Time & Attendance Articles

How to Prevent Buddy Punching

We speak with people regularly who are wondering what they can do about buddy punching in the workplace. In this article, we will define buddy punching, explain why it matters and outline several steps that employers can take to prevent buddy punching.
Employee time clock buddy punching illustration

What is buddy punching?
Imagine this scenario: Bob woke up late and realized he's going to be 15 minutes late for his morning shift. He doesn't want to get in trouble with his employer and he doesn't want to lose the income, so Bob calls his coworker Jeff and asks him to punch his timecard. Jeff doesn't want to say no, and Bob has done the same for him in the past, so Jeff quickly punches Bob in while he's punching his own timecard. That's buddy punching.

Simply put, buddy punching is when one worker punches the employee time clock for another worker who has not arrived at work, or punching someone out after they've already gone for the day. 

Why does it matter?
Expaning on the illustration above, let's assume that Bob makes $12 an hour and that he is routinely having Jeff punch him in 10-15 minutes before he gets to work or he leaves early and someone punches him out when the shift actually ends. That could easily add up to 1-2 hours of buddy punch time over the course of a week; that's around 7 hours in a month or 84 hours in a year. That's 2 weeks of time theft - time Bob wasn't actually working. At his hourly rate, that's over $1000 a year.

The cumulative effect of multiple employees engaging in buddy punching can dramatically impact the bottom line for any business, especially smaller businesses operating on slim margins.

Not only are employees being paid for hours they didn't work, employers are spending the same payroll dollars for a smaller workforce which results in loss of productivity. Buddy punching is a form of time theft and one that is quite common in the workplace.

How common is buddy punching?
Over the last several years there have been numerous employee studies on the topic of buddy punching, and the statistics tell a sobering truth: 75 percent of companies lose money as a result of buddy punching.1 A recent independent study found that buddy punching alone could be costing US employers more than $373 million dollars every year.2 That finding is echoed by a separate study reporting that buddy punching accounts for 2.2% of annual gross payroll losses in the US.3

All the reports available point to the same reality: buddy punch is an expensive problem that impacts most business in the US. 

What can I do about it?
There are several things you can do to prevent buddy punching in the workplace.

  1. Have a clear, defined company policy on buddy punching. If you don't have a buddy punching policy in place, work with your HR team to put together clear rules regarding employee time clock use. Meet with your staff to review the policy and post it near the time clock.
  2. Consider updating to a modern time clock solution with security and password settings. A simple way to head off buddy punching is to enforce passwords for time clock use. While employees may still be tempted to share passwords, passwords that are sufficiently private (Social Security Number) or complex that will go a long way to curbing buddy punching.
  3. Introduce hardware devices like barcode or RFID scanners.

What about biometrics?
Speaking of hardware devices, let's talk about biometrics. While fingerprint scanners may seem like a great way to ensure employees are only punching the time clock for themselves, the average fingerprint scanners on the market are neither reliable or cost effective.

We talk with people fairly frequently who are migrating away from fingerprint biometrics because the hardware does not function reliably. When the scanners get dirty or the an employee's fingerprint is hard to read (for wide variety of reasons), punching the clock grinds to a standstill. We recommend staying away from fingerprint biometrics for time clock use.

While facial recognition is not yet mature enough to used for reliable time tracking, many experts see face ID as the future for time clock biometrics. 

Virtual TimeClock
Virtual TimeClock is an employee time clock application developed by Redcort Software for your Mac and Windows computers. We've been developing time and attendance software for over 30 years and have tracked time for hundreds of thousands of employees. Interested in finding out how VIrtual TimeClock can help you prevent buddy punching at your business? Give us a call or drop us a note today.

To get started with your free, fully-functional trial visit our Free Trial page today, no credit card required. Complete pricing can be found on our store page.


1 Forbes Magazine (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashikahmed/2018/01/19/how-to-insure-against-time-theft/#46f247ee5ac8)
2 TSheets (https://www.tsheets.com/resources/prevent-buddy-punching)
3 Synerion (https://blog.synerion.com/buddy-punching-and-employee-time-theft-statistics)