What Is Time Theft – And How Can You Prevent It?

With rising numbers of remote and home workers across the US, the issue of time theft is one that must be addressed by thousands of businesses. But what is exactly is time theft?

The word ‘theft’ brings to mind images of robbers in striped clothing, running off with handfuls of cash or expensive products. Time theft is a little more subtle, but no less damaging to US businesses: it occurs when an employee is paid for work they have not completed, or time they weren’t actually working.

Imagine, for example, you have ten remote employees, each earning around $20,000 per year. If each of them spend ten minutes on personal phone calls each week, as well as clocking in just ten minutes early every day, they’re effectively costing your business as much as $5,000 per year in lost time.

As you can see, time theft has the potential to be an enormous problem. So how can you stamp it out?

Place a ban on ‘buddy punching’

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to ‘buddy punching’. This is when an employee asks another member of staff to clock in on their behalf to make it look like they’re at work. If one employee was, for example, running late for a meeting or an appointment, they would simply ask a colleague to mark them as ‘present’ to ensure they were still paid, even if they weren’t actually present and working. It’s most commonly used when businesses rely on paper timesheets and manual clocking-in tools, rather than more sophisticated time and attendance software with GPS tracking included. Upgrade your time and attendance system, or issue a total ban on this practice, with dismissal on the cards for any employee found to be ‘buddy punching’.

Use biometrics

Technology has now progressed to a point where businesses can easily introduce biometric time and attendance systems without breaking the bank. From fingerprint scanners to retina detectors, these highly advance solutions help eliminate time theft altogether by accurately logging arrival and departure times for each individual. These systems are so sophisticated, they can’t be gamed or tricked – meaning it’s game over for time thieves in your workplace.

Make your company policy crystal-clear

Take a look at your company policy on clocking in and out, as well as the activities which employees are forbidden from carrying out while on the clock. From personal phone calls and cigarette breaks to the rules on how long can be taken for breaks, make sure the policy is crystal-clear, with no wriggle-room for those in breach of the rules. If an employee is regularly breaching these rules, taking longer breaks or using work time for personal errands, they have no excuse when their behaviour is flagged up and they are disciplined.

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