Don’t Get Snowed In: Preventing Time Theft During Winter

December 13, 2019 - minute read

Winter is coming, and you know what that means: when temperatures plummet, productivity does, too. In cold-weather climates, employers managing an hourly workforce often wrestle with increased absenteeism and time theft.

According to Bureau of Labor statistics, workers are about 12 times more likely to miss work due to inclement weather in January and February than during summer months. While we don’t have hard statistics on winter time theft (that’s the whole point—it often goes undetected), managers everywhere can attest: bad weather often precipitates bad behavior.

Time theft costs U.S. employers $400 billion per year in lost productivity—the last thing you want as you kick off a shiny new year. Now is a great time to make sure your time and labor system and policies can withstand an impending blizzard of time theft.

Cold Weather Can Shrink Paychecks

Winter can be particularly brutal on hourly workers’ paychecks. After all, federal law doesn’t require employers to pay non-exempt workers when bad weather keeps them from working.

Admittedly, a handful of states have enacted reporting time pay laws, which require workers be paid a minimum amount when they report to work as scheduled, only to find the business is closed. Some collective bargaining agreements may also provide pay under these circumstances. And more state and local paid sick leave laws are requiring that workers be permitted to use available paid sick leave due to weather emergencies.

However, by and large, most hourly workers aren’t compensated for time lost due to bad weather, which is why time theft may be a little more tempting this time of year.

What Winter Time Theft Looks Like  

It’s not uncommon to be late on a bad weather day due to poor road conditions or delayed mass transit. It’s only human to want to leave a few minutes early to beat the rush home. But while salaried/exempt workers can often make up lost time one way or another, most hourly workers don’t have that option…which is why they may be tempted to exploit any loopholes in your time collection processes to keep their paychecks whole.

Common examples:  

  • If your company still uses paper timesheets, workers may fudge or round their time.
  • If you use a phone in system, some workers may attempt to call in from home.
  • If your time clock takes swipe cards or time cards, some employees may ask a coworker to punch in or out for them—a practice known as buddy punching. It’s very easy to handoff a swipe card before a snowstorm!
  • If you use biometric time clocks, workers may “forget” to clock in or out, since fingerprint and facial recognition technology will spot and flag attempted buddy punching. 

You may have some examples unique to your workforce. One janitorial manager we know discovered some workers were leaving early to warm up their cars, then coming back inside to clock out, wasting a solid 15-30 minutes. Some workers get quite creative in their attempts to beat the system—which is why you need one that can’t be outsmarted.

Putting the Freeze on Time Theft

The good news is, advanced time and labor systems are designed to prevent time theft. It comes down to making sure your data collection methods are foolproof. For example:

  • If your company is still using paper timesheets, upgrade to an electronic time and labor system. That in itself will vastly reduce time theft opportunities.
  • If you use a phone system, make sure it only accepts calls from preapproved numbers and flags calls from non-registered numbers. Ditto online tracking—punches can only be made from preapproved IP addresses.
  • If you use a mobile time-tracking app, make sure it has a robust GPS feature that captures punches made outside of a preapproved radius. (Some apps also offer geo-fencing, which automatically clocks out workers when they leave the preapproved work area.)
  • If your time clocks use swipe cards or old-school time cards, upgrade to biometric time clocks. In one survey of hourly workers, only 3% claimed they could outsmart a biometric time clock, although 43% admitted to regularly cheating by other methods.

And for all those employees who “forget” to clock in or out, consider a time and labor system with a powerful analytic component. EPAY’s time and labor system not only has all of the above features, it tracks seven critical time and labor KPIs—including those sneaky open punches.

Because employers can view their time-tracking metrics by worksite, shift, and manager, they can quickly spot seasonal time abuse patterns and trends—and nip problems in the bud. 

If you’d like to dive a little deeper on this subject, checkout these additional resources:

Filed Under: Time Tracking Workforce Management