Today, paper timesheets or punch clocks are old school. Employees have discovered work arounds to punching in, such as using co-workers to clock in for them at specific times or providing employers with inaccurate work times that pay employees for overtime they never really worked.
Electronic timekeeping, also referred to as digital time and attendance or biometric systems, automates the time-tracking process and keeps detailed real-time data of when employees arrive and leave work. A digital system automates the entire time-tracking process, keeping detailed actual data of when employees come and go; it’s then automatically transferred into a payroll solution.
These systems offer increased security and accuracy, but they can be costly. Read on to determine if such an investment ideally meets your needs.
Biometric timekeeping systems
These systems use unique physical identifiers to ensure that the employee is the same as the name indicates. This technology tracks the time workers clock in and out with greater security and accuracy.
Different types of biometric scanning devices include:
- Face recognition. May be less than 100% reliable. When introduced as a smartphone feature, it failed to be foolproof, as close relatives could be taken for the phone’s owner. Not ideal for an employer/employee situation.
- Iris recognition. Identifies the user by taking a photo of the patterns in the colored ring on the front of the eye, known as the iris.
- Retina recognition. Looks deep into the eye, closely scanning and noting vein patterns in the back of the eye.
- Fingerprint recognition. Each individual’s fingerprints are unique and, although they can become more difficult to decipher over time, they’re still valid for biometric identification.
- “Hand geometry” recognition. Looks to match structures, such as the width of one’s hands and the length of the fingers.
Is biometric timekeeping worth the investment?
Employers primarily invest in biometric timekeeping to lessen the chance of time theft and other types of payroll fraud. Businesses that have struggled with this issue may find the initial investment a way to reduce buddy punching—meaning a friend checking in in lieu of the actual employee.
To increase your overall security and consider biometric screenings for building or data access, you can add a timekeeping component. Biometric scans require no additional input besides the employees themselves. You’ll never hear the excuse that your employee forgot to bring their fingerprints to work or the dog ate them.
How the Fingerprint System Works
Fingerprint time clocks are referred to as thumbprint time clocks and use a fingerprint scanner to match an employee’s fingerprint to a stored image of that fingerprint, enabling the employee to securely clock in or out of a work shift.
Everyone’s fingerprints are unique. The fingerprint reader recognizes and associates a fingerprint with an employee. It stores a numerical series of key points taken from the employee’s finger, referred to as “minutiae.” These fingerprint minutiae serve as landmarks; they’re encoded as a series of numbers and can be used to verify whether the fingerprint is that of a particular employee. An original finger-print image can’t be recreated from the minutiae.
As a result, fingerprint time clocks help to ensure each employee is clocking in or out for themselves. The downside is they’re not legal in some states. The Society for Human Resource Management indicates that Illinois is a state that doesn’t allow employers to use biometric data, such as fingerprints for time clocks. Data stored by these systems is frequently viewed as intrusive and not compliant with privacy-minded data collection rules.
What’s legal nationwide is a time clock app. These apps prevent an employee from buddy punching for another.
Which kinds of companies use biometric clocks?
Theoretically, any company that can afford them can use biometric time clocks. They’re popular among industries, such as restaurants and hospitality.
While biometric timekeeping systems may seem ideal, they’re costly. Small businesses can expect to outlay $1,000-$1,500, while larger corporations may invest five or six figures. You get what you pay for. You can obtain a less secure system at significantly less cost; however, you need to consider whether time fraud is an issue, because you may not be able to quickly recoup the cost in payroll savings, if at all.
Can you assure the protection of your employees’ personal data? Biometric data can be used in identity theft, so it needs to be kept highly secure. There have been class action lawsuits instituted against employers who failed to properly protect this very confidential information.
Something else to consider is that, today, in many instances, your employees may not all be housed under one roof. If you have employees who work remotely or travel a great deal for their jobs, this can pose challenges to conducting consistent biometric timekeeping. Biometric systems are less efficient the more decentralized your employees are.
What are the advantages of using biometric time clocks?
If your business hires hourly employees, you need a time clock to stay compliant with federal and state labor laws. An employee time clock keeps track of every hour an employee works, right down to the minute. You also have the option of rounding up or down that employee’s time worked, pursuant to federal labor laws. Such time clocks also track employee attendance.
Time clocks also protect employees in the sense that they can be assured they’re accurately paid for every hour they work.
Biometric time and attendance tools also address the employer’s concerns regarding time theft, such as when employees clock in and out for one another. However, check your legal jurisdiction, as biometric time clocks may not be legal in your area. You can also consult with a local employment attorney.
If your business has off-site employees, they can clock in and out from their mobile phone. To verify it’s a particular employee, their mobile phone also provides a screenshot of their location on a map.
Which biometric time clock will best suit my business needs?
Before selecting a biometric time clock, consult with a local employment attorney to make sure they’re legal in your state. Ideally, it’s best to use a time clock app that includes integrated scheduling, easy payroll export, hiring tools, etc. Then make sure it integrates with your employee scheduling software, your payroll provider, and your other team management processes. In addition, it should include a mobile app feature that lets you track which employee has clocked in, who’s late, and who’s on break. And, it lets you access this information quickly, irrespective of your location.
ASAP Payroll Service makes hardware clocks, such as card readers, fingerprint readers, and face clocks available to its customers.
An alternative to biometric time clocks
Often, your employees will want to protect their biometric data and would prefer that you not use a biometric time clock, even if it’s legal in your state. As an alternative, you could use cloud-based software to meet your time and attendance needs. With this free mobile app, your employees can view their schedule and timecard data on a mobile device. It also helps them to better budget their finances, because they’ll be able to estimate their pay each week.
A free mobile app can also empower your employees, because it can help them trade shifts, update their work availability, and check-in with the rest of the team…in real time from their mobile device. In turn, these self-service tools will save your supervisors time and establish a paper trail that human resources can use.
ASAP Payroll Service uses TimeWorks Mobile. It allows employees to track their hours on-the-go, punch in and out, view available time-off hours, and more. It’s available on either the iTunes™ App Store (IOS devices) or at the GooglePlay™ App Store (Android devices) and can be downloaded for free.
Other options include using a physical timecard, punch cards, a proximity card, or swipe cards; however, each has its own downfall. Regardless of which you use, these kinds of cards don’t protect from time theft. And, they might not be able to export to your payroll software, in addition to giving you very limited access to data.
Another option is using your tablet’s built-in camera. You’ll get a photo of each clock-in and clock-out on the employee timecard, so you can be sure the right person is clocking in for their shifts. Paired with the included shift scheduling app, which you can access from any web browser, you’ll get a better handle on overtime hours, total payroll and labor costs, and robust attendance tracking data that includes a ranking of who on your workforce is most often on-time for their shifts. You’ll also get other reports that’ll help you and other business owners more efficiently manage your workforce, so you can focus on growing your business and empowering your employees.
In turn, your supervisors will be in charge of running payroll and better coordinate with human resources. The most time will be saved when your workforce management systems all integrate with one another.