Really Bad Advice

You may have noticed there are plenty of people on the Internet dispensing free advice on just about any topic you could imagine. Time and attendance is no exception. A big problem, of course, is that often you get what you pay for. Even worse, if you follow this bad time and attendance advice, it could end up costing you a lot of money.

Unfortunately, just because someone sounds authoritative, that doesn’t mean they have any idea what they’re talking about. Recently, I’ve come across several examples of people masquerading as “experts” but handing out perfectly terrible advice.

But We Have Great Employees!

Bad Advice: One site claimed you don’t need to track employee time if you think your employees are already punctual. According to this article, it’s only companies that have a problem with tardiness or absenteeism that need time and attendance. Profitable companies with hardworking employees don’t need to track time!

The Straight Scoop: Unless you have your employees clock in and out (or you’re willing to spend all day monitoring all your entrances and exits), how do you know all your employees are on time for all arrivals, departures and breaks? In one study a few years ago, 60% of responding companies said their employees were not accurately reporting their time or the company simply didn’t know if the time reported was accurate. That’s a scary statistic!

All it takes is your good employees seeing one bad apple getting away with regularly arriving late, taking long breaks or leaving early — and you’ve got a potential employee morale problem on your hands. (Not to mention that you’re paying for time that person isn’t working.) Time and attendance tracking isn’t just for companies that have a problem. It’s for companies that want to prevent problems.

How About If Your Employees Work From Home?

Bad Advice: In the same article, the author said companies don’t need to monitor hours for employees who telecommute.

The Straight Scoop: Yikes! This one’s so bad I almost don’t know where to begin. If you have overtime-eligible employees working remotely, you still have the same legal obligation to pay them for overtime as if they were on a standard nine-to-five in your office. Unless you track their time, you could find yourself staring down both barrels of a Department of Labor wage and hour audit, or (worse) a class-action lawsuit. That’s one expensive lesson you don’t want to learn the hard way!

Fortunately, online time sheets such as AcroTime allow your employees to clock in and out over the web from anywhere they have Internet access, or even over the telephone. No more excuses for not tracking time for people working outside the office!

But We’re Tough Disciplinarians!

Bad Advice: Another article I found stated companies with strict time and attendance rules don’t need to track employee time. The author’s reasoning was that employees would be so scared of getting disciplined or fired for infractions they wouldn’t dare come in late or leave early.

The Straight Scoop: This is just plain wrong on so many levels! Most obviously, the idea that scaring employees to death will make them toe the line is not only ludicrous, it’s a sure-fire path to high turnover and low morale.

Besides, if you discipline one employee because you happen to notice him arriving late, but let another one get away with it simply because she’s better at sneaking by you, not only is that unfair, but you’re opening yourself up to a possible lawsuit. Prudent employers make sure to thoroughly document the reasons for any disciplinary action to avoid charges of discrimination, harassment or retaliation. If you’re disciplining or terminating an employee for tardiness or absenteeism, you need reliable time and attendance records to back up your claims. Accurate time tracking for all employees helps ensure policy enforcement is fair and even-handed and can keep you out of legal hot water.

Milestones Versus Time Worked

Bad Advice: In this second article, the author also said if your company assesses employee performance based on hitting milestones or achieving goals, you don’t need to track the time they spend working to attain those goals.

The Straight Scoop: It’s true some companies, such as Best Buy, have implemented performance-based programs that allow employees flexibility in scheduling hours and work location. Their performance is judged not by punctuality or how many hours they work, but how well they attained their goals or met specified performance standards. And you may have read articles in the media claiming these companies have “thrown away their time clocks.”

However, note these types of programs address how the companies assess employee performance, not how they calculate payroll. The fact is, you can assess performance using whatever criteria you want, but federal law still requires overtime pay for non-exempt and hourly employees who work more than 40 hours a week. The law also requires you to keep accurate time records in support of your payroll. If you’re not tracking time, how can you prove your payroll is accurate in the event of an audit or lawsuit?

These companies haven’t really thrown away their time clocks. At least, not if they’re smart! No matter what criteria they use to measure performance, I’m sure they still track work time for overtime-eligible employees, whatever those hours might be, and where ever they’re worked.

The REAL Experts

Fortunately, Acroprint has been in the time and attendance business since 1969. We know time and attendance! We offer a variety of time-tracking options — from traditional punch clocks to sophisticated online time clocks — that can work for you, no matter when or where your employees work. All of our time tracking solutions can reduce your legal exposure and save you time and money on payroll preparation. Give us a call or visit our website for more information about which option is best for you.

8 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    Time clocks establish employee’s as slaves.

    Throw out the companies team effort.

    Who in **** wants their life to be regulated by a heartless tool?

    Utterly despicable.

    Peter

    • Diane A says:

      Wow, it seems you’ve had some bad experiences with time tracking. Sorry you feel that way. Speaking as someone who has worked jobs where I was paid by the hour, and jobs where I was eligible for overtime, though, I can honestly say I didn’t mind clocking in and out. I certainly didn’t feel like a “slave” when I did so! See, I knew the clock was there for my benefit, too. Using a time clock meant that I was going to get correctly paid for all the time I worked. I would rather clock in and out and record my actual time of arrival and departure than rely on management to decide on their own how long they were going to pay me for. The time clock was the best way to make sure I was compensated fairly for the time I worked.

  2. Peter says:

    Hi Diane,

    Can’t recall good experiences with time clocks.

    Far superior when management takes care of what hours are worked.

    Far superior when the supervisor say’s “Be free” and off I go early. Love that human touch.

    Far superior than standing around in a line up waiting for the last second to punch out of a lifeless time clock. That’s bad, lazy and uncaring management.

    Having done both, I’ve found the employee work atmosphere far superior without time clocks.

    And I find my attitude towards management is far superior without time clocks.

    Company productivity and profits are higher without time clocks.

    That’s pretty much how I see it.

    Peter

    • Diane A says:

      Management can still let you leave early, even when the company uses a time clock. There’s nothing about using time clocks that inherently prevents flexibility or “that human touch.” Time clocks are just a tool for recording time worked. Attendance policies and how those time records are used is up to the company.

      Most hourly workers of my acquaintance appreciate recording their time, because they know it means they’ll get paid all the overtime they’re entitled to. Recording their time reduces the chances they’ll get cheated out of their hard-earned pay. And the managers I know also like it, because it reduces the chances they’ll get taken to the cleaners by employees claiming time they didn’t actually work. Accurate time records are a safeguard for both management and employees. (Not to mention that US law *requires* companies to maintain accurate time records for all overtime-eligible employees. It’s not a matter of choice.)

      In fact, our customers’ experiences and all the research studies I’ve seen show that productivity and profit are higher *with* accurate time records. But if you have some statistics that would show otherwise, I’d be interested in seeing them. If you have a link or can provide a reference, I’d love to check it out.

      Again, I’m sorry it sounds as though your experiences with time clocks haven’t been positive, but time clocks are just a tool. Most companies benefit from them, but I’m sure there may be a few out there where the tools are not used correctly. But to me it doesn’t seem reasonable to blame the tool. If a carpenter did a sloppy job of building a bookshelf, would it be fair to hold the hammer responsible for his poor workmanship?

  3. Sakkie says:

    listen to your own advice. If it’s free, remember you get what you pay for.
    And how objective can you be? you sell timekeeping for a living… no bias there, not.

    • Diane A says:

      It pays to check out the source of the advice before one dismisses it out of hand. As it happens, we’ve been specializing in helping companies avoid wage and hour lawsuits for over 47 years, which does give us a bit of insight into the topic. I’m a little confused by the tone of your comment. Whether companies need to record employee work time isn’t a matter of opinion or the product of any lack of objectivity on our part — it’s the law. Look up the Fair Labor Standards Act if you need more information on what’s required of businesses in the USA. It doesn’t matter if they “didn’t know” it was illegal to not record work hours for their overtime-eligible employees; when they’re caught they’ll still get hit with back wages, fines and penalties — plus possible legal costs if their employees decide to sue them directly. While I’d certainly love for all companies to use Acroprint products to record that work time, the point of the article is that they need to record the time somehow. And isn’t it a good idea for us to dispel a few myths to help keep companies safer from possible crippling monetary penalties?

  4. Lori Arledge says:

    Thanks for this article. I keep reading about how companies are doing away with time clocks. However we just implemented a new time clock system and the only employees that are complaining are the ones that usually have questionable hours. Now my employees can see there hours and know exactly how much they have worked. Even though we require our phones to be covered during certain times of the day we are flexible with our employees time and personal leave. We are not time Nazis but having the time system takes a lot of stress off of the Managers to not have to constantly keep records of who is late on a regular basis etc. Payroll is much easier and there is less worry mistakes. I really think it is the way management handles the time system. I think that work places need to be as flexible as feasible possible for the type of work they do but lets not be stupid. A time system can protect an employer from lawsuits plus if done right it can be a benefit to the employees to be sure they are getting paid correctly. It is never easy to implement something new but just relieving the stress to our managers and payroll processing plus liability protection will help to worry a lot less about the hours.

    • Diane A says:

      Lori, thanks for your input! You raise a good point: usually the ones who complain the loudest are the ones who were getting away with murder before the new system went in place! 😉 You’re right, as well, that it often takes a burden off the shoulders of managers, and by letting employees see exactly how much time they’ve worked, they can feel more “in control” of their own work environment. Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience!

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