Buddy punching can seem like a small violation to those doing it. Surely adding a few hours here are there doesn’t do any harm? It’s why 16% of UK workers admit to having clocked in for a colleague.

But the cost can quickly add up for the business, as shown by the US firms losing $373 million every year. Worldwide, companies lose up to 7% of their profits – it is severe.

So, what is buddy punching, and how can you prevent it?

What is buddy punching?

Buddy punching is where one employee asks a colleague to sign in or out of a site for them. If a worker is running late, has an extended lunch break, or cannot come to work that day, their colleagues can still clock them in and out.

This means you pay employees for time not worked.

It’s down to the clock in system at your site as there are ways around most of them:

  • Paper sign in sheets: Paper time sheets are easy to manipulate. Buddy punching employees will simply writes their own name and arrival time and that of their absent colleague at the same time.
  • Clock systems: If your construction site has a clock system, the present workers just need to clock their absent colleague’s card as they do their own.
  • Digital sign in systems: Some clock software makes buddy punching a little harder. All the same, the absent employee only needs to share their card or username and password with their colleague.

Is buddy punching really such a problem?

While it might seem innocuous, buddy punching is a real problem for construction companies.

The most obvious issue with buddy punching is that it costs companies money. As noted above, time theft at US businesses cost $373 million every year.

It is tricky to understand exactly how much buddy punching costs medium and small businesses, and it will vary from one construction firm to the next. But, even if you are overpaying by just one or two percent, it will significantly cut into your profits over time.

And it goes beyond just money. One of the biggest problems with buddy punching is its impact on company culture.

Staff who always turn up on time and work their designated hours will soon feel hard done by when they see colleagues working less and getting the same money.

There are also health and safety risks to be considered. If you don't know exactly who is on site, and rollcall information is incorrect, it could seriously hamper emergency services if there was ever a fire or another disaster. There could also be reputational and financial consequences.

Related article: The hidden costs of paper timesheets in construction

How to identify buddy punching

Nobody wants to accuse or blame their employees of stealing time unless certain it is happening. But that’s almost impossible to verify with traditional paper timesheets, clock systems or punch time software.

If the situation reaches a point where something must be done, you can audit clocking in data:

  • Audit clocking in data: An audit of your clocking in systems can give you some clues as to whether buddy punching is happening. Inspecting clock system times might reveal patterns that cut against the reality as you and your team know it.

Ways to prevent buddy punching

Buddy punching can undermine company culture and morale. But there are three things you can do to tackle this issue.

  • Communicate your policies to staff

Employees might clock in for colleagues out of a sense of loyalty. Often, it is just 10 minutes here or there, thinking the impact is trivial.

Simply communicating to employees about the problems of buddy punching - and setting out a clear company policy about what is and isn't permitted - can have a big effect.

  • Empower management to act

If an employee is running late or taking an unusually long lunch, managers must be empowered to challenge this behaviour. If ignored, it can creep into the wider company culture.

  • Use biometric time clock software

More construction businesses are relying on biometric time management systems that make buddy punching impossible. It’s the only way to completely eradicate buddy punching all together.

When employees turn up or leave the site, the system requires either a thumbprint or facial recognition to verify they are that person. You get 100% accurate data recorded on your system – by the right person – and can access it in real-time.

Related article: How construction time and attendance software boosts productivity

Causeway Donseed biometric time software

Causeway Donseed is a biometric time management system for construction sites. It uses each individual worker’s biometric data to clock them in and out of the site. This information is connected to your human resources and payroll systems, to accurately and automatically log site attendance, and ensure staff only ever get paid for the hours they work.

To learn how the Causeway Donseed biometric time system eliminates buddy punching, saves you money and enhances health and safety, contact us for a demo today.

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