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Gaming the Clock

In a recent survey we conducted with Harris Interactive, we asked over 700 hourly paid employees if they had ever cheated in reporting their hours in order to increase their paycheck.  Twenty-one percent indicated that they had.  Not surprisingly, of the 21% of respondents who admitted to cheating on their time reporting, the highest percentage (35%) of them were using paper based systems.  As the means of time reporting became more automated and harder to deceive, the percentage of cheaters declined, with only 5% of those using biometric time clocks reporting themselves as having gamed the system.  Among those who cheated, the tactics included:

  • Punching in earlier or out later than scheduled (69%)
  • Adding extra time to their timesheet (22%)
  • Failure to punch out for meals or breaks (14%)
  • Having someone else punch them in or out (5%)

How much does time theft hurt businesses?  A recent Diagnostic Assessment analysis Kronos conducted for a 6,800 employee manufacturer revealed rounding-rule abuse cost of over 1.3% of total wages paid.  The 4 worst-performing departments in terms of rounding-rule abuse cost the organization approximately $3.6M annually.  According to a 2006 Nucleus Research Report ROI report, companies with manual time and attendance systems typically incur unnecessary payroll costs upwards of 1.2 percent of their total payroll costs due to inaccurate application of pay rules, as well as human errors, intentional and otherwise.

Feelings run high on both sides of this issue.  This discussion thread from Woodweb, a  website for the woodworking industry, is a spirited debate between employers and workers regarding whether automated time tracking is a necessary management tool or Orwellian incursion.  The truth lies in how the tools are used, of course.  Employee punches collected by time clocks are indisputable data elements.  Friction between employers and employees, or failure to comply with standards such as those set by FMLA, FLSA or union rules, is caused by how that data is used to calculate pay.  Fair and legal policies, consistently applied via technology, can help to close those gaps.

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