Why Do People Buddy Punch For One Another?
Buddy punching by definition is a supposed act of friendship but, in reality, it is an act of fraud conducted by one colleague for another. The term refers to old-fashioned punch in and punch out cards that employees used to show when they had begun a shift and when it was over. Someone turning up for work at the right time might, therefore, punch the card of a late arrival for them. Similarly, an employee who worked overtime might punch not just their card on leaving but their buddy’s as well.
Mostly, this sort of timesheet fraud is something that only certain dishonest people carry out but in certain business cultures, employees can think it is perfectly okay to ‘cover for their friends’. This means managers will fail to notice absences, lateness or people leaving work early. As a result, Irish firms can miss out on a great deal of productivity. Even worse, they can gain a reputation for being an unfair employer, where some people seem to get away with it while others do the work they’re paid for.
It should be said that the concept of the time thief – someone who is dishonest about how many hours they’ve put in – is nothing new. Nevertheless, in the twenty-first century, there is no need for Irish firms to factor in a buddy punching cost to their daily operations. Where employee time theft occurs, managers should look to get rid of outmoded paper-based systems for recording the number of hours worked or relying in physical punch-card systems.
Another aspect of manual clocking-in systems is that they take time to use, sometimes with employees standing in a queue to access them when they could be working. As such, they tend to reduce workers’ productivity and efficiency. What’s more, it is usually a company’s HR team that will then have to manually work out how many hours an employee has put in while also taking into account a range of other factors. These might include things like holiday pay, overtime and performance-related bonuses to figure out the correct salary for each employee. Perhaps more to the point is the fact that clocking in and clocking out as well as a manually calculated payroll function are both subject to human error.
Although some Irish businesspeople imagine that installing a more modern system will be costly and even disruptive, this is not the case. The reality is that the most up-to-date time and attendance software systems can be deployed and fully functioning in as little as few working days! Given the outstanding cost-benefit firms can get from taking on a new approach, perhaps it is time to consider rolling out such a system in your business?
Reasons For People to Buddy Punch
There are four main reasons why a worker might think about committing a timesheet fraud by punching in for a colleague or not declaring their own hours properly. Perhaps they don’t want to face a disciplinary procedure for lateness? Maybe they think the employer’s antiquated systems be taken advantage of. There again, they might not even think there’s anything wrong with time theft itself.
The four most common reasons for people to buddy punch are:
- Poor timekeeping
Some workers are just not as good at getting to work as promptly as others. If someone is constantly late in and this has already been addressed by a manager, then he or she might buddy punch to avoid further action being taken against them. They might also use the same sort of fraud to extend their lunch breaks or even to finish work before they’ve completed their allotted shift.
- Old-fashioned clocking systems
Buddy punching is something that old-fashioned firms tend to see if they rely on paper-based timesheets, proximity cards, swipe cards or similar methods for employees to clock in and out with. These types of approaches are just too easy to cheat and inadvertently encourage workers to make false declarations about their time.
- Lack of awareness
Although it may be obvious to business owners and managers that buddy punching constitutes a crime, it might not be seen that way by an employee. Someone who might never think of stealing stock might think nothing of clocking in for a friend. Younger employees might even be told by more experienced ones that this is the way things are done. Don’t underestimate ignorance playing its part in employee time theft.
- A lack of motivation
When a workforce is not motivated, it can lead to less honest behaviour among staff. Statistics from across Europe bear this out, so it is not just an Irish phenomenon. When employees feel undervalued and under-motivated, they tend not to care whether or not they are breaking the rules and this can result in your organisation facing increased buddy punching costs.
Explaining Buddy Punching in Statistics
Some studies have shown that a typical Irish firm might face a significant loss in profits as a result of people punching in for one another or committing timesheet fraud. In the worst cases, this could amount to as much as 7 per cent of a company’s profit.
To put this another way, if a company is generating profits of €300,000 per annum, it may be losing €21,000 every year due to stolen time. Although this might not be serious enough to put you out of business, it is a significant sum that would not be overlooked if it was derived from stock theft, for example.
One research study showed that a typical employee might be paid for up to four-and-a-half hours by their employers in an average week for work they have not done. Worked out on a yearly basis, this would constitute six weeks of stolen time for each worker you employed annually.
For instance, using Ireland’s average hourly rate of pay – about €25 – the average employee could be stealing as much as €112.50 per week. That’s €5,850 over a 52-week working year.
Now imagine a business with 50 workers all committing employee time theft. This would mean €292,500 of losses each year. The amount of money would be much better spent on other things, like marketing, expanding the workforce or research and development
Sectors That Are Prone to Buddy Punching
All industries can suffer from this problem. However, some established industries tend to have a worse time with it because of their legacy punching in and punching out systems. Likewise, industries that have people moving around where they cannot be directly monitored by managers also tend to see more time thief activity.
A good example is the construction industry, in which the majority of workers will be on different sites at different times. They might not be asked to sign in or out, especially if your firm has been subcontracted work there. Other firms that have tended to rely on manual systems for signing in and out tend to be in the leisure and hospitality sector as well as certain manufacturing companies.
In all such cases, making use of a cloud-based time and attendance system that employees can access via a mobile smart device would offer an instant solution to the problem.
The Workplace Repercussions of Time Theft
Having already covered the financial losses Irish firms face from employee time theft, it is worth looking at the other issues associated with the problem. To begin with, workers who do not put the hours in will necessarily not see their productivity at the desired level. Compared to a worker who is not stealing time, their performance will be lower. In turn, this can lead to them feeling stressed, unwanted and inadequate. They might leave as a result which means recruiting and potentially training someone else up. What would be better would be to prevent the lack of productivity in the first place, of course.
Equally, among employees who do work all of their contracted hours there can be resentment. Other workers will see what is going on and feel that if their workmates can get away with it, why can’t they? This can make the problem endemic in an organisation. On the other hand, honest employees may think they would prefer to work for a firm where this sort of thing does not happen. If they leave, then productivity will plummet still further. Worse still, you are faced with a recruitment and retention cost.
How Can You Prevent Buddy Punching?
Any firm can lower its buddy punching statistics by addressing its HR policies. If they are too relaxed, then it is harder to take the actions necessary to stop it. Equally, companies that use unsophisticated timekeeping checks are laying themselves open for abuse.
There are four good measures you can put in place to help prevent buddy punching costs. They are:
- A zero-tolerance approach
A zero-tolerance policy is a good way to stop people from risking this sort of theft. By taking swift action against a perpetrator, it will have an effect on other workers’ attitudes. Make sure your updated zero-tolerance policy is known by all employees so they know you’ll no longer tolerate lateness and so on.
- Reward diligent workers
If the zero tolerance approach is the stick, then rewarding hard work is the carrot. This means giving people bonuses for keeping their work hours up to the required level, for example, and publicly acknowledging when workers have done a good job or helped out in some way. It all helps to build trust and create a more open and honest working environment.
- Cloud-based time and attendance management
By switching to our modern, online time and attendance systems, workers in the office, at the factory floor and even remote staff can confirm they are working the hours they are paid for quickly, easily and efficiently. There is no waiting to clock in and out because multiple devices can access the software at the same time. What’s more, mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers can all interface with it. Managers will benefit from a real-time ability to see who is working and when. Even better, the secure system confirms the identity of the person clocking in and out, thereby fully eliminating the chances of someone buddy punching.
- Make use of biometric systems
Where an employee needs to be physically present to do their work, a biometric way of checking they are where they say they are is a good idea. The biometric clocking-in solution from Advance Systems means an employee’s fingerprint will be used to confirm their presence. This is achieved by converting the image of their unique fingerprint into securely held data that helps to maintain privacy. No one can buddy punch for someone else with this sort of approach. Biometric systems require no login details that might be shared. Nor do they need paperwork that might be lost or filled in incorrectly. Depending on particular requirements, you can run a card and fob access system alongside your biometric time and attendance system, as well.
In summary, buddy punching statistics show that this often unseen form of theft costs Irish business a great deal each year or, at least, has the potential to do so. Dealing with time theft is possible, however, especially if a two-pronged approach is taken. This means handling it from both an HR perspective and by investing in up-to-date technology.
When businesses put the right policies in place, deal with people who make false declarations over their time management robustly and treat honest workers in a fair and rewarding way, they can start to turn the tide against employee time theft. Similarly, using technology is one of the main ways that Irish firms can prevent buddy punching from happening at all. A virtually fool proof system that helps managers to oversee their resources better is possible in all sorts of set-ups, even ones where remote working is in place. That’s a good thing to know as so many organisations work with more flexible working processes since the pandemic struck. Even better, our digital clocking in software can be integrated with payroll systems seamlessly.
The high-quality time and attendance solutions from Advance Systems provide cutting-edge employee time management software that will suit all business needs, large and small. To find out more about how we can help to prevent timesheet fraud in your organisation, why not contact us right now?