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Is Employee Time Theft Hurting Your Business?


When people think of employee theft, stealing cash or company supplies often comes to mind. But what about your largest expense—labor?

Could employee theft be affecting your business? Here are a few signs to tell if your business is at risk:

1. Tag Teaming the Clock

John's time sheet says he arrived at 8:30, but is it true? Whether it's a punch card or an electronic system, coworkers often help each other misrepresent time worked. Sometimes it just means signing in someone's name, or swiping their electronic key card for them in the morning.

Whether you're finding inconsistent handwriting or noticing key hand offs, this can be a sign that your employees are working together to misrepresent someone's hours.

2. Long Extended Breaks

Some employees have a habit of extending their breaks and meal periods. This can happen all day: a 30 minute coffee break in the morning, a 90 minute lunch, and then a 30 minute afternoon stroll. Suddenly, they haven't just taken the usual one hour lunch but 2 ½ hours.

If you're seeing an employee more in the break room than at their desk, it may be time for a chat about what break periods are appropriate.

3. Always Hitting Overtime

If you have hourly workers, time theft can also happen with unnecessary overtime. These workers stand out because they tend to work more overtime than anyone else. With overtime often being 1.5 times their regular rate of pay, these workers may be more interested in the higher paycheck than going the extra mile.

Check your time cards or time tracking reports. Is there a specific employee working a lot of extra overtime? You may want to ensure their workload is manageable and they utilize the regular 40-hour workweek appropriately.

4. Constant Personal Business

We all have personal lives. Sometimes it's acceptable to take calls in the middle of the day. However, constant personal business can mean they're never available for your business. Personal business comes in many forms including:

  • Long personal phone calls
  • Hours on social media
  • Constant personal texting
  • Running another business or project

Occasionally, we all have personal issues that force us to step out for a few minutes or leave work early. However, if this is constant behavior, it may be time to reassess if this employee is a good fit for your organization.


Time theft is a subtle problem many businesses face. These four signs are just some of the ways people can twist their working hours. This makes it difficult for management, requiring more time spent on tracking. If too heavy handed, oversight can undermine trust and your business environment. 

One way to try to ensure accountability is to incorporate an automated time and attendance management system. It can make reporting time easy for employees and tracking employee time even easier for management.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.