Time Clock Problems

Advice and discussion about how to make sure employees punch in and out reliably. March 18, 2006

I have been frustrated with my employees not clocking in and out. We spent a nice chunk of money on a time clock that I thought was foolproof - just stick the card in and it prints the time, overtime, etc. It must be harder than I thought, since everyone keeps forgetting to clock out and in and it messes up the time cards. Then I have to figure out what everyone's time is. I was thinking I'd post a notice that I will dock 1 hour of pay for anyone not clocking in or out. I thought about just not paying them for the time they are not clocked in for, but I do not think that is fair. Anyone have a policy in place?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor B:
I had a time clock for several years. My policy was to pay for time clocked. If they forgot, I required them to submit a form filled out as to the reason and provide me with the time that should have been punched. I would not accept a verbal for the times. If they didn't punch out at night, I corrected that by editing to the end of the shift. A few times filling out the form cured the problem. It put the responsibility in the employee's lap. No punch, no pay.

From contributor S:
If they can't figure out how to clock in, I'm curious as to how they do on the cabinets? I only pay for what's on the time clock, after a one time exception. If they forget to clock out, end of shift is the time. They forget to clock in, usually because they are late, but never forget to pick up their paycheck. Go figure.

From contributor D:
If you don't want to deny them a paycheck, you may want to try delaying their paycheck. When they come to pick up their check, hand them the incomplete time card and tell them that you were unable to process their check with the rest because of the incomplete data. Tell them you will have their check in a day or two. This may be enough to scare a little discipline into them.

From contributor T:
If you have a small crew, why bother with a clock? Starting time is at X. If you aren't here, you are late and will be docked. Take it out of their vacation time and they will find out that pretty soon they will never get a vacation that year. Dock them in 15 minute increments and the time just dwindles away. We have a guy at work that is in that position. He's burning at least 15 minutes a day and tells the boss that he's taking food out of his kids' mouths by docking him.

From contributor M:
I would be very careful about docking time worked or holding paychecks. Depending on which state you live in, this could be illegal. You can tell your employees that the timecard is an invoice to you for their work. If they do not give you a full invoice, you can pay them for the standard day (start time, or whenever they showed up, to finish work time). The "hour bank" idea is a good one, too and will withstand further scrutiny. But I don't think your problem is absenteeism. It sounds like they've figured out that you will do the leg work if they don't invoice you properly, and they will still get the same pay. Why not warn them, then suspend them without pay for a day for "falsification of timecards"?

From contributor P:
Get them where it hurts - their pocket. Whenever they decide to punch in will be their start time, and you'll figure their pay accordingly.

From contributor I:
I think the keywords in your post are "my employees." You are apparently their supervisor/boss/manager or something. Assert yourself, make them aware of your expectations and what the consequences are for not following the rules. If they continue to not use the clock, you have more troubles than you think.

From contributor G:
Punching a time clock is demeaning to the employee and tells the employer nothing except that the employee was hovering by the clock waiting for it to click over. I've seen computerized clocking systems that allow employees to book on to a specific job as well as in and out for the day. I've also filled out time sheets specifying what I do and how long it takes. If an employer can't accept my word for what I am doing and how long it takes me along with the number of hours I've worked, they likely don't get my services.

From contributor B:
It hasn't anything to do with your word. It is a way to keep track of payroll without having to hand enter it. The bookkeeping is much easier if the computer entries are done by the employee. Things like total hours, overtime, pay, withholdings, vacation and job costing are available. The time printouts go directly to the pay master.

From contributor W:
You'd better watch your tail on this one. In many states, it is illegal for an employee to do any (and I mean any) work without pay. In most instances, you cannot work "off of the clock." Wal-Mart has been burned for just this type of behavior. Since you are not requiring anyone to work without pay, I might not worry quite as much, but would still check with an attorney before some disgruntled employee does.

You have to pay an employee at the usual time. You can't hold back pay for any reason, even if they didn't punch the time clock correctly. Check out the "Fair Labor Standards Act" for more information on hourly employees.

From contributor G:
I suggest that having a smooth workflow to your day is far more productive to the company than the value that may be realized by keeping track of pay roll without having to hand enter it. Having flexibility in work hours, i.e. no set time for breaks and lunch, lets you time your break at a time convenient to work flow as opposed to a bell. Do data enterers get paid as much as the craftsmen in your shop?

From contributor K:
Contributor G, I suspect that you have never been responsible for calculating payroll hours. I have. Getting the payroll ready is a mind numbing/non-value added activity that has to be performed with extreme accuracy. You should try doing this sometime with illegible, handwritten entries and compare the effort with the postings you get from a time clock. If you did, I suspect you would come down on the side of standardization. Just like we try to make it easy for the guys in the shop, we need to make it easy for the guys in the office. It has nothing to do with issues of respect or trust.

From contributor J:
A time clock is only demeaning if the employee has a poor attitude. Besides the obvious, a time card is also a legal document serving as a written record of attendance. That is why many employers require employees to clock out if they leave the premises, i.e. for lunch. If they aren't on the clock, then you are not responsible for their actions. They make time systems now that work off fingerprints. While that won't solve the problem of getting people to swipe their finger, it will serve every other time card issue, as there is no way to lie, cheat, have a buddy stamp you time card, etc. They are around $300, I think.

From contributor C:
Years ago we let employees write in their times. Employees soon realized that they could cheat. Not all would do it. Time clocks make it easy to keep track of what is going on. Also, it is a firable offense to punch someone else's timecard. Once in a while, someone forgets to punch in the time. It is also in the employee's manual (which they must read and sign that they understand) that failure to follow rules is an insubordination and subject to penalties which are spelled out. Employees expect and demand that we follow the rules; we in turn expect them to do the same. We all know the rules, we all know the results for breaking the rules, and we are consistent in enforcement. Those people that have trouble with authority soon leave. Following the rules makes it so much easier on everyone. Coworkers can be some of the harshest critics of other employees.

From contributor W:
Employers have to remember that an employee handbook is a contract! Even if you put "this is not a contract" on the cover, it is still considered a contract almost everywhere. If you put in your handbook that an employee has to have been disciplined 3 times in writing before being dismissed and you let them go after 2 times, you could be sued for wrongful dismissal. In "right to work" states, you are better off not having an employee handbook, because you can hire and fire at will.

From contributor C:
I went before the unemployment judge 5 times. My handbook has helped me win the cases 5 times. I wouldn't be without it. I expect my employees to go by the book and they expect me to go by the book. Makes life a lot easier.

From contributor A:
When I ran that part, it was very simple - I pay for what I know. If you don't clock in, I don't pay. Your problem. We take on so many employee problems, so there are systems in place to resolve these. With each paycheck, give out a notice of the new policy change and when it is signed, give them their paycheck. You will not have this problem again.