How to Prevent Time Theft in the Workplace

Posted on

February 17th, 2020


Nearly three-fourths of businesses experience a problem known as time theft, which is when an employee receives income for time he or she didn’t work. This isn’t like sick leave or vacation leave, as the employee informs his or her employer of those absences. With time theft, the employee takes the pay on the sly and the employer is often none the wiser.

What is Buddy Punching?

Buddy punching is one of the most well-known forms of time theft and many employees don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong when they do it. Employees who are running late or need to leave a few minutes early will ask a coworker to punch in or out for them to avoid trouble with their boss. Most coworkers don’t view this as time theft but as one buddy doing another a favor.

A few minutes here and there may not seem like much, but time theft like this costs businesses across the country more than $373 million per year. For small businesses with numerous part-time employees, this could shake out to roughly $30,000 per year. Thankfully, businesses have a number of tactics available to them to prevent buddy punching:

  1. Develop clear rules and enforce them. Employers may think actions like buddy punching are clearly a bad idea, but that isn’t always the case. If attendance guidelines aren’t explicit, employees have room to interpret them on their own. Spelling out attendance rules in clear language allows employers to enforce them effectively.
  2. Stop using physical cards. While not many workplaces use antiquated punch machines these days, plenty still have physical cards that are easy to swipe in or out for a friend. Several online applications allow for digital timecards, which are less prone to buddy punching.
  3. Implement sensitive logins and passwords. While high-tech time cards are harder to falsify, it’s not impossible if employees share their logins to continue their buddy punching practices. Making ID numbers personal or sensitive will make employees less prone to sharing the information and thus cut down on buddy punching.
  4. Lean on technology. If all else fails, employers can turn to biometrics or geofencing to eliminate buddy punching. With biometrics, employees can’t scam the system since their thumbprint or facial recognition won’t match up correctly. Geofencing is also effective as it relies on GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell data to create a fence around the business. If the employee isn’t physically within that fence with their cellphone, they won’t be able to clock into work.

Businesses, especially small businesses, can’t afford to lose thousands of dollars every year for work their employees never performed. Eliminating time theft like buddy punching can help improve attendance as well as boost businesses’ bottom lines. However, buddy punching can be a symptom of a much larger issue. Employees who arrive late and leave early can be a sign of a burgeoning absenteeism problem. Contact the experts at Actec to learn how we can help your business improve attendance and reduce absenteeism.