Failure to Punch: Honest Mistake or a Dishonest Attempt at Time Stealing? How Do You Correct It?

Missed Time Punch

Most people are honest individuals who do, on occasion, forget to punch in before jumping into their to-do list for the day or who may potentially encounter a technical issue with a time-tracking system.  Unfortunately; however, there are those select few who conveniently “forget” to clock in as a way to mask their habitual tardiness and get paid for time not actually worked.  Under the FLSA, the onus for tracking hours worked and paying accordingly falls entirely on the employer.  You cannot penalize an employee who fails to clock in by withholding his/her wages.  So how do you correct this all-too-common issue?

Put it in Writing
The best way to address any issue relating to employee performance is to draft a policy for your employee handbook. Be sure to include the protocols for reporting and correcting missed punches, plus a clear outline of the escalating levels of disciplinary action (verbal warning, written warning, corrective action plan, etc.) for failure to follow procedures, up to and including termination.  Remind employees that ensuring you are paying them for all the time worked is a benefit to them.

Consistently Follow Through on Your Own Policy
Where missed punches can truly be a simple mistake on the part of a good employee, you will still need to follow the same actions for her as you would for a consistently tardy employee you suspect may be time stealing.  You cannot show preferential treatment in administering your policies as it can dilute the effectiveness of your policy and potentially come back to haunt you in the case of litigation.

Make Use of Technology and Ensure it Functions Accordingly
If you have an automated time and attendance tracking system such as the solution offered by Checkmate, configure it to send supervisors a notification if an employee fails to clock in or out in accordance with his/her scheduled shift.  Consider placing additional time-tracking workstations or employee time clocks at each entrance with reminders outlining the proper procedures for clocking in and out during scheduled shifts.

Conduct periodic tests of your software to ensure it is in compliance with any updates in state or federal laws and that it is working properly to calculate rounding of hours (if permitted), vacation and sick time, etc.  In an instance that an employee reports issues with the system, log the complaint and include your findings after looking into it and any applicable updates to correct the issue.

While there is no silver bullet that will immediately fix any issues that you are having with missed time punches, as with most issues, implementing the right policies and communicating effectively can have a long-lasting effect.  If your company does not currently have a time-tracking policy in place, isn’t it about time?