As harmless as it may seem in the moment, buddy punching (especially when done regularly) can have significant long-term financial consequences, costing your company hundreds to thousands of dollars per year.
Time theft is a prevalent issue across all industries, but is especially damaging to construction companies within an industry that relies heavily on contract work and hourly wages. Tracking hours can ensure that workers are paid accurately, but incorrect or manipulated hours result in companies unknowingly paying employees for time they haven’t worked.
Especially with outdated time tracking methods like pen and paper, a worker may be more
incentivized to commit time fraud, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Here’s how we define buddy punching, what you can do to prevent it, and how the SmartBarrel device can help to eliminate it.
What is buddy punching?
Buddy punching is defined as a worker having a colleague check them in or out at a job site without actually being present. There are many reasons for it, including covering up tardiness, taking an extended lunch break, or leaving their shift early.
There are also cases where workers aren’t aware that they’re stealing time, such as when they forget the exact hours they’ve worked, and so alter their time by 10 minutes or more.
Regardless of the reasoning, buddy clocking is classified as fraud since the worker is being paid for the time they’re not on-site. Left unchecked, this can encourage employees to commit time theft, which could evolve into payroll fraud.
Whether through inaccurate timesheets or having a buddy cover for lateness, buddy punching can cost construction companies a significant amount of money over time.
How buddy punching impacts the construction industry
A profit loss of even 1 to 2% can have a large effect on a small company’s operations. The American Payroll Association (APA) estimates that nearly 75% of U.S. businesses are affected by time theft, costing them up to 7% in total payroll costs.
Paying employees for time they haven’t worked cuts into profits and can affect everyone down the line, from management to the sub-subcontractors. When calculating total losses, an entire crew taking even 15 minutes per day can add up over time and result in you paying for weeks of uncompleted work.
Additionally, time theft not only has financial consequences, but can increase on-site safety risks. Not knowing who’s actually on-site can increase liability in emergencies such as fires.
How to prevent buddy punching
Implementing measures to end time theft sets a precedent that will save your company money in the long run. Here are some ways to prevent buddy punching:
1. Get rid of outdated time tracking methods
Tracking an employee’s hours using pen and paper timesheets is ineffective and inconvenient and can incentivize workers to carry out time theft without an easy way of disproving their hours. They may adjust their check-in time when they arrive, or they can have a co-worker simply fill out their arrival and departure time while they’re away.
Traditional time clocks, too, are easy to manipulate, with co-workers clocking in or out using the absent employee’s time card.
These outdated time tracking methods are less than ideal, and companies will find that they can benefit from much more advanced time tracking systems.
2. Opt for a biometric time clock
A biometric time clock is a foolproof and 100% accurate solution to buddy clocking. It uses biometric technology to verify a worker’s identity upon check-in, providing snapshot records that are then stored in a system for a contractor to validate later.
This can include retina scans or thumbprints. Gadgets like the SmartBarrel device utilize facial recognition, so you’ll know for sure that the correct person is checking in.
3. Improve access control
Whether through passwords, badges, fobs, or facial recognition, having an airtight access control system makes your construction site and time tracking process more secure. It’s also a second layer of verification that guarantees that workers checking in are who they say they are.
4. Implement GPS tracking
GPS tracking lets contractors know exactly where a worker is checking in or out, so if your company utilizes an app that lets employees punch in or out, you can rest assured that they won’t be claiming they’re on-site while stuck in traffic.
Map view snapshots of a worker’s check-in and out location are stored in a system, which a contractor can then verify.
5. Create and communicate job site policies
Establishing job site policies, effectively conveying them, and sending out reminders can set a clear precedent and dissuade workers from committing time theft.
Having rules and disciplinary actions laid out, such as written warnings, suspensions, and terminations, communicates that fraud cases will be taken seriously.
You can also include these policies in a company handbook and have workers sign off on them.
SmartBarrel: a solution to buddy clocking
Thorough and accurate record-keeping is the easiest way to eliminate time theft. The SmartBarrel device is built with features that automate timekeeping to reduce human error and make verifying hours quicker and more efficient.
By having employees check-in and out with their face, RFID fob, and phone number, the SmartBarrel device guarantees that timekeeping will be precise. This includes, too, accounting for overtime to prevent disagreements and keep companies from being held liable for wage theft.
The SmartBarrel device features:
- Biometric facial recognition,
- Verified check-in for access control,
- Device and attendance GPS tracking,
- Photo capture and storage for security and validation,
- Document and certification tracking,
- Safety training verification, and
- Broadcasting and communication tools.
The WallMount is a magnetic plug-and-play device that’s intuitive and easy to use, with little to no training required.
It comes with an accompanying SmartBarrel MobilePunch app, and you can easily connect the box to existing payroll and accounting solutions. It also integrates with Procore, CMIC, FoundationSoft, Viewpoint, and Autodesk.
LTE-connected, weatherproof, and solar-powered, it’s a robust timekeeping construction solution built to last.
Want to get started with more accurate timekeeping? Request a demo with SmartBarrel today!