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Time In: A Payroll Manager’s Guide to Time Clocks

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Time clocks are gatekeepers between your workers and your payroll system. It can be a friendly, useful gatekeeper that provides assistance to workers as well as the payroll department. Or, it could also be a strict gatekeeper that keeps things locked down to timing in or out. It may even have a little of both. The point is, the employee time clock your company installs goes a long way to determining how much you can get out of your payroll system and the payroll team. As payroll manager, you want to understand some of the different aspects of the time clocks and what they mean for the payroll department.

Time clock precision:

Don’t assume the time clock capture the time – to the second or even the minute – that a worker clocks in or out. Some clocks do not. Some may not, but allow the company to configure whether the time collected is the exact time or gets rounded. While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) permits rounding, don’t assume state laws do, or will continue to do so. Using a rounding method carries with it extra compliance obligations to ensure and validate that the rounding is done fairly and complies with all applicable regulations. If your company prefers to bypass that burden and capture exact work times, make sure the terminal you select does that.


how the right time clock can improve time and attendance reporting


Options for clocking in and out:

 Specific time clocks may be limited in the types of badge readers they can accommodate, whether it’s a bar code or RFID chip or other mechanism. If one of payroll’s main concerns is to eliminate time theft, you want to explore time clocks with biometric readers.


Extra, configurable function buttons:

The simplest time clocks have just two buttons; one button to hit when clocking in and the other to hit when clocking out. For some businesses, this type of time clock may be sufficient. Companies with larger workforces filling a wide diversity of roles often want more functionality from the time clock. Terminals that have numeric key pads and/or configurable buttons provide this flexibility. For example, hospitality companies may want workers to enter their tips earned at the end of each shift, to help both the worker and company comply with tax laws. A company with workers whose time gets billed to different departments may want to use configurable buttons that lets workers select what department/role they’re clocking in for. Having a numeric keypad on the time clock as provides a work around for employees to time in or out with their ID number, if their badges aren’t working.


Screen size:

Terminals with larger screen sizes are usually the time clocks with configurable buttons as well. This combination of functionality creates a time clock that works as a complete employee self-service kiosk. This type of terminal can be configured to allow workers see past payroll slips, make benefit selections, check available vacation time – do a host of tasks that right now take up payroll department time. Recapturing time your team currently spends handling routine worker questions can be shifted to high value tasks, like analyzing payroll data and managing compliance. Workers also appreciate being able to take care of these tasks on their own, without having to go through payroll. If your company has initiatives to improve your company’s employee experience, installing terminals with self-service capabilities is a smart move.


Hopefully, you now have a solid understanding of the basic features of time clocks. There’s more to consider (of course!). Here’s a list of questions every payroll manager should ask before buying an employee time clock.


how the right time clock can improve time and attendance reporting

"While ATS is passionate about time and attendance and excited to support organizations navigate workforce dynamics around timekeeping, we recommend you reach out to your country, regional and/or local HR chapter for more information on common workplace advice and procedures." 


Biometric Usage: Growing concerns over the privacy and security of biometrics are driving government regulations surrounding the definition of personal data and how to protect it. These regulations vary from country to country, state-to-state, and in some cases city by city. Most often the governing regulations are dictated based on the location where the information is being collected. It is important to understand the local regulations in the geographic areas in which you operate. If you are uncertain regarding your regulatory obligations, we encourage you to consult with your legal counsel.