Time and attendance software: everything you need to know

Time flies when you’re having fun, so they say. But whether the working day is fun or not, an employer must still keep track of time – more specifically, the time spent working by employees.

Time and attendance software is the digital way to monitor employee time. Not only is it less prone to mistakes-  deliberate or otherwise - but such systems also provide important information for staff management and payroll operations

If you’re looking at time and attendance software, the following guide covers the key issues, including:


What is time and attendance software?

Think of time and attendance software as the upgraded, digital version of paper timesheets and punch clocks. The data gathered via employees clocking (or swiping) in and out can be used for workforce planning and scheduling, performance management, administration of leave and time off, and of course, payroll calculation. Due to these touchpoints with other HR functions, time and attendance is often an integrated function of an HRMS, though stand-alone time-tracking systems do exist.

Some of the core benefits of time and attendance software include:

  • Real-time data – Not just a historical record, this software gives managers up to date information vital to managing schedules and rotas.
  • Employee self-service – With most systems, employees can log in, check their hours worked, paid time off balance, and view schedules.
  • More accurate – With less chance of human error, and reduced opportunity for ‘buddy punching’, your time and attendance data will more accurately reflect the reality of the hours worked and your payroll will be less prone to mistakes.
  • Overtime calculation – Anyone in payroll knows that calculating overtime can be a pain, with different rates and terms and conditions for different individuals and types of work done. Let the software do it for you.
  • Health and safety – Digital tracking of hours includes ensuring that employees are taking mandatory breaks.
  • Satisfied employees – By reducing error rates and ensuring equal treatment when it comes to tracking hours, such systems contribute to employee satisfaction.


What should you include in you time and attendance requirements analysis?

As you research your organizational requirements and consult with various stakeholder groups as to their time and attendance needs, it’s worth considering the following issues which can be especially relevant:

  • Compliance – The labor legislation in your country or territory will almost certainly include provision for minimum rest breaks, perhaps maximum hours (for example, in the US, the Family & Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, makes allowance for unpaid job-protected leave) – your time and attendance software should automatically monitor employee working patterns for compliance.
  • Mobile – The likelihood is that your workforce is diverse, comprising office workers, home workers, mobile/field workers, and so on. For accurate time and attendance, a mobile app is a must these days, allowing your whole workforce to access it via desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.
  • Self-service – By allowing all employees easy access to their own time and attendance records, you effectively delegate the initial responsibility for monitoring to the individual.
  • Ease of use – Usage depends on the user-friendliness of the system; look for an option that’s both intuitive and familiar for all users.

Identify and prioritize your time and attendance requirements with this customizable HRMS requirements template


The pros and cons of time and attendance integration with HRMS

Integrated HRMS time and attendance Standalone time and attendance module

More accurate payroll – either both time and attendance and payroll are using the same database or the data transfer is automatic, either way, the potential for human error is reduced because there is no dual entry of information.

Time fraud and buddy punching are reduced (or even eliminated with biometric systems).

Reporting and analytics – time and attendance data can be more easily accessed and incorporated to your custom reports.

Performance monitoring can factor in attendance and reliability, plus sick absence.
Productivity – by ensuring the whole workforce is working the hours contracted, a key foundation of productivity is in place.

Can be a better option for smaller organizations that don’t require a full-blown HRMS but would benefit from automated time tracking.


What features should I look for in time and attendance software?

Clocking in and out

At its simplest level, the system records hours worked by allowing for employees to clock in and out. This may be a simple ID or swipe card, a PIN, or it might be done using more sophisticated facial or fingerprint recognition software.

Employee scheduling

One of the most obvious and immediate uses of the information from the clocking in process is to apply it to the day’s work schedule.

Absence management

Most systems monitor absence as well as presence, including absence due to sickness, holiday or vacation days, or paid time off. Managers and teams have access to an up to date picture of who should be in work, who is and who isn’t, and can plan accordingly.


Integration with the payroll module means more accurate calculation of salaries (including overtime) and therefore fewer mistakes.

Learn about more time and attendance feature ideas with this guide to 52 features to look for in your next HRMS

Real-time data

Managers can see who is present and who is not, make adjustments to schedules, consider the need for overtime, monitor breaks, and so on.


Permitting the delegation of basic time-tracking to employees – monitoring the hours they've worked, checking of current and future schedules, and managing paid time off allowances.

Cost estimates

Some systems will apply a cost element to employees and their hours, allowing managers to use historical data to create time estimates for individual projects and therefore better resource forecasting.


As part of the capability to clock in from a distance, geolocation and geofencing can be used to locate and connect with mobile employees.


Most systems will come with a set of standard reports, offering insights into hours worked, shift patterns, and time off with a view to improving productivity. Many will offer reports tailored to your needs or even fully customizable options.


Which time and attendance solutions should I consider?

Though your requirements will, of course, vary, the following is a short list of well-established vendors of time and attendance software options:

Compare time and attendance and HRMS software with our interactive software comparison tool

  • Time Trex – a well-known stand-alone time and attendance solution, includes hands-free biometric clocking in.
  • TimeLabs – a complete time and attendance suite, including overtime and FMLA tracking.
  • Time Doctor – offers integration with project management tools, and productivity monitoring (and probably the closest you’ll get to a Doctor Who reference in the HR technology field).
  • UltiPro – a complete HRMS suite, including a time clock and time tracking features.
  • CakeHR – an HRMS aimed at small to medium businesses, featuring attendance and time tracking.


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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

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