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Prevent Your Employees from Stealing Company Time

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Employees stealing time at work costs companies serious money. Buddy punching alone is estimated to cost U.S. employers $373 million a year. Don’t think your company isn’t affected. Research from Software Advice found that 43 percent of hourly employees steal time at work by exaggerating their hours. In fact, 25 percent of respondents said they pad their hours anywhere from 76 to 100 percent of the time!

When it comes to stopping employees from stealing paid time from your company, take a three-pronged approach: have a clear anti-time theft policy, use automated time clocks and utilize reporting.

Make sure employees know they can’t steal your time

You can’t fix a problem you don’t acknowledge. And you can’t assume workers will take the high road unless you make it clear to them that time theft is employee behavior your company doesn’t tolerate. State this explicitly in your employee handbook, orientation guide, HR policies and other documentation you use to share conduct expectations with employees.

Include a definition and examples of what constitutes time theft. Stealing work time includes everything from buddy punching to taking too long on lunch and breaks, but also spending time at work on Facebook, chatting with other folks in the office or any sort of personal activity done on company time.

Smartphones are increasingly becoming a prime cause of unproductive time. A national Harris Poll of employers found that 19 percent of them think workers are productive for less than five hours a day and 75 percent of them felt at least two hours of productivity are lost each day. The main culprit: over half of the employers said the smartphone. If your policy includes specific actions, like storing smartphone in a locker, that employees are expected to take – spell them out.

The final part of your anti-time theft policy should outline the progressive disciplinary actions that an employee found stealing time will incur. Last – enforce the policy as written. To find out more ways to stop time theft, download our free ebook! 

Use time clocks to make stealing time for work difficult

Any sort of manual time reporting is rife with time padding. Much of it may not even be intentional, but just the natural rounding up or faults of memory when people try to backfill timesheets for the week. Some of it is intentional. Get rid of the pen & paper time reporting. An employee time clock records actual times punched-in and out, with no backfilling or rounding up.  

You can virtually eliminate time theft tactics like buddy punching if you install biometric time clocks. You can eliminate other causes of time theft by configuring time and attendance software to deduct actual lunch and break time taken. This way, employees who take extended lunches or breaks won’t get paid for that extra time as if they were working (subject to contractual and legal obligations). You can even prevent a late punch-in, directing workers to see their manager when late.

Certain combinations of time clocks and time and attendance software let you implement attestation requirements directly on the time clock. For example, each end-of-day punch-out can include an employee attestation like, “I attest that I have worked during all recorded hours, save for time clocked out on lunch and breaks.” At the very least, it’s a daily reminder that your company takes this issue seriously and increases the rates of self-regulation by employees.

Parse your time clock data for potential time theft problems

If you don’t take any of these immediate remediation routes, the audit trail time clock data collection provides lets HR and managers run exception and analytical reports to identify potential occurrences of time theft. You can analyze data to flag individual anomalies to correct specific employee behavior.

You can also analyze data on the team or departmental level. Perhaps some managers are better at managing their team’s productivity or enforcing “no Facebook” rules. Parsing your time clock data this way helps set realistic benchmarks for the entire company by identifying the outliers on both ends when it comes to managing timely punch-ins and outs, and minimizing other employee time stealing tactics.

When you execute the right combination of policies, technology and analysis, you can prevent and mitigate any time theft. Your bottom line will thank you. To learn more about finding the right time clock to save your business time and money, download our free resource!


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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 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.