If you’ve ever clocked in for someone at work, you’ve participated in a fraudulent practice known as ‘buddy punching’. Most of the time it seems like an innocent favor for a friend, however, it can have huge consequences for both employees and the companies that they work for.
Here is a look at what buddy punching is, what causes it, and how it can be prevented in the workplace.
What is Buddy Punching?
To put it simply, ‘buddy punching’ is when one employee ‘punches in’ or ‘clocks in’ on the time clock for someone else when they are not present. Most commonly, this happens first thing in the morning when someone is running late. To avoid punishment, they ask one of their work pals to clock in for them so that they are recorded as being present and at work on time.
In more severe cases, employees engage in buddy punching regularly to avoid working their scheduled hours altogether. This can have even more serious long-term consequences for the companies that they work for.
In addition to physically ‘punching in’ for someone else on a time clock, buddy punching can also look like the following scenarios:
- Having a coworker login for you on your computer to show that you are online.
- Having someone scan your ID at the front door to check you in.
- Managers ‘padding’ their employees’ weekly timesheets by adding in extra unworked hours.
While an extra 10 to 15 minutes here and there may not seem like a big deal – it is. At the end of the day, employers are technically paying for labor that has not actually been performed. This is an unnecessary cost for them and is a waste of resources.
Buddy punching also makes it difficult for employers to accurately gauge productivity and plan ahead for their future labor needs – something that all employees can benefit from. Additionally, there is also a sense of trust that breaks down when employees lie on their timesheets, which can cause further tension in the employee/employer relationship.
Is Buddy Punching Illegal?
The legalities of buddy punching can vary by state and country. However, in most cases, buddy punching does constitute fraud and is grounds for termination. Most companies have a policy that clearly outlines the rules regarding time tracking, and if those rules are broken, employees can be terminated immediately without warning.
Main Causes of Buddy Punching
Before looking at solutions for how companies can stop buddy punching, it is important to first understand why employees may feel the need to ask someone else to clock in for them. Here are a few of the most common scenarios:
- Fear of management. Stringent rules and inflexible managers can instill an unhealthy sense of fear among employees. This fear can often cause employees to bend the rules if they are afraid that they may lose their job or be punished.
- Loyalty to coworkers. Employees often feel a greater sense of trust and loyalty to their coworkers as opposed to the company that they work for. And if clocking in for a coworker helps one of their closest friends, many employees are more than willing to take that risk.
- Feelings of entitlement. Oftentimes employees believe they are underpaid for the amount of work that they do, and that they are ‘owed’ extra compensation and pay from their employer. If employees feel this sense of entitlement, they will be more likely to engage in buddy punching practices.
- Staff unaware of consequences. While many companies may have a clear policy about timekeeping, those policies may not necessarily address buddy punching specifically. In some cases, staff may not understand the seriousness of buddy bunching and the potential consequences it poses to themselves and their employers.
Four Practical Tips to Prevent Buddy Punching
You might be wondering, “how do I stop buddy punching?” While it can be a long process to change a culture of buddy punching, here are a few solutions that you can try.
1. Establish a formal policy regarding buddy punching
If you haven’t already, now might be a good time to take a look at your organization’s existing policies that address timekeeping and buddy punching specifically. Are they up to date? Are they relevant to your current processes and technology? Are they thorough?
Take this moment to create a formal timekeeping policy that outlines what exactly buddy punching is, and make sure to include some examples. You should also establish clear disciplinary actions that will be taken if anyone is caught.
2. Experiment with technological solutions
If you still have a physical time clock with punch cards, it might be a good time to upgrade to a more advanced solution that can help mitigate your risk of buddy punching.
Tools like Unrubble.com can provide a secure and efficient way to manage the clocking in/out process for your employees. Our technology incorporates QR-codes, geo-location tracking, and advanced monitoring to ensure that employers always have an accurate representation of who is working.
3. Create a good company culture
Cultivating a positive company culture is another way that companies can reduce their risk of buddy punching. When employees feel valued, important, and positive about their work environment, they will be less likely to commit fraud and more likely to go above and beyond in their role.
A few ways that you can foster a positive culture include:
- Promoting a healthy work-life balance
- Being realistic when setting tardiness policies – remember, life happens!
- Promoting open and honest communication among managers and staff
- Regularly celebrating accomplishments of employees at all levels
- Compensating employees fairly for their time worked
4. Take disciplinary action when necessary
Policies are only effective if employers follow through on their established processes and procedures. When dealing with employees who consistently engage in buddy punching practices, it is important to be assertive and take disciplinary action when necessary. This will not only take care of the problem in the short-term, but it will also set a good precedent for the long-term.