Three time & attendance mistakes your company may be making

In a sense, time and attendance is the fundamental element of performance management. Before the issue of monitoring results and quality arises, there’s the question of whether employees are actually present to perform. The difficulty faced by most employers is that as the modern workforce moves away from being a single team in a single location working a single set of hours, time and attendance has become increasingly complicated to track. The following three problems are often associated with using obsolete software for time and attendance management, or not software at all.

1. Not clamping down on time fraud

Let’s get this one  out of the way first. However much we would like to believe otherwise, it is a fact that a small minority of employees will, given the opportunity, defraud their employer. In some workplaces and cultures, regularly arriving a few minutes late or leaving a few minutes early may be so ingrained and accepted (including by the managers) that it’s not seen as fraudulent behavior at all. However, those few minutes add up.

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Time fraud takes a number of forms. First of all, there’s the classic ‘buddy punching’, the practice of friends punching each other’s time cards to cover for late arrival or other absence. This is more likely to be occurring with mechanical clock systems. Likewise, another common activity in paper-based systems is the misrecording of hours when completing a timesheet: such as marking down a finish time of 6:00pm when the real time of departure was 5:30pm. Some systems in the past were set to round up times to the nearest 15 minutes; which means an employee would be paid for 14 phantom minutes, simply by punching out at 6:01pm. Some of this might be deliberate fraud, some might be the result of mistakes, especially with systems that combine manual records and computerization: the mass input of time and attendance data means mistakes are easily made.

A modern, fully-computerized time and attendance module in your HRMS with online punching, or ideally biometric scanning, can avoid input errors and casual time theft.

2. No clear absence tracking strategy

For accurate workforce management, scheduling, and payroll, absence must be monitored – both planned and unexpected. However, paper systems of records are prone to slippages and mistakes which can result in employees not being paid for time they have worked and vice versa. Such record-keeping also has a knock-on effect on other HR process and procedure. For example, failure to attend work due to illness should trigger the sick absence management process, and should the illness (and absence) continue then a precise record of days absent will be essential, potentially impacting on payroll, disciplinary procedures and even, ultimately, dismissal.

The easy solution is an HRMS with a time and attendance module. Failure to attend automatically triggers notifications to line managers, which in turn prompts the correct action depending on the reason for absence.

3. Being a ‘nice guy’ employer

Some employers or managers are uncomfortable in some way with time and attendance monitoring, feeling that ‘counting the minutes’ is Big Brother-ish, or somehow a demonstration of a lack of trust. For example, they may choose not to record certain kinds of leave of absence, such as short pregnancy-related absence, doctor’s appointments, childcare, etc. Often, the reasoning is ‘it’s not their fault’. But it’s not the employer’s either and more relevant is the fact that any time and attendance system must treat all employees fairly. And in this case, “fair” usually means treating people the same, i.e. if one person is allowed time off for Reason X, then so must everyone else be. Put simply, this kind of ‘benevolence’ inevitably more problems than it solves.

An impersonal HRMS with known rules for time off – both booking and recording – can make life fair for everyone.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall