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Accuracy & Accountability – Using High Quality Data

Accuracy & Accountability – Using High Quality Data

Contact Us: 01908 265111

Time and Attendance Software


Employee clocking systems are a common way of tracking workers attendance through the day. The complexity of these systems varies greatly and can be as simple as recording the time and date of an interaction with a clock to calculating worked hours, overtime and access control. Simple versions of these systems will deal only with clocked hours while in solutions that are more complete it may for a module for an HR management solution.

In essence the functionality of a time and attendance system can be expressed reasonably simply; record the times an employee arrives and leaves work, subtract one from the other and arrive at the amount of time worked. Knowing the hourly pay rate and the time worked allows for an accurate calculation of the gross wage for the employee.

In practice, things are much more complex. Whilst minute-to-minute accuracy is possible, it is more practical for employers consider time in units of fifteen or thirty minutes. In human terms, it is rare to operate to the precision of minutes, in common parlance promising to arrive in ‘a few minutes’ could be taken to mean anything from one to fifteen actual minutes. Applying this to time keeping, arriving a few minutes before you were supposed to work causes your start time to be rounded up so you would not be paid for those few minutes; if you arrive a few minutes late your time would be rounded down so you would be paid. Whilst on the surface this appears reasonable and possible fair, the result of this could be that minimum wage earners are underpaid. The cumulative effects of such rounding over a week or month could be significant.

For salaried and workers with variable hours there are two different uses for a time and attendance system (T&A). A salaried worker who is the subject of time tracking is unlikely to see any impact on their wage by having their hours monitored in this way. These workers always paid the same salary regardless of actual hours (except where there is some additional agreement). The purpose of tracking salaried employees is largely to satisfy that they are attending work; and are doing so in accordance with their contract (tracking both over and under working). In a very large organisation, such a system can be used to make sure that workers are missed when they fail to arrive for work when they are expected or to prevent workers from attending when they are not expected.

Payslips for variable hour workers are required to state the number of hours that a worker worked so in this case the tracked hours directly impact the amount that an individual is paid. Using a time an attendance system for these workers increases accuracy and transparency whilst also simplifying the administration of their salary.

The working day is divided into various chunks. Health and safety and other legislation requires that workers take certain breaks during the day depending on the type of work they are performing. These breaks may be paid and may be unpaid depending on employment contracts. Using a time and attendance system can provide a useful means of monitoring and collecting evidence that these breaks are occurring by requiring workers to indicate when they are taking the breaks. Where breaks are unpaid a worker may feel that they will be financially better off to work through them however this may make the employer liable if such behaviour is not identified and monitored.

The most common break to manage in a working day is the lunch break. If a worker works for more than six hours a day they are legally entitled to a twenty-minute rest break. This break does not have to be paid but can be. A time and attendance system can be used to monitor when workers do or do not take this break and also track the length of the break. For salaried workers this could form part of health and well being monitoring to ensure that they are taking the correct breaks, the same is true for variable hour workers especially where these breaks are unpaid.

Time and attendance systems with a planning module will allow a roster of shifts to be assigned to groups of employees. This roster indicates when employees are expected to attend work and for what hours. An individual shift will define the working pattern for that day, it may indicate when rest breaks should be taken. Depending on the workers contract or if it is a public holiday a shift may also describe how the hours worked will be valued, such as a indicating where an worker will receive overtime or double time. In many cases workers must request overtime hours, where this is approved it may be indicated in a roster by that individual being assigned a special version of the shift which will award them overtime once their basic hours have been completed.

Complete solutions will allow the task of creating rosters to be delegated to managers. They will be able to assign the correct shift where overtime is requested. Also in systems integrated with absence management line managers are able to see the available number of workers on a given date allowing them to approve or decline absence requests where too few human resources would be available.

Using a time and attendance with an HR system that has an absence management module allows for a highly accurate administration and monitoring of planned and unplanned leave. In practice, this means that workers may be able to request specific hours away from work; where they may need to attend a routine medical appointment for example. This may differ from some policies that require booking in units of half or whole days so a system may not always be implemented in this way. Where workers do need to book a partial day and they have unpaid breaks a time and attendance system will be able to accurately identified unpaid break hours that should not be deducted from an absence booking. A consequence of this is that it is common for absence entitlements to be awarded in units of hours. This means that deducted hours will relate to the length of shift that is on the roster for that worker, which also increases transparency and accuracy.

Workers interact with time and attendance systems through a time clock. A time clock facilitates employee clocking and may be a physical machine or a software interface delivered through a mobile or other software system. In order to maintain accuracy time clocks should be networked to a central server that periodically assigns an accurate date and time to them. In turn, that server should regularly confirm its settings with a dedicated time server.

When interacting with a time clock and employee will identify them with some form of token. This could be an RFID card, biometric verification or through their software login identity. The token used will link the clock event to their record in the time and attendance system. Where this is a module in an HR system this token will link to their employee record and may allow them to access detailed information about their roster and time worked through a self-service module.

Where physical time clocks are used consideration should be given to the number of workers that may need to access them. Where shift change over’s can involve many individuals queues can cause delays and also increase wage costs. A sufficient number of clocking terminals should be provided as to allow a steady flow of individuals preventing bottlenecks from forming. Allowing a staggered start is one way that congestion can be reduced. The physical design of a building can cause problems in itself. If a time and attendance system module has an access control module an option is to use multiple clocking terminals for different purposes. Terminals placed at pinch point entrances and exits only control access through the door rather than attendance at work. This allows employees to access the building before their shift starts and use facilities such as a canteen. Secondary clocks place in one or more locations with better through flow can then be used to register working hours without encouraging queuing or congestion.

Time an attendance software allowing employee clocking can be a complex area. It is important that an organisation identify the types and purposes of time tracking that they need. It is also important that they are able to identify the patterns of work that the systems will need to monitor. In growing companies it is not uncommon that a large number of shift patterns have developed overtime, these will all be accommodated by a T&A system and must first be identified and defined. Time and attendance systems integrated into HR management systems can provide central record management for workers and administrators. Using integrated systems can be more cost effective than using independent systems for these purposes particularly when the cost of administering multiple systems is taken into account. If an organisation has not previously tracked time and attendance systematically consideration should also be taken as to how change is managed in a organisation. Running pilot groups allows the workforce to develop trust with a new system and also allows the administrators to familiarise themselves with a new systems workflows.

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