorized shift switches, and chronic absenteeism and lateness. Since these types of fraud are often crimes of convenience, it makes sense to put a system in place that makes them considerably less convenient to pull off.

Improve compliance

As mentioned earlier, failure to clock in and out properly can put an employer at risk of multiple compliance violations. Accurate time reporting is a crucial part of staying compliant with regulations like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The potential for fines, loss of reputation, and damage to workplace morale that come with noncompliance make time management software well worth the investment.

Boost employee engagement

One of the biggest added benefits of automating your time and attendance management is the opportunity to put more power directly in your employees' hands -- sometimes quite literally. A mobile time and attendance app helps to ensure greater accuracy and timeliness in time tracking by allowing employees to submit time sheets and request schedule adjustments from wherever they are. Not only do mobile apps make it easier and more convenient to clock in and out in a timely fashion, they also make employees feel more empowered and engaged with their roles. That kind of employee empowerment can significantly boost productivity and morale in the workplace.

Invest in smart time clocks

Along with automating your time and attendance software, upgrading your hardware can also be a great incentive for helping employees remember to clock in and out. A smart time clock that records employee time and attendance in a cloud-based system can be a helpful tool for streamlining your timekeeping efforts. Not only do smart time clocks eliminate paperwork and reduce time spent processing time and attendance, they also integrate easily with mobile apps and electronic dashboards, creating a seamless time tracking system that serves your entire organization.

What do you do if an employee does not clock in?

Even if an employer takes all of the time clock management measures outlined here, there is still a chance that some employees will continue to have problems with clocking in and clocking out. While there are methods to discipline employees who forget to clock in, including verbal warnings, written warnings, and probation, those options should be a last resort for chronic or intentional violations. Be sure that any potential penalties are clearly spelled out in your employee handbook and other educational materials.

It is important for employers to remember that simply not paying an employee who forgets to clock in is not an option. FLSA regulations clearly state that employers are not allowed to penalize workers who fail to clock in or out by reducing their wages. Employees must be paid for all hours worked, regardless of what is recorded by the time clock.

Employers should also keep in mind that even their most dependable workers will sometimes have slips of the mind. Mistakes in clocking in and clocking out will happen regardless of their best efforts. The important thing is to have the proper tools, technologies, and policies in place to mitigate the impact if and when those mistakes do occur. Find out more about the ways Ascentis time and attendance software solutions can help keep your workforce on time and  your records accurate.

With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.