Knock out the practice of buddy punching for good

By Rick Bell

Aug. 4, 2020

Clocking in for a colleague may come as a wink and a nod between coworkers. But the practice of buddy punching is time theft, plain and simple, and it can land a gut punch to managers trying to ring in their scheduling problems and labor costs.

However, advances in workforce management technology and mobile solutions are pulling no punches against those clocking in for a colleague who is running late or worse, randomly decides to take an unauthorized day off.

 What constitutes time theft

It may start innocently enough. The train is stuck. The babysitter arrived late. But without a manager’s approval, time theft is easily defined.

  • Employees start shifts late.
  • An employee leaves shifts early.
  • They take breaks that are longer than scheduled.
  • They work overtime that wasn’t authorized
  • An employee engages in personal or non-work-related activities while on the job.

And then there is buddy punching.

The financial sting of buddy punching

Time theft puts an alarming drain on an organization’s finances. One 2018 estimate pegs the cost of buddy punching at over $370 million in payroll costs annually, and according to research by the American Payroll Association, buddy punching affects about 75 percent of U.S. small businesses.

Also read: Make managers more successful with the tools to retain and engage their employees

Additionally, businesses lose 5 percent of their annual revenue to employee fraud, and buddy punching is fraud. Businesses with fewer than 150 employees are more likely to take it on the chin due to employee fraud schemes like time theft.

What leads to buddy punching 

buddy punching; clocking in

Some employees simply will take advantage of a situation when they know they can. A lack of adequate technology with proper checks and balances often sets the path to one worker punching in for another. Even implementing a system with RFID cards or passwords can be manipulated.

Lacking proper technology, multiple employees can utilize passwords and credentials to punch in for one another if the system does not detect who uses the password, and employers have a difficult time proving time theft.

Employers also naively foot some of the blame. They can develop a false sense of security since they may have hired and gotten to know the people working for them. And, because they know them, they are confident that none are bad people who would steal from them. Adequate workforce management software creates a more objective, unbiased approach to the time and attendance process.

Counterpunching time theft

There are solutions to sparring with buddy punching. By automating how staff members clock in and out with mobile solutions, not only can time theft be curbed but hours of needless administrative tasks be cut back.

Record when your employees punch in and out with’s time clock. From ensuring the right person clocks in for the shift to paying staff correctly, it starts with the mobile time clock app.

Such a solution assures that the right person clocks in for the right shift through electronic photo verification and unique passcodes. These, along with payroll add-ons, also let employers do away with lengthy steps in computing payroll.

Going mobile

Mobile time and attendance solutions also help manage employees remotely without having to question time and attendance records. Such automated solutions also build trust. By not relying on pen and paper bookkeeping, employees gain the confidence to know they won’t have to follow up or scrutinize recordkeeping to make sure they are being paid fairly for their work.

Why pay for hours that weren’t worked? Make the practice of buddy punching tap out and fight the scourge of time theft with’s time clock app.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director.

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