Buddy punching is a severe breach of trust as well as discipline within a business that can contribute to high labor costs and in some cases employee fraud.

More specifically, buddy punching is the act of hourly employees punching time for a coworker that isn’t present. At its core, buddy punching is a false representation of the time worked by an individual who is not recording time for themselves. Buddy punching is often done to ensure a co-worker is not marked as late or to fraudulently increase the time worked for additional pay.

How does buddy punching occur? Employees often share personal information such as their usernames and passwords to punch one another end. If a business relies on a punch time clock or traditional paper timesheets, it can be quite easy for one employee to punch another in.

There are many situations where employees may feel that they are helping one another out. That is why it is imperative that management and your HR team formally notify all employees that buddy punching is prohibited in the workplace.

To help combat this disturbing trend, businesses are turning to more modern technology, such as web-based or online time clock software.

Managers coming up with a zero-tolerance and attendance policy to help prevent future buddy punching.
One of the best ways to prevent buddy punching is by implementing a zero-tolerance policy. This will let employees know that buddy punch is not accepted under any circumstances and can lead to them being fired if they attempt it.

How to prevent buddy punching

Implement a zero-tolerance policy

As mentioned, it is essential to notify employees that buddy punching will not be tolerated under any circumstances.punching will not be tolerated under any circumstances. If you don’t already have a formal time and attendance policy in place, now would be the perfect time to put one together.

Be as clear as possible and inform employees that there will be zero tolerance if they make changes to a timecard that is not their own or access your timekeeping system under a different employees account.

You don’t want to call anyone out by name as this could impact the morale and productivity of your employees, but announce the policy to your team as a group, so everyone is aware. You should also print out a copy of the time and attendance policy and post the most critical points in an area where all employees can see it such as a break room. If you catch an employee body punching for another, it will be grounds for immediate termination.

Use password protection

While this is a simple step, it is beneficial. Requiring employees to access their time cards using a password is a great way to prevent buddy punching, not to mention it is low cost. You should set specific requirements for passwords including numbers, symbols, and capitalization. Doing so makes it harder for them to share their information with another co-worker.

Educate employees

Cybersecurity is becoming more critical every day. Personal data hacks are frequently more common, so it is crucial that you make sure your employees understand how sharing their time tracking information also means they are sharing their personal data. If they provide a co-worker with their password they may be giving them access to personal information which has the potential to be abused.

Employee using a thumbprint biometric time clock to punch in.
Biometric time clock software can help to prevent buddy punching by ensuring an employee is only punching time for themselves. Biometric options use personal data points to confirm identity.

Use technology to your advantage

Creating time and attendance policies is an essential first step to reducing buddy punching. The next best step would be to implement new technology which can provide your business more resources to prevent buddy punching.

There are many time tracking software options available, and most are quite easy to set up and cost-efficient. Rather than using their phone to ask a friend to punch in for them, built-in features can prevent employees from punching time when, where and for who they shouldn’t be.

Geofencing

Geofencing relies on Wi-Fi, GPS, and cellular data to create a barrier around your business. You can decide how close your employees need to be when they punch in. They can be as far as a few blocks away or as close as the front door. Whatever is best for the needs of your business. Once the geofence is created, an employee can only punch time after their device signals that they are inside the radius you’ve specified.

Every time tracking app provides different geofencing options. Employees either have to be within the geofence to manually punch in on an app, or they are automatically punched in once inside the radius of the geofence. They are not able to punch in at all away from work or be punched in by another user – effectively eliminating buddy punching.

GPS

With online time clock software and mobile GPS, you can track an employees location along with their hours. Just as with most other smartphone apps, many time clock solutions come with GPS tracking. When an employee punches in or out their location is included on the employees time card.

Depending on the time clock software you choose, employees are generally able to punch in once their GPS has been activated on their mobile device. Some time tracking solutions even log the employee’s locations and send updates throughout their shift. By doing so you will be able to see where employees are when they punch in. In the case of geofencing, it makes it impossible for employees to buddy punch when they are off the premises.

Biometrics

Biometric options are probably one of the best ways to prevent buddy punching. Features such as a thumbprint or facial recognition ensure it is the employee punching time for themselves.

Biometric time tracking eliminates buddy punching by using a unique personal identifier such as a fingerprint, face, or even retina scan. It is almost a completely foolproof way of keeping employees from abusing your time tracking system.

The unfortunate side of using a biometric option is that they often come with a higher price point and legal responsibilities. There are many states that have passed laws protecting employee biometric data and specifying how their information can be used.

In some cases, you must obtain employees written consent to collect and store their biometric information. There are also legal procedures for maintaining and destroying biometric data. You are also responsible for notifying employees in the event of a hack or data breach.

Woman working late which leads to decreased morale and lowered productivity.
There are many other factors that can impact employees attendance and lead them to buddy punch. This could include working late hours which can lower morale and productivity.

Other important factors to consider

Remember, that in many cases, buddy punching is a side effect of attendance issues and not necessarily the problem itself. While you are having conversations with your employees about the impacts and implications of buddy punching, you should also take the time to take a closer look at your attendance policy as well as your attendance reports. There may be a more significant issue at hand if employees are regularly manipulating your time clock software, punching time for one another or are not able to make it to work on time.

In addition to reviewing and updating your policies and time  clock software, you should try a few of these other low-cost tips:

  • Consistently enforce your attendance policy.
  • Put together an employee attendance performance plan and quarterly report.
  • Provide rewards and give recognition for good attendance.
  • Check-in with employees when you see an increase in attendance issues.

By implementing an online time clock software at your business, updating your attendance policy, and actively checking with your employees about any attendance issues, you can prevent buddy punching.