Compliant Time Tracking: Getting It Right with Time Clocks

In a time when machines are learning and data is big, you need to finally trade in the pen-and-paper timesheet for a smart time tracking software solution. Actually, many businesses, just like yours, are making the shift, and where there is demand there is usually supply. Ranging from mobile apps to portable biometric systems with payroll system integration, there is no shortage in time tracking technology. Though choosing the right one for your business can be daunting, it’s not just about matching your business needs with a solution. 

When it comes to managing time and attendance, we must remember that big brother is watching and making sure that we are compliant with regulations. In addition, we’re talking about people here so our solution of choice needs to be easy to use and comfortable as well as compatible with existing systems.

Before we discuss the many applications (and few challenges) of time tracking systems, it helps to understand what drives businesses to adopt this solution over the alternatives.


Why you NEED a time clock in your business

1. Regulatory compliance

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires businesses to keep accurate records of employee work hours, but lets the owners choose their own method of timekeeping.

Employers may use any timekeeping method they choose. For example, they may use a time clock, have a timekeeper keep track of employee’s work hours, or tell their workers to write their own times on the records. Any timekeeping plan is acceptable as long as it is complete and accurate. – DOL

The FLSA demands you keep work time tracking documentation for at least two years, and it needs to be easily available for government representatives’ inspection. So sure, you can use timesheets, punch-cards, or videos of smoke signs but keep in mind that these don’t only cause a lot of administrative headaches, but can be easily misplaced or lost.

Records on which wage computations are based should be retained for two years, i.e., time cards and piece work tickets, wage rate tables, work and time schedules, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. These records must be open for inspection by the Division’s representatives, who may ask the employer to make extensions, computations, or transcriptions. The records may be kept at the place of employment or in a central records office. – DOL

You don’t want to find out you’ve lost all employee work time records from past year in a sewage flood, or have a disgruntled employee just burn all the punch cards of his coworkers (yes, I’ve seen this happen). Aside from the inconvenience caused by data-loss, this kind of situation can cause you a lot of trouble when government agents decide to drop by for a surprise audit.

2. Recording overtime

According to the FLSA, employees must be paid in time and a half for hours worked over 40 in a week. they get paid for that time in regular hourly wages and an additional half of their regular rate of pay. Failure to calculate and pay for overtime can be very damaging to your business, even if the government doesn’t come knocking. All it takes is one disgruntled employee who thinks you’ve paid him or her unfairly. It’s not uncommon at all; according to research by NERA, 42% of wage and hour court cases are related to overtime so try not to get sued. 

FLSA regulations demand you pay overtime even when it is not authorized, which can get very pricey. A system that alerts you to employees working unauthorized overtime has the potential to save you quite a bit of money. With the right data at your fingertips, you might even discover it’s more cost effective to hire another worker than pay overtime to the ones you already employ.

collecting that overtime like a boss meme

Why you WANT a time clock in your business

1. Efficient and fast payroll management

Tracking your workers’ payable hours using spreadsheets or (Gods forbid!) paper can be enough if you have a small number of employees, and the resources to invest in managing payroll calculations when it’s time to write the checks. But when your workforce grows at an exponential rate because your business is just so outrageously successful, you don’t want to have to stop the celebrations to sit down with dozens (or hundreds) of attendance reports and a calculator in your lap.

Since you’re the kind of manager who aims for success and plans for the future, you probably want to check out a simple but scalable solution before it becomes urgent.

2. No surprises when it’s time to write the paychecks

You can usually tell how much you’ll need to be paying your employees at the end of the month (or week) by looking at work schedules and doing the math. But what happens when a tragic flu epidemic takes out a random number of your employees every day, forcing their coworkers to do overtime? How much will you have to pay for overtime and sick leave can change hourly as employees go home sick.

A smart time clock system can help you calculate the expenses on worker wages in real time, so you can adjust your budget accordingly, and avoid unwanted surprises when it’s time to pay.

More than in-and-out

Today’s time tracking solutions are not your grandad’s punchclock (maybe that’s why they call it a grandfather clock…). Systems today include a variety of features and abilities, aimed at making it easier for your employees to accurately report work hours, and easier for you to monitor and manage attendance and efficiency.

Before choosing the solution to deploy at your business, consider the needs of your business, and the nature of its relationship with the people it employs. For example, if you have a relatively small team of dedicated and honest employees, deploying a biometric time clock system would be a massive waste of your money, even though it looks cool and futuristic.

Some features are worth considering for most businesses, regardless of compliance or specific business needs.

1. Cross – channel accessibility and availability

One of the main advantages of mobile time clocks is that employees are more likely to record their work hours accurately when they do so in real-time. But what happens when you have employees in the field, deskless workers or tele-workers, who can’t line up at the punch clock in the office?

Many of the time clock solutions offered today allow for secure cross-channel access to the time tracking systems, letting employees clock in from their mobile device or desktop computer (if they have one). Some even offer geotagging so you know not only when the employee was working, but also where.

Even if you happen to use a physical punchclock, being able to access the system remotely is helpful. Employees can use an app to clock out if they forgot to, and managers can check in real-time which employees are currently clocked-in. Additionally, most online time clocks also tag the GPS location of the employee so you can be sure they were really on-site when they clocked in and out, instead of grabbing a coffee at Starbucks some 5 miles away. 

does it look like i have time to finish my timesheets

2. Security and payroll integration

When it comes to managing a growing workforce, automating the payroll process as much as possible becomes a priority. Having a smooth connection between your time clock and other HR systems saves time and money, but not only that. Ensuring the information flows smoothly and processes are clearly defined in the system can prevent data-loss, duplicate records and possible employee tampering.

Plus, not having to chase after your employees to hand in their timesheets sounds like the perfect dream made reality. Using a time clock app just makes the whole process faster, more accurate, and less time-consuming.

3. Real-time notifications

Many of the time tracking solutions offered today allow for automatic notifications to employees and/or managers to be sent under specified conditions. For example, a manager can be notified if an employee has worked over 40 hours this week, and is now clocked in on overtime. Employees can be notified if they are clocked-in outside of their pre-assigned shift time.

These notifications can be delivered over email, mobile app notification or text message and can, potentially, prevent discrepancies and errors when it’s time to count the hours worked.

4. Task-based time spend analysis

As mentioned, modern time clocks go far beyond the in and out punch card systems. Some solutions offer task-based time tracking, letting you pay a different wage for different tasks, measure employee efficiency, and optimize your workforce.

Managing the human factor

Technological or not, the main source for issues with time and attendance is people. Us humans are inherently imperfect, anxious, and occasionally dishonest. Sure, you do your best and never compromise on your workers. Despite that, there are some common hurdles on your way to smart time clock integration.

old time clocks

1. Resistance

People don’t like to feel spied on. Employees who are used to reporting their own work-hours, or simply dislike the feeling of having their value to the workplace quantified hourly, might show resistance to the newly introduced time clock. In addition, since time clocks are usually perceived as more beneficial to the employer, rather than the employee, many workers see them as unnecessary. There are a number of ways to deal with this issue.

the time clock mocks me king of the hill

First, create a time clock policy for your business, and have your employees read and sign it as part of their onboarding processes. In addition, try and alleviate employee concerns by communicating the benefits a smart time tracking system offers them.

Finally, and most importantly, check out how the big companies do it. One of the biggest challenges for large companies with thousands of employees is implementing a cross-organizational change. No wonder, how are you going to make thousands of employees all embrace a change in the way they do things?

In fact, an entire discipline called change management has developed to create best practices for promoting organizational change. Bottom line is, if you want to get your employees onboard with a new time clock, or any change for that matter, you have to first engage the employees and make them feel invested in your company and its goals. Engaged workers are more productive and happier workers.

That much is common sense. However, engaged workers can also become “change ambassadors” and help you promote organizational change.

This is the logic behind Facebook’s popularity. Once all your friends were onboard with the new social media, you didn’t want to get left behind. If you can get an initial group of employees onboard, your change ambassadors, the new time and attendance software the rest will not want to be left behind.

This is how you successfully introduce a new time clock to your employees:

  1. Introduce the new time clock to a sample of your employees that you think will be responsive.
  2. Have them test the time clock for a short trial period.
  3. Learn from the trial experience.
  4. Create anticipation for the new time clock with the rest of your employees who didn’t get “chosen” for the initial pilot.
  5. Launch the new time clock to all your employees.

Follow these steps and we guarantee your employees will adopt the new time clock solution.

2. Buddy punching

If you’ve never encountered employees cheating with work hours reported, you might think that “buddy punching” is codename for a “Fight Club”. It isn’t, but much like the Fight Club, the first rule of “buddy punching” is that employees do not talk about buddy punching.


There are many ways to combat the practice of punching in and out for co-worker in an attempt to literally steal from you:

  1. You can place a camera over the punch clock or in it to ensure that the name on the timestamp and the face in the picture match.
  2. You can go as far as use biometric punch clocks and
  3. Introduce wearable time clocks to prevent hour theft.

In our experience, the best solution is not a technical one, but rather a cultural one. A clear definition of forbidden time tracking practices like buddy punching in the time tracking policy the employees sign, and a zero tolerance policy for theft of any kind, are the best way to go.

However, note that a time clock app can tag the employee’s location when they clock in and out, and additionally, the app doesn’t round up a second or a minute. The hours are calculated from the second your employee clocks in to the second they clock out.

3. Forgetfulness

Good employees are more concerned with the quality of their work than with the precision of their work hour reporting. So it’s no wonder that even the most dedicated workers sometimes neglect to punch in or punch out, even when they know they are required to do so by the company time clock policy. This can get messy when you have a large number of employees, and the chances of someone forgetting to punch the clock are high.

Most online time tracking solutions allow managers and/or employees to log in to the system to update and alter records (according to permissions, of course) when necessary. These systems also usually keep a historic record of such alterations for compliance purposes.

Additionally, a time clock app allows you to send a push notification to your employees half an hour, or whatever time you choose, before they are supposed to clock in so they are reminded to do so!

Time (clocks) they are ‘a changin’

It’s true (and quite obvious) that different businesses have different requirements. Some have employees who work in the field and to clock in and out remotely. Others want to stop having a line at the punch clock at the end of the workday, with employees waiting for their turn to clock out.

There’s no “one size fits all”, but even if you’re not looking for the bells and whistles and extra features in your time tracking solutions of choice, you still need to comply with federal labor laws. A task made much easier with online time clock solutions.

The employee time clock app you’ve been looking for

Easily track and manage your employees working hours on jobs and projects, improve your payroll process and collaborate with your deskless employees like never before. Clock in and out, request absences, view current and past timesheets, and add notes are just some of the powerful capabilities you can perform on-the-go. With an intuitive, mobile-first user experience, Connecteam is easy to use and requires no training!

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