When it comes to workforce time and attendance, employers are increasingly adopting biometric technologies. In addition to simplicity, biometric time clocks and time-tracking apps are widely recognized as the most secure, accurate methods of tracking employees’ time at work.
Biometric authentication works by measuring certain aspects of a worker’s unique physical characteristics—usually, a face, fingerprint, or iris—and translating those values into numerical code, which is stored in a secure database.
Each time a worker punches the time clock by presenting their face to a camera for scanning, an image is captured, translated into numerical code and measured against the database. When a match is recognized, a process that takes just seconds, the worker’s identity is verified and they are successfully clocked in or out.
Because biometric data collection is more foolproof than other methods, it’s projected that a growing number of employers will shift to biometric time and attendance systems in the next few years. If your company is one of them, it’s important to learn the facts and understand your options.
5 Biometric Time Clock Myths
Although biometric technology isn’t brand new, some misleading information is out there—including these common myths.
Myth: Biometric time clocks store workers’ personal information
Fact: Biometric systems do not store any actual images. Rather, they use proprietary algorithms to generate mathematical representations that only makes sense within a given system. The codes are meaningless anywhere else and can’t be used to re-create actual images.
Myth: Biometric time clocks are slow
Fact: Actually, biometric punches take about the same time as clocking in by pin or swipe card. Once the worker is entered into the system, presumably during the onboarding process, clocking in or out takes a few seconds.
Myth: Biometric time clocks are expensive
Fact: While costs vary by software provider and time clock features/models, biometric time clocks generally pay for themselves quickly by preventing time theft and costly errors.
In fact, time-tracking apps with biometric verification are an affordable, increasingly popular option for employers with a distributed workforce.
Myth: Employees hate them
Fact: How employees receive biometric systems depends largely on how employers introduce them. Some offer features workers love, such as access to an employee portal where they can check/request paid time off (PTO) and message their managers. And most workers appreciate the convenience of using a time-tracking app on their personal smartphones.
Myth: Biometric time clocks create liability
Fact: Three states—Illinois, Texas and Washington—have enacted laws regulating employee privacy relative to the handling of biometric data. Employers in those states need to know and follow those laws, which generally revolve around employee consent, data storage and how data is destroyed.
However, any responsible time and attendance provider will take the lead on this for you. Your provider should not only demonstrate its system’s compliance, but provide complete guidance regarding any actions you need to take.
Key Benefits of Biometric Time-Tracking
There are several good reasons to switch to biometric time and attendance systems, including:
You’ll Reduce Labor Costs by Preventing Time Theft
Time theft continues to be a huge financial drain on employers. Swipe cards and pins are easy for workers to hand off—a form of time theft known as buddy punching—and manual time sheets are often easy to fudge, but even accomplished time thieves can’t fake a face or fingerprint.
You’ll Improve Wage and Hour Compliance
Not only is the U.S. Labor Department cracking down on employers, wage and hour litigation is rising. Because biometric time clocks capture work hours accurately and objectively, payroll is more accurate—and because the systems create an automatic audit trail, employers can prove it.
The Future of Biometrics: Facial Recognition Technology
While employers have a number of choices in biometric recognition methods, not all of them offer equal advantages. According to a recent Global Markets report, the future will be focused on facial recognition technology. There are several reasons for this.
For one thing, iris scans are often perceived to be unpleasant and unhygienic. Not only must users position themselves “just-so” for the scanner to read the iris, but also getting up close and personal with equipment used by an entire workforce can be a deal-breaker for some people, especially in the COVID-19 era.
Similarly, fingerprint scans require workers to place a bare finger directly on a screen previously used by others. Even if workers can be trusted to wipe down the screen after use, fingerprint recognition technology doesn’t always work for manual laborers whose prints are worn down or distorted.
In contrast, facial recognition technology is touchless—or nearly so—and enables rapid, highly accurate verification. It is already used successfully in time-tracking apps, where punching in and out becomes as easy as taking a selfie.