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What is Buddy Punching? [And How to Prevent It]

By Timerack

June 21, 2021

It’s nice to have employees that look out for one another. However, sometimes that can work against your business. This is especially true when it comes to buddy punching. This form of employee time theft can seriously affect your company’s bottom line.

According to one statistic on buddy punching, it affects as much as 75% of small businesses in the U.S. and can lead to a loss of 2.2% of a company’s annual gross payroll. Fortunately, there are several ways to help keep it in check.

What is Buddy Punching?

Buddy punching is when one employee asks another to clock into work for them. In turn, this makes it seem as though they’re working when they actually aren’t.

It usually happens because the employee is running late for work at the start of their shift. However, it can also happen due to an extended lunch break. Many employees tend to view it as a pretty innocent action. After all, what does a few extra minutes matter to a large business? All in all, it’s actually quite a lot. 

The federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 an hour. One study by the American Payroll Association found that three-fourths of employers lose money to buddy punching with employees getting an extra 4.5 hours of un-worked wages each week. Multiplied over a full year, a single employee could be costing you as much as $1,560. Moreover, for a small business of just 20 people, that can lead to annual losses of $30,000 in stolen time.

While the exact legality of the practice does vary by state, in most cases it does constitute fraud and can be grounds for termination. As with most things though, prevention makes for the best cure. However, by using time tracking solutions, you can curb buddy punching from your organization.

Ways to Stop Buddy Punching

1. GPS Software

By using a time-tracking software with mobile GPS, you can immediately know where an employee is when they clock in or clock out.

This GPS stamp will be shown on each employee’s timesheet, allowing you to easily check it at any time.

This works especially well for businesses that have employees who are on the move all the time or work remotely.  GPS software typically works best when used in conjunction with mobile geofencing. When combined, these two systems make buddy punching almost impossible.

Mobile geofencing is now available in Timerack’s mobile time app, read more about it here

2. Geofencing

By using GPS, WIFI, and cellular data, you can create an invisible barrier around your business.

The perimeter for this barrier can be set however you like, starting at either the parking lot or the staff entrance door. Once set, no employee will be able to clock in until they’ve entered the perimeter.

Depending on the software you use, they’ll either have to clock in manually once they’ve passed the perimeter or have it done automatically.

3. Biometrics

Nothing says you’re there quite like physical evidence.

By requiring staff to use thumbprints or facial recognition technology, you can drastically cut down on buddy punching.

Biometric time clocks are one of the best ways for a company to save both time and money. Also, since the whole system is fully automatic, it can make the process of tracking your employees far easier and simpler. As a result, more and more companies are embracing this technology and switching to using biometric time and attendance.

That being said, if you do decide to use biometrics in the workplace, there may be some legal considerations you’ll have to make. Several states have passed laws regulating how biometric data can be gathered and used – and this may change in the future. Therefore, it’s important you stay abreast of any laws your state has on the use of biometrics.

4. Passwords

Another way to cut down on buddy punching is to give each employee a unique password.

This must be entered when clocking-in and be complex enough (long sequences, numbers, symbols, capitalization) that it’s very hard to share or be input by another employee. In addition, you can protect against employees sharing their passwords by tying it to their work data – if applicable. If your employees are aware that by sharing their password, they’re also giving up access to their personal information, they may be less inclined to do so. 

This can be a very effective and cost-efficient method for tracking remote work crews that use a single company device.

5. Talk to Your Staff About Buddy Punching

For all the benefits that technology brings, it should not be entirely relied upon to solve the problem of buddy punching.

In a lot of cases, cutting down on the practice means first understanding what’s causing it. Do some of your staff feel overworked? Are employee breaks too short? Does someone have a tangible reason they can’t make it on time? Is there unhappiness about something in the workplace?

If you open up the floor, employees may be willing to share their thoughts and offer advice on what can be done to improve things. You can take these on board to work around the problem. This will increase staff morale and make them less inclined to commit employee time theft

Closing Thoughts

While it can seem innocent enough on the surface, buddy punching is a real problem that needs to be addressed before it gets out of control. Eliminating it is just one of the many benefits that can be achieved through effective employee time and attendance tracking.

When fully implemented, a good tracking system can also be integrated with your payroll system, provide detailed analytics, and make your hiring process far easier. If you want to learn more, get in touch with Timerack and book a free demo today.



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