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Buddy Punching: What It Is, and How to Stop It

Businesses are turning increasingly to state-of-the-art identification technology to combat the distressing trend of buddy punching. Take a look at ways you can mitigate time theft in your business.
buddy punching

Buddy punching is a very serious breach of trust and discipline within businesses that can contribute to needless costs and, in many cases, employee fraud.

More specifically, as Paychex HR services manager Matthew Keup explains, "Buddy punching is the act of hourly, non-exempt employees who record their time on a time clock, punching a co-worker in and out when that worker isn't present. In essence, it's a false representation of time worked by the individual who is not actively recording time for themselves. Often, it's done to prevent the co-worker from being recorded as late for their start time, or to fraudulently increase time worked for pay."

buddy punching

How does this deception occur? Employees can share personal information, like usernames and passwords, to clock in. When a business relies on a punch time clock or paper time sheets, it can be fairly simple for one employee to punch in using the credentials of another employee.

There are also situations where employees may be under the impression that they're simply doing each other a favor. That's why it's essential that management and HR formally notify all employees that buddy punching is strictly prohibited in the workplace.

Increasingly, businesses are turning to state-of-the-art identification technology to combat this distressing trend. Here is a sampling of tools available for this purpose:

Wi-Fi-enabled biometric time clocks. Hardware technology built into a Wi-Fi-enabled time clock leverages biometric (finger scan) technology to ensure greater time-punch accuracy. As Paychex HR consultant Dorene Crimi Lerner notes, "a timekeeping system with a fingerprint* scan or a clock with biometric features can be very effective in deterring time-theft.”

Automated time-tracking. Cloud-based solutions offering real-time access to data provide a viable alternative to manual time-tracking processes. Such automated systems feature employee dashboards and flexible punch methods, available via an employee's smartphone or tablet device.

Biometric kiosk. This Android-based touch-screen tablet employs fingerprint readers and other types of authentication to help businesses curb employee misconduct. In some cases, however, biometric fingerprint clocks may not be ideally effective. As Keup notes, "There are issues with this technology in work environments where there's a lot of grime, paint, grease, etc., that can obscure fingerprints."

Fortunately, other technological advances offer additional options, such as:

Advanced scheduling modules. Employee schedules can be digitally monitored on a weekly basis with pre-set capacity requirements per employee shift. This offers greater visibility and flexibility in managing employee schedules.

Tablet kiosk app. This mobile punch option allows employees to conveniently punch in and out using an app on their Apple iOS devices. The tablet kiosk app's functionality and user interface enable employees to capture real-time worked for every employee.

Mobile time clock with GPS technology. Time clocks incorporating geolocation technology offer another option for countering employee time-theft. Mobile attendance and time-keeping apps enable employees to clock in and out in a quick, efficient manner.

However, some risks are involved in the use of this technology. Prior to implementing a GPS tracking policy, it's recommended that employers take key steps to minimize the potential for associated legal exposure.

Iris recognition technology. This latest iteration of identification technology represents a huge leap forward in effectiveness for time tracking. Iris recognition technology addresses the potential shortcomings of the biometric fingerprint approach in these significant ways:

  • No part of the body needs to touch the system to clock in.
  • An iris time clock is not a "retinal scanner," but rather a safe way to photograph an employee's eyes.
  • The camera captures a highly detailed map of the 240+ unique data points in each person's iris – creating a model that works for a lifetime, regardless of changes in the employee's age.
  • It works with contacts, eyeglasses, or even safety goggles.
  • It's great for employees in medical and construction industries, as well as those who work in warehouses, restaurants, and other work environments where workers may have gloves on their hands.
iris recognition  technology

The first of its kind for small to mid-sized businesses, the Paychex InVision® Iris Time Clock is fully integrated with the Paychex Flex HCM technology and service platform, helping businesses take advantage of iris recognition technology to combat buddy punching.

*During finger scan enrollment, unique points are referenced on an employee's finger and an algorithm converts these points into a mathematical template made up of 1s and 0s. It does not collect, store, or transmit an employee’s fingerprint nor can it be reverse-engineered into one

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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