How to prevent employees from forgetting to clock in and out?
9 min read
February 4, 2021
Time Tracking

How to Prevent Employees from Forgetting to Clock in And Out

When you chose to encourage employee efficiency at your office, it was perhaps because of your staff members' inefficiency. 

You sat down with your crew and agreed upon a set of attainable goals, delegated duties, matched tasks to skills, and promised to reward efficiency. 

But somehow, you forgot to cut out the excesses and encourage better workplace time management policies. You missed out on implementing a solid plan for your hourly employee clocking in and out on time. 

You might be frustrated and perhaps deciding to hold another meeting to speak about this issue or possibly let go of the employees in question. 

Employee Time Theft

From your observation, employees clocking in and out arbitrarily is gradually forming a pattern that could eventually amount to massive time theft in your office. Some genuinely forget to use your time and attendance software, while another group conveniently ignores punching in and out regularly.

The habit is severely hurting your supervisory targets. According to Nucleus Research, you could be losing up to 2.2% of gross payroll losses, and no amount of warnings seem to be helping reverse the situation.

Can you Discipline Employees Who Forget to Clock In?

That's perhaps what you are thinking. 

But since you are sick and tired of those who tend to be tardy or clock out early, it's maybe time to get more strict and maybe switch to ClockInEasy instead. Before we look at what the Fair Labor Standards stipulate on this, it would be necessary to review your time tracking method first. 

If you are in a situation whereby the employees ignore using your manual timesheets or your hand punch time clock software isn't effective enough, you're maybe not aware of these. In this case, switching to a web-based time tracking software would work wonders. 

Still, it would be best if you didn't rule out the possibility of disciplining those who forget to clock out. Penalizing is particularly important if all the employees are aware that they are supposed to clock in and know the procedure. 

In essence, your organization has specific clocking in and out rules in place, and it also includes a list of consequences to be enforced upon an individual found guilty of time theft. That way, your office will always find it easy to hold employees accountable. 

But what does the Fair Labor Standards Act say?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates employers to record the total hours every employee works. According to this law, it's every employee's right to get paid for time worked, REGARDLESS of if the individual clocked in or out. 

In simpler terms, employees clocking in and out is not in the law. It's the HR and the accounting departments' responsibility to check the employees' timesheets and ensure their time records are accurate. 

This practically means that, even if the employee doesn't clock in but still works a full day, or clocks out knowingly, the employer is legally required to adjust the hours worked. The law seemingly doesn't prohibit time theft and seems to be in favor of the workforce. 

So, can the employer dock the pay of employees who fail to clock in or out?

One of the potential disciplinary options to be considered after repeated cases of employees clocking in and out is withholding pay entirely. But docking the payment is unlawful, according to the Fair Labor Standards

Employees should be paid for all the hours recorded in the timesheet, regardless of how accurate the data is. That means measuring time worked accurately and promoting resourcefulness and productivity is at the management and supervisor's discretion. 

In short, the employer cannot dock the pay of employees who fail to clock in or out.

But disciplining employees who forget to clock in and clock out, as per the laws of your business, is perfectly acceptable.  

Creating Hourly Employees Clocking in and Out Laws

As the employer, you are responsible for deciding the number of hours of work each hourly worker on your payroll has to complete. You also have to set in place a means of recording the working hours, and it can effectively capture everyone's total hours. 

Timesheets and time card systems are common, although time clock apps are proving quite useful nowadays. 

Along with having a time tracker, there should be a list of time clock rules that employees can adhere to. You can include your stipulated clock in and out times and the maximum allowable late times on the rules. Of course, lateness should be a few minutes and not frequently too. 

The policy must also allow the hourly employees to confirm their hours at each pay period's end. This way, they will be sure that their times are entirely in tandem with what's on record. 

What your hourly employee clocking in and out laws must capture the most are the consequences of not observing them. You should specifically clarify the steps and punishments in place and highlight that they are all-encompassing.  

Focus on:

  1. The consequences of tampering with the time tracker. 
  2. Each specific consequence for time theft. 
  3. The consequences for buddy punching. 

Minor Time Clock Discrepancies that are Unavoidable

Naturally, it shouldn't be a surprise when a worker clocks in or clock out a little bit early or late. Clocking in a couple of minutes before is perfectly acceptable, although your policies should highlight that. 

Ideally, the rules shouldn't be too rigid or strict on the employees. Simultaneously, the policy should not accommodate duties falling outside the employee's official working hours unless they qualify as overtime. If the shift is over, but the employee is requested back for a few minutes, this additional work time is insignificant. 

Rounding Employee Hours

It is legal to round employees' timesheets or time records. According to the Department of Labor, this is only acceptable if it falls within particular criteria. First, rounding hours must be on the operations policy. 

Rounding takes three options – rounding to within the next 5-minute interval, the nearest 15th minute, and the nearest 10th of the hour. The most common and universally acceptable is the 7-minute rule whereby the supervisor rounds down to the nearest 15th minute of the hour if the employee clocks within the first seven minutes. 

Under the 7-minute rule, the directions are pretty simple. An employee who punches in at 8:07 am is deemed to have arrived at 8:00 am, and the timer marks so. However, if the timer reads 8:08, the arrival time is rounded to 8:15 am. 

When an employee doesn't have an Accurate Timesheet

Not every office has a web-based time clock system. Some are yet to make the switch and still rely on paper timesheets and paper card systems. Not having an accurate timer costs a business a lot in lost hours. 

According to the American Payroll Association report, an hourly employee wastes between 50 minutes and 4.5 hours of valuable working hours every week. This is mostly due to late arrivals, extended breaks, and early checkouts. In ideal circumstances, it is pretty hard to prove this without an accurate timesheet. 

There are several measures a business can put in place to keep the amount of lost staff-hours low. The business can invest in accurate timesheets or dissuade employees from abusing the time system.  

● Most of today's web-based accurate timesheets and instant payroll software automatically send employees clock in and out updates, reminders, and notifications. They are proving to be far more accurate and even help reduce cases of lateness and clock outs. 

● To deal with issues of forgotten timesheets amongst employees, HR should adopt an effective strategy. The first one is to establish a clear policy on submission dates and procedures. 

● If there's a specific day of submission, every employee must be made aware. On top of that, they should be notified of the request's format and who to address it to. The entire procedure must be simple, no-frills without any needless bureaucratic processes. 

● If possible, there should be a reminder to let everyone when the timesheets are due. It could be as simple as a push notification on their mobile or a memo posted on the official notice board. Reminders also help avert needless inconveniences and allow the accounting team to process payments before payday.

● Rewards to those who get it right and discipline on incomplete timesheets can work wonders. Some hourly employees could be prone to sending incorrect data and may want to earn more than what they worked for. The business can, therefore, adopt a plan that rewards straightforwardness. 

However, if an employee's timesheet isn't correct or isn't in harmony with what's recorded, HR should help with the right figures. The employee should write a formal request, seeking correct confirmation of the hours worked. Every employee in the organization should perfectly know the procedure for addressing this. 

How to Discipline employees who forget to clock in and clock out

If push finally comes to shove, you might have to institute discipline to the delinquent parties. And the best form of reprimanding is to enforce a progressive policy to serve its intended purpose. 

The first step can be a sit-down with the employee and go through the policies on clocking in and out. This could also include making the employee aware of the next consequences. However, the best way to enforce the first mistake is to ensure the individual acknowledges the retribution in writing, complete with a signature and a date. 

If the employee repeats the first infraction or shows no improvement signs, the next step should be a little firmer. A warning issued in writing is usually the best, although it must be a follow-up on the earlier signed retribution letter.

After accumulating the maximum number of written warnings, some employers often resort to suspending them for several days. This usually is followed by an even stricter punishment like docking pay and eventually terminating the employee altogether. 

The essence of reprimanding in stages is highly effective, especially if it aligns with the company's rules. 

There's no one particular disciplinary policy, though, and it is critical that the management crafts one based on employees clocking in and out. The most important thing, though, is to enforce it in stages. 

Wrap up: Productivity and efficiency is a collective responsibility 

At least it should be, primarily when operating a 'PAY BY THE MINUTE' business. Since it isn't entirely unnatural to continually deal with employees who fudge their time in and out at their convenience, your policy should be fair but strict. 

The HR and accounts departments have a role to make sure that a proper, useful, and more accurate time tracking process is in place. They are the ones to probe the existing alternative's efficiency and decide whether it needs a complete overhaul or not. 

Lastly, there are several ways on how to discipline employees who forget to clock out. Applying them, though, should be based on the laid-down time clock rules and regulations. 

It’s important to remember that there should be no bias or favoritism – any employee who is at fault must be subjected to it, regardless of job titles or seniority. Remember, having all the rules written down is the best way to prevent unfair practices and lawsuits in case of employee terminations. 


Accurate timesheets for instant payroll Accurate timesheets for instant payroll