Are You a Victim of Time Theft?

According to a Careerbuilder survey released in 2014, 48% of employers expect their workers to be on time every day. Nearly one third of employers (35%) have actually fired an employee for excessive tardiness.

But according to the same survey, 23% of employees admit to being late once a month on average, while 15% say they’re late to work at least once a week. According to the employees, 39% of the time they’re late because of traffic.

Have you been a victim of time theft?

If your company doesn’t track employee work time and simply assumes everyone works a full day unless they say otherwise, it’s possible you have experienced time theft. While most employees are honest and will accurately report when they’re late or if they have to leave early, there’s really little way of telling if one or two bad apples are taking advantage of the situation.

While it may not seem like a big deal, a quick bit of math will show you that even a few minutes of “stolen” time per day can add up rapidly. For instance, if an employee arrives late, leaves early or takes long breaks for a total of 15 minutes per day, by the end of the year you’ve paid that employee for over six days of time they didn’t actually work! It’s like giving them over a week of extra vacation. Multiply that by just a few employees, and you can see the dollars flying out the door.

Even if your company does try to formally track employee work time, there are still ways workers can potentially get away with arriving late, leaving early or taking a long lunch without reporting it:

  • Reporting incorrect time: If you have employees fill out manual timesheets, it’s as simple as writing down a different arrival or departure time. For instance, if an unscrupulous employee arrives at 8:10am, all they have to do is write on their timesheet that they arrived at 8:00am, and you’ll be paying for 10 minutes of time when they weren’t even present. Unless their supervisor is especially diligent about observing and noting their real arrival time every day, they’ll probably be able to get away with it.
  • Buddy punching: Even if you use a time recorder and have employees punch a time card, enter a PIN or swipe a badge, it can be as simple as asking a fellow employee to clock in our out on their behalf. Their time card will show they arrived on time (or even early!) and stayed all the way to the end of the day, no matter what time they really walked through the door.

What to do about it

Let’s say you find out an employee has been falsifying their time. What can you do about it? Well, first you need to be sure to pay them according to the time they reported. Yes, you heard me right — even if you know the time is wrong.

The reason for this is that if you ever get audited by the state or federal Department of Labor, one of the first things they’re going to look at is your time records, and whether you’ve been paying people according to those records. If you haven’t been paying according to your time cards or timesheets, this can be a huge red flag for the auditors. It will likely prompt them to really go digging into your records. Absolutely, it might seem unfair to pay employees for time you know they haven’t been working, but unless you have definitive documentation of their actual arrival and departure times, you’re better off paying according to the documentation you have. It beats having the DOL going over your payroll records for the past three or four years with a fine-toothed comb and assessing fines and penalties for every little error they find.

If it makes you feel better, though, the second thing you can do is discipline the employee for time reporting fraud. It’s similar to when an employee works unauthorized overtime: you must pay them for the time they worked, but you are allowed to impose discipline for failure to get approval for the overtime. The nature and extent of the discipline is up to you and your business policies. For safety, I strongly advise you to clear everything with your employment law attorney before you do anything, and document everything thoroughly.

Third, consider upgrading to a biometric time tracking system. You have a variety of options available, including fingerprint scan, hand scan and facial recognition. Which one is right for you will depend on your budget and work environment. Such a system will automatically record the time, eliminating the issue of the employee writing down the wrong time for arrival or departure. Even better, it requires the employee to be physically present to clock in or out, making buddy punching impossible. With a biometric system in place, you can feel more confident about the accuracy of the recorded employee arrival and departure times.

Fortunately, Acroprint offers a number of biometric alternatives available with our timeQplus software, Pendulum software and AcroTime service. To find out which solution is the best for you, visit our website or give us a call.

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